Just You Wait

“Sleep while you can, because when the baby comes, you’ll never sleep again!” she grins to the pregnant woman in the grocery line, who couldn’t go a two-hour stretch last night without waking up to pee.

“You think a baby’s hard? Just you wait until you hit the terrible twos!” the more experienced dad says, chuckling, to the harried new father.

“I raised twins! I didn’t have a moment to myself for years!” another older lady chimes in cheerfully when you confess at church coffee hour that your third baby reaching the mobile stage has temporarily overwhelmed you.

It’s kindly meant, I know, but I never want to be one of those “just you wait” parents, who minimize all the suffering and struggle of folks newer to parenthood. I’m good enough myself at playing those scenarios in my head: if one baby is hard, how will I survive two? If I’m tired in pregnancy, how will I keep up with a preverbal toddler someday? Just wait till I have surly teenagers, if I can’t control my temper with a toddler!

Oh, does that look like an impressive baby bump to you, first time mama? Just you wait until you look eleven weeks pregnant FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE.

Some of the kindest, most awe-inspiring mamas I know haven’t made my small challenges feel trivial. I rode out the long waves of morning sickness with Pippin, resting confident in the advice of a friend and mother of five. “If you have a lot of morning sickness and feel dreadful while you’re pregnant,” she assured me, “labor won’t be too bad, because it’s just one tough day, and not weeks long. And the first weeks with a new baby will be hard, but not so hard, because at least then when you’re exhausted, he’ll be here.” A mom of seven at our old church, knowing I was expecting my second baby, encouraged me: “It actually gets easier after three kids. There’s less having to entertain them because they play together. Though of course there’s more housework!”

Are you incapable of eating half a sandwich without throwing up, hugely pregnant lady? Just you wait until you don’t get to progress this far in pregnancy next time, and give birth to a 36-weeker!

These are women who could have minimized my struggles and made me feel lousy for even confiding in them. Instead, they validated me and encouraged me, that I could make it through motherhood, too. They remind me that we’re given grace for the stage we’re at — and in my case, not a lot of spare grace, the kind that would let me get ahead on developing my patience, or mop my floors. I guess that’s why it’s called sufficient grace.

Was your first pregnancy taxing and exhausting? Just you wait until you do it while chasing (and lifting!) a sturdy toddler. May I recommend a back support?

These mothers seemed to recognize a simple truth that breathed through all their reassurance: Sanctification isn’t easy, and as a mother, you’ll work out your salvation in appalling diapers and public tantrums and, I suspect, missed curfews and endless soccer practices. It will almost always feel like a stretch, no matter what level you’re at, or how many kids you have. Just as you’re mastering that stage, the rules will change.

And it will be hard, and it will be OK, and it will be the making of you.

Just you wait.

Sometimes, kind grocery store shopper, we can make it through the whole store with nothing more than a book and a doughnut and some mama cuddling. (Just you wait till the toddler won’t fit in the cart.)

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