Pregnancy is Like Engagement, and other random musings for pregnant moms...

Whenever people ask what they should be reading or doing while pregnant, it always makes me think of the engagement time before a wedding. During the engagement period, most women are planning their weddings (a one day event), and very few are reading, learning, and being mentored in the ways of marriage. Is it any wonder our marriages are weak and falling apart?

In the same way, most pregnant women read 'What to Expect When You're Expecting' (I did too, I'm not bashing it at all!)... and the shelves of the pregnancy section at bookstores are full of journals, books full of advice, funny stories, and magazines focused on learning about the time leading up to a one-day event (labor/delivery). But very few 1st-time pregnant women are reading, learning, and being mentored in the ways of parenting.

I think it's great to have a developmental book or website where you can keep up to date on the growth of that sweet baby. It's so fun to know which parts are developing and how big they are! And that's a special part of pregnancy.

And I would recommend that you either sit down with a well-educated midwife or mom of many and learn about the phases of labor and what your body will do-- OR read a great book about it/watch a good video about it. Because, to make a long story short: It hurts. And you can do it. Knowing about it, though, makes it less stressful and empowers you to feel more confident throughout the process.

But the main thing I wanted to share, though, is this: In my life, I try to learn about the next thing. Not that I'm not satisfied in or enjoying what's going on NOW-- I am! But I try to learn about what's coming up next.

Like, right now, I'm watching and learning about the adolescent years and watching families going through those last few years of having a child in the home. Which may sound crazy. But the fact of the matter is that I have less than 5 years before I'm the mom of a pre-teen. And then, before I know it, I'll have a high schooler, and then I'll blink my eyes, and we'll have raised a young man. He'll turn 6 next week, but he's not going to stop having those birthdays. And if the "teen" years are as difficult to wade through as so many say, then I need to be gleaning all the wisdom I can--now.

When I was pregnant, I was asking questions about breastfeeding and sleeping habits. When I was nursing, I was asking questions about potty training and tantrums. When I was raising a 2 year old, I was starting to look into homeschooling. And now that I've got an early elementary aged kid, I'm reading about adolescence, about the transition from boyhood to manhood, and asking as many questions as I can from parents around us and the men that I know (mostly, my husband).

I'll be honest- I don't really get the mentality of only muddling through or bracing myself for each phase. I don't just want to muddle through-- I want to do it WELL! As well as I can, anyhow. And you probably feel the same way. I want to learn from others' mistakes and not think I have it all together... if others have a well-behaved toddler and I'm just snuggling with a newborn, then that is a great opportunity to try to "peek" into their lives and ask about and watch what they've done. If I'm just teaching my Kindergartner how to read, I can be reading about how to disciple teenagers. No matter what age my kids are, I can always be learning from parents who have "successfully" raised young adults who love Jesus and live godly lives.

If you don't already do this, I'd encourage you to learn from those who are slightly ahead of you on the road. Ask about the hows and whys of their parenting and family relationships.

So, to the pregnant women out there (several of you have written lately to ask for book recommendations or ideas), I'd encourage you to read about parenting in the early years. And don't just take someone's advice because it sounds good or right-- look at how their parenting lines up with the Bible, and look at their children's countenance, behavior, and attitudes. There's a lot of advice and opinions out there to be had, but plenty of it is not only unbiblical but will produce miserable children who are miserable to be around. Give yourself enough time to really think, research, and pray about the options and methods you see around you and read about.

Don't wait until your daughter or son falls on the floor screaming and flailing around before you think through how you'll deal with a tantrum. Don't wait until your child slaps you in the face and screams "NO!" in the middle of a shopping trip to sort out your thoughts about discipline. Don't solely parent by reacting... do some pro-active thinking now about your general philosophies and approaches to various parenting scenarios. Start getting "on the same page" with your husband now, so that when these things start happening, you all can approach parenting as a team rather than at odds with one another.

You'll be so glad later that you took the time now to look a few steps in front of you, in an effort to try to avoid missteps there, even while enjoying the view right where you are. That's my general advice to you moms-to-be out there. :) I'll list some specific book titles I personally have learned a lot from in the comments section. Any other thoughts or questions from moms-to-be?


Jess said...

