Parenthood is the start of a new life, and there are things you can do ahead of time to get your heart, mind, and soul ready.
When I was pregnant with my first baby, a colleague gave me some advice that stuck. “Everyone will tell you that your life ends when you have a baby,” he said, “But what they don’t tell you is that a new life begins. And that new life is different, but just as wonderful.”
Parenthood does signal the beginning of a new life, a different way of looking at and moving through the world. No advice can paint a full picture of its reality, but these 5 steps can help to prepare your heart, mind, and soul for the awesome responsibility of raising one of God’s children.
1Immerse yourself in prayer and the Sacraments.
You’ll need God’s grace for every part of your parenting journey, so make time for long stretches of real and deep prayer. Rely heavily on the Sacraments, and receive them as much as you can now, knowing it might be harder to find time once you’re caring for a little one.
At the same time, find ways to pray in short bursts throughout your day, perhaps saying aspirations, since this will probably be the primary way you’ll be able to pray as a new parent. Develop a good routine of prayer to spend as much time with God as possible as you prepare for this exciting new journey.
2Accept God's will and your lack of control.
Whether you’re hoping to get pregnant or to adopt a child, one of the hardest parts of preparing for parenthood is that the timeline is outside of your control. You might get pregnant or have an adoption placement tomorrow, or in four years, or it even might not happen at all. You can control so many things in life, but this isn’t one of them, and this reality forces a (sometimes difficult) acceptance of God’s ultimate dominion.
The good news is that this acceptance of God’s will is great practice for parenting. Raising a child is one long process of learning to relax the tight grip you might have on control of your life, and instead accept the endless intrusions and surprises of life with little ones. This acceptance can happen with varying degrees of grace and goodwill, but it helps if you’ve already practiced surrendering what you want to God’s will for you instead.
3Start getting used to asking for help.
For most adults, it’s very tempting to rely entirely on ourselves, even when we’re stretched thin and could use a hand. That strategy works out alright most of the time, but everything changes when someone else depends on you.
Whether it begins when you’re pregnant and find yourself too nauseated or fatigued to get everything done, or when you’re sleep-deprived with a six-week-old or struggling to manage a toddler’s tantrum, at some point in parenting you’ll find yourself in need of help. In particular, going through labor and the early postpartum period is one of the most vulnerable points in a woman’s life, as body, mind, and heart are stretched beyond their former limits to make space for the baby. It might feel humbling, but you’re going to need to ask for and accept help at times.
On the bright side, your friends and family hopefully will be happy to help and honored that you asked. Even if it feels awkward at first, letting someone else serve and care for you gives that person the chance to love you with Christian charity.
4Dive into research.
The truth is that you’ll probably never have this much time to read and do research again, so make the most of it! Here are a few outstanding books to check out during this time:
- And Baby Makes Three by Dr. John Gottman will teach you how to nurture your marriage and keep it strong after you become parents.
- Made for This: The Catholic Mom’s Guide to Birth by Mary Haseltine walks you through every step of labor and delivery, from a faith-filled perspective.
- The Connected Child: Bring Hope and Healing to Your Adoptive Family by Karyn B. Purvis, David R. Cross, and Wendy Lyons Sunshine prepares your family for welcoming a child through adoption.
- Brain Rules for Baby: How to Raise a Smart and Happy Child from Zero to Five by John Medina is a useful guide for all parents, offering an evidence-based and scientific examination of different parenting practices so you can decide what will work for your family.
- How to Talk So Little Kids Will Listen by Joanna Faber and Julie King is a practical, thorough resource for engaging young children in communication and cooperation.
5Connect with your spouse.
Trying to get pregnant or waiting for a baby through adoption can be taxing, and you might find yourself losing sight of how wonderful is the family you already have. Make it a priority to enjoy each other with diverting activities or unstructured leisure time. You know that you and your spouse will be incredible parents, but don’t forget to appreciate the time you have together right now, especially as time to focus on each other will be in shorter supply once little ones join your family.
And then pray a little more, just for good measure.