Pastor Rob Green and his wife, Stephanie, remember when they first became parents, and encourage moms and dads to prepare themselves spiritually for the changes that will take place with the arrival of their newborn. Your identity changes when you become a parent, but your core identity of who you are in Christ remains the same. New demands can be draining, but it's the wise couple who finds a balance in caring for the new baby without neglecting the marriage.
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Pastor Rob Green and his wife, Stephanie encourage moms and dads to prepare themselves spiritually for the changes that will take place with the arrival of their newborn.
Bob: Being a first-time mom/a new mom can be surprising; it takes some adjustments. Stephanie Green says it can be exhausting.
Stephanie: Especially those first six weeks when you’re home, there is a vicious little cycle going on. You are feeding the baby, which can take up to 40 minutes; then, you’re dealing with blowouts [Laughter] after the feeding; then, you have to have them awake for a little bit of time; then they fall asleep for maybe a few minutes. Then it’s time to start the whole cycle over again. For those first six weeks especially, your husband can get neglected in those weeks.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, January 2nd. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I'm Bob Lepine. You can always find us online at FamilyLifeToday.com. What does it look like for a new mom and dad to, together, walk closely with Jesus during the first weeks and months of being parents? We’re going to talk about that today with Rob and Stephanie Green. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I have to tell you two stories; okay? Story number one—this is the fall of 1980. I was at work, working at a radio station in Oklahoma. I was working there in the middle of the day; it’s ten o’clock in the morning. I look out the window; and I see my wife, pull in the parking lot, in her nursing uniform. She’s supposed to be a work; she’s pulled up at the radio station. She walks in in her nursing uniform.
At first, I’m thinking that something’s wrong, but she’s smiling as she’s coming into the radio station. I go, “What is she doing here in the middle of the day, and she’s smiling?” Do you know why she was coming?
Ann: She was going to tell you that you’re expecting!
Bob: We were expecting our first baby.
Ann: That’s fun!
Bob: She comes to work; she comes in. I remember the beam on her face!
Ann: She just couldn’t wait! She had to come to you.
Bob: I didn’t even know she was going to the doctor! I knew nothing; this was all fresh news to me: “We’re having a baby.”
Bob: Now, let me jump ahead 13 years. We’re both wondering if maybe she’s pregnant with number five. I’m going, “Do you think you’re pregnant?” I think she’s maybe a week or two past her date: “Do you think maybe you’re pregnant?” She thought, “I don’t know.” We were at Sam’s Wholesale Club®. I said, “Buy one of these pregnancy kits, and we’ll use it when we get home.”
We got it; we thought, “Why wait ‘til we get home?” She went in the bathroom at Sam’s.
Ann: Come on!
Dave: —at Sam’s?
Bob: —at Sam’s.
Dave: Come on!
Bob: She walks out of the bathroom at Sam’s, looking at me, nodding her head. I remember telling my mom, who was like, “You’re having another baby?” [Laughter]
We’ve got a couple joining us today, who have come together to help every mom and dad, who are in that stage from the two lines being blue on the kit to when you bring the baby home, and you start to adjust to new life. Like marriage, family changes when you bring home your first baby.
Rob and Stephanie Green join us on FamilyLife Today. Guys, welcome.
Rob: It’s good to be here.
Stephanie: Thank you.
Bob: Rob and Stephanie live in Lafayette, Indiana. Rob’s on the staff at Faith Church there. Stephanie’s a stay-at-home mom. She’s a mentor to other moms. Together, they’ve written this book called Tying Their Shoes: a Christ-Centered Approach to Preparing for Parenting.
Do you remember, Stephanie, when you found out you were pregnant for the first time?
Stephanie: Absolutely, yes. It had taken us quite awhile to get pregnant, so I’ll never forget when I first found out. It was wonderful, yes.
Bob: So once you got the news, Rob, do you remember your wife telling you that you were going to be a daddy?
Rob: I don’t remember the exact moment.
Bob: Can I point this out? She has very clear memories; he’s like, “Yes, I kind of remember that happening.” That’s pretty typical; right? That a woman—this is a fulfillment of a dream for her more than it is for the husband.
Dave: Let me ask: Rob, do you remember the birth? [Laughter]
Rob: I do remember the birth. Oh, do I remember the birth! [Laughter]
Bob: Yes, yes. That’s a whole different experience.
You’ve written a book to try to help couples get ready for the adjustment. What is the thing that you think most couples don’t stop and take into account when they’re expecting a baby?
Rob: I think the most important thing is to prepare yourself spiritually. There are tons of resources out there to help you prepare, physically, for that experience. Many times—one of the first things we did was go out and buy the book, What to Expect When You’re Expecting.
Bob: Didn’t we all buy that?
Ann: All of us bought that.
Bob: Sure; right.
Rob: One of the reasons is—you experience things, physically, that you’ve never experienced before; and you want to know the things that are a big deal and the things that aren’t.
Part of the challenge is—we don’t prepare, spiritually, for the fact that your life is about to significantly change.
Bob: If you sat down with me and said, “You need to prepare, spiritually, for having a baby,” I’d look at you and go, “What are you even talking about?—prepare, spiritually, for having a baby?” What are the core components of that?
Rob: One of the things we wanted to try to address is the issue of identity. You’re going to have somewhat of a different identity in the sense that you’re now a mom, or you’re now a dad. People are going to talk to you, and they’re going to want to see your baby. They’re going to want to hear about what things your baby is doing, but that doesn’t change the core identity of who you are in Christ.
Ann: Is that what you mean when you talk about many parents have an identity crisis after the baby’s born? What does that mean?
Rob: It means they’re struggling to adopt their same identity of who they are in Christ; and they have now been consumed by all of the new, and wonderful, changes that a baby brings.
Bob: Do you remember wrestling with any identity issues; or did you, Stephanie, feel like, “I’m secure in who I am in Christ, and that’s at the core of what I’m doing”?
Stephanie: I don’t think I struggled with identity issues. I mean, it was a new identity—I’m now a mom. Those first few weeks of being a mom is a big deal, because it’s so time-consuming; but I don’t remember struggling with my identity in Christ.
Bob: Even before you become a mom, when a woman finds out that she’s expecting a baby, that takes all of her thinking. I remember, with Mary Ann—when she was pregnant for the first time—not just What to Expect When You’re Expecting, which you read, and highlight, and underline—but now, everything starts to change, in terms of nutrition: “I’m taking care of my body,” “I’m trying to do this.” There’s not a whole lot of time that goes by when you’re not thinking, “I’m in a very different spot than I was before I knew I was pregnant.”
Bob: For dads, it’s not quite the same.
Ann: I was going to ask you guys—what’s the identity crisis for men? Do you guys go through a transition?—because I know we do, as women; because our life is turned upside down. Do men experience that?
Bob: I think the fact that we’re not biologically bearing the child/carrying that baby inside of us, I think it’s a very different experience for husbands and dads. I don’t know. What was your experience with it?
Dave: The first thought that came to me was—I remember a loss of identity in terms of being Ann’s husband. Here’s what I felt