Books I highly recommend:

* Proverbs (lots of wisdom to glean)
* Genesis (you can learn a lot about what NOT to do with your kids)
* Deuteronomy 6

Books that I've learned a lot from and recommend (but advise that you check them against the Bible and talk them through with your husband):
* Hints on Child Training - Trumbull
* BabyWise - Ezzo
* Shepherding a Child's Heart - Tripp
* The Most Important Place on Earth - Wolgemuth
* The Heart of Anger - Lou Priolo
* Boundaries with Children - Cloud/Townsend
* Home-Grown Kids - Moore
* Family-Driven Faith - Voddie Baucham, Jr.

I'm not saying these are flawless books; what I amsaying is that they are all, in my opinion, certainly worth your time and careful reading.

Hope this helps some of you soon-to-be moms out there! Many blessings on you and your little one(s)! :)


christy said...

When I was pregnant w/ #1, I read everything on the library shelf. And he was and still is a "by-the-book" birth/baby/teen.
With #2, I saw a midwife, read even more, including a book on emergency childbirth. He was not and has not been a "by-the-book" anything. Good thing I read the emergency childbirth book. On the way out the door to the birth center, I had him in my bedroom door.
When I was pregnant w/ #3, I didn't read anything. He was the easiest, best birth. An easy going child and easy to home school.
Books are great, trust me, I love me some research. But experience trumps it all.

Catherine R. said...

Pregnant with #1 here, everyone : )

Jess, I know what you mean. I was at the library with my husband on Saturday and went to the "pregnancy" section and stood there for 10 seconds staring at the massive wall of books and then said to him "What else do I need to know?" and then left. I mean, someone bought me "What to Expect..." of course, and I see a doctor for pre-natal care. How obsessed do I need to be with pregnancy?

I have read Babywise and plan to refer to it again. I will look into those books you listed too. My husband and I are between churches right now but I am somewhat excited to go to this family integrated church we found (not easy to find one of those) so I can harass people with children who I admire. Sadly, I only seem to know parents who think discipline is abuse etc. and have children who completely control them. I am hoping and praying to meet people (in real life) with lovely children and the skills to make that happen.

My thoughts are remarkably similar to yours. They do grow up very fast. I engage my husband in conversations often lately about parenting of young children etc. Examining our own parent's successes and many failures. We got a bible study for parents too. It assumes you already have kids but we just do it anyway.

I do wish I had a little more faith based guidance on handling a newborn and infant. Babywise is my only resource right now. Again, I am praying for people to come into my life.

Jess said...

That "Home-Grown Kids" book I mentioned has a section on each developmental stage, including the infant stage. It's great and worth reading, particularly because I've found that book to be not just a bunch of psycho-babble but a biblically-based book full of practical suggestions and ideas for each stage of parenting.

Janel said...

I wholeheartedly agree! Excellent advice.

I have a teen now and could be a grandma in less than 10 years... WOW. THAT is a perspective getter!!

Polly said...

I totally agree! I will check out a few of the book selections you give that I have not read yet.

When I was pregnant I actually never read about pregnancy, except for the occasional index lookup in "What To Expect." I found it not very interesting to read about pregnancy and besides that I just figured my body would know what to do. (in retrospect I wish I'd read more about birthing and natural birthing because the birthing process really threw me for a long, painful loop!! ;)) Anyhow, I love the idea of planning-reading and reading about stages ahead of time. Right now I'm reading the Mission of Motherhood, which I would HIGHLY recommend to any pregnant woman or any other woman! (Sally Clarkson wrote it.) Absolutely great! It has less to do with practical advice (at least at this point) and more to do with what we are mothers are on this earth to achieve. So inspiring.

Jess, what would you say are the best toddler books out there? I have a just-turned one year old [he's my only child so far] so I'm starting to get interested in toddler-related reading. I'm so excited about this phase of his life!!

Great post!

Ashley said...

catherine, i am a parent of a 2 year old and a 6 month old. i read babywise, but quickly discovered that it just wasn't "me" as a parent. it has been a little difficult for me to reject babywise methods since it is so accepted in Christian circles and all my friends/family are using it. i am pretty sure that Dr. Sears (author of "The Baby Book" and many more) is a Christian, and his/her (his wife) suggestions worked so much more for me and my kids/husband. they are more about feeding on demand and following your (God-given, i believe) instincts. i would strongly suggest that you research both "philosophies" before you get started on parenting...this way, if you choose one and experience frustration, you'll know the other option.

jess--i so agree with you! i am all about the next phase! i get really panicky if i get behind and my oldest child begins reaching a new phase without me totally researching my options. why struggle through a stage? be prepared, and then ENJOY it! terrible twos? no!! wonderful, glorious, watch-your-child emerge into him/herself and discover the world twos! tantrums are so easy to nip and manners are so easy to teach at this stage...if you know your method, trust it and are happy with it, and stick with it consistently! mercifully, toddlers generally aim to please and are willing to do what you want despite their newfound "stubbornness" (who would want a child who gives up easily in situations where you WANT them to persevere and keep trying... stubbornness and "strong will" is a GOOD THING!)...

i love parenting discussions! thanks jess!

Bethany Hudson said...

I also love the Trumbull and Wolgemuth books you recommended. I actually have an original print copy of the Trumbull book that I found in a used bookstore! Good advice never gets old.

And, I love what you've said here. A lot of my friends--even other moms--think I'm nuts to be looking into homeschooling and things now, when my daughter's only just about to turn one. But, as I didn't know any homeschoolers growing up, I know I have a lot to learn before I find myself in the thick of it--likely with at least one other baby toddling around! Thanks for the great advice and encouragement, as always.


Kelly said...

I do this too Jess. And it's a good practice you really do want to be pro-active not re-active. My only reccommendation is that everyone try to look into multiple oppositional child rearing ideas. I did that and ended up with a very strong attachment parenting style(Dr.Sears) after dicussing some of the different ideas with older, much older parents in my neighborhood who had 6, 7, and 8 kids in their families back in the day.
So needless to say it is great if you can talk to other parents who've been there done that. I want to add that just don't talk to the parents who have a few kids more than you, or a bit older than your kids, talk to grandparents, great-grandparents, people who had kids before all these books came out.

Anonymous said...

Excellent advice!! Thank you. I am raising 4 little ones that aren't so little anymore. The thoughts of actually raising a God honouring young man seems impossible these days. I'll be doing my research for future dealings that are probably not so far away. Thanks again! :)

mummymac said...

A Timely post Jess - many thanks, my children are ages 7,5 & 3.

I'm currently reading "Age of Opportunity" by Paul D Tripp, which is about the teen years :-)

My former Pastors always said "To be forewarned is to be forearmed".

I'd recommend (for Polly) "Don't make me count to Three" by Ginger Plowman and the "Wise Words for moms" material which goes along with that book.

I appreciate the work which goes into your blog.

Tami@ourhouse said...

Once again, great advice, Jess. I have four children, ages six and under and I have the tendency to do the same thing- read ahead. When I was engaged, I read, The Excellent Wife by Martha Peace. I thought is all sounded so logical and easy- I was the excellent wife, or so I thought. Now, nine years into marriage, I have proven many times that I am NOT actually the excellent wife and I have reread the book several time since. Same thing with Shepherding a Child's Heart and other parenting books.

Laura said...

I just received from a friend the book and DVD called "Growing Kids God's Way". My husband and I haven't officially started reading/watching them yet, but I've heard that they are excellent because they give very practical ways for raising children in the everday things of life. We have the set for toddlers, but there is a set for every stage of parenting.

I am really someone who feels like I am muddling my way through this parenting thing and honestly, if I think about the next stages ahead, I could weep! I wish I'd gotten a head start like you, Jess!

CG, E3 & Sons said...

Great advice, Jess! I will keep this in mind for when the time comes for me. :)

- CG

BETHANY said...

Excellent post, Jess! I have always said I don't like parenting books, but lately realized I just get annoyed with people who don't use their own brains. :) That being said, I like Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours by Kevin Leman. I'm into natural consequences and he puts into words how we try to parent. His books are always practical and lighthearted.

I totally agree that we need to think ahead, especially in parenting. My practical tip is always to watch the families around you and take note of what you like and don't like. When you see a family whose children behave in the way you want yours to, then ask them how they do it. When you admire the way a parent and child relate to each other, then pay attention to the specifics of the way they speak to each other, the time they spend together, etc. When you see obnoxious children and spineless parents, be sure to remember how *not* to deal with your own kids.

Crystal said...

This blog has been so timely as I am 7 months pregnant and yearning for parenting/childbirth advice! My grandma has been a great inspiration to me as she has comforted my soul about the pain of childbirth -- she had 3 babies medication-free! I am trying to reject the sin of anxiety and worry about the unknown.

Anonymous said...

I think that the books by Dr sears and the ones by Elizabeth Pantley helped me the most. I totally agree with looking ahead, too--so many parents are blown away with actual parenthood because they spent the whole pregnancy reading about that, etc.

as as social worker working with abused kids, I learned first hand that a "well behaved" child isn't necessarily a "good" child or a child filled with love and peace. It's fairly easy to make kids comply, but it's much harder to fill their hearts with the desire to love and please God and their parents and teachers. In my experience sometimes the overtly compliant children are sneaky and dishonest, and have hearts filled with anger.

Parenting is hard, lonely work, and the most important thing of all is to have a great relationship with God of course, but also one's spouse and other mentors and supportive friends.

deb said...

Wow. I came late to this article. I think that parents shouldn't get to caught up in blindly following any one book or parenting authorities. Instead, take the best from several different sources.

Personally, I like Dr. Sears best also. But parents are best at knowing which technique works with each individual child.

I agree with Madgebaby also. Its important not to assume that simply because another family appears to have better behaved children that they are better parents. My mother often got compliments on our good behavior but we were literally terrified of her temper. We didn't dare misbehave! SHe was abusive though.

deb said...

Oh, I meant to add that the safest action for your child is to figure out how you will act before the child does something that tests your patience.

Many parents just assume that their dear little newborn will never commit such embarrasing actions as throwing tantrums in public, biting anothe child or hitting their parent.

I think that parents who don't think ahead are more likely to overreact to such situations and therefore abuse their kids.

Jess said...

Deb, you bring up an interesting point-- I think you're onto something... that perhaps our society's lack of welcoming towards children has bred something altogether (they would say) unintended-- that people don't really KNOW about children, developmentally, etc... and so when a child does something that is indeed foolish but is also very child-ish (thus, natural and "normal"), they're likely to over-react and punish rather than train and teach.

Sin is sin. But there is also foolish childishness (spilling cups CONSTANTLY, jib-jabbering nonsensical silly words over and over and OVER, etc.) that can easily be frustrating and can push a parent beyond the boiling point even IF they are aware of developmental phases and the "nature" of children... but our society is to the point where many parents are always "learning" and never actually using wisdom gained through experience... and the children suffer for that.

Good addition to the discussion.

Anonymous said...

AMEN! I'm 360 days from my wedding (I learned about countdown widgets today, so I'm counting down to all sorts of things, mwahaha! sorry...) and think more about the YEARS after that ONE day, but I don't come from a Christian family, my mom has always *happily* worked out of the home, and I have nowhere to start.

Any advice?

Anonymous said...

Planning ahead is one of the big reasons I enjoy going to mothers' groups. In fact, I recommend that pregnant women attend La Leche League meetings, and that new moms go to LLL or other mothers' groups even if nursing and everything else seems to be going fine.

At these groups you get previews of what you'll be dealing with when your newborn turns into an older baby, a toddler, a preschooler. Not just nursing issues, but all kinds of developmental and discipline and sleep issues.

It helps to be prepared and understand what is a typical developmental stage, so you're not blindsided later.

Laurie B

Mrs. Anna T said...

What a great post Jess. It really does put things into perspective. Each young future mother should learn as much as necessary about pregnancy and birth, of course, but the fact is that after 9 months you have a baby and you need to know what to *do* with a baby. In our generation, when so many come from one-child families, it's not trivial at all.

Leah said...

This is curiosity rather than criticism, but if you have a 6 year old, wouldn't the "next stage" you would be learning about be that 8-12 upper primary age bracket (or upper elementary/lower middle school as Americans might call it), rather than adolescence? Most kids these days- boys especially- don't hit puberty until 13 or even 14.

Like I said, curiosity, not criticism :)

Jess said...

Well, adolescence isn't the *only* think I'm learning about. :)

I spend a lot of time researching education stuff for the next (8-12) age bracket, watching parents with kids that age too. You're right to ask that question. I'm not ignoring that stuff, just *starting* to pay more attention to teen parenting now than I used to, that's all.

Oh-- and actually, with the increased hormones in the water supply & milk, in the US (I don't know where you are, Leah), lots of kids --particularly girls though-- are hitting adolescence much earlier-- some as early as 8-9.

But -- Good question. I can see how what I said seems contradictory. That's not to say that we're not reading & learning about and watching the parenting of kids that are older pre-adolescent chlidren-- we are. Just also doing all of that (or beginning to... it'd on my radar screen) for preteens/teens too. :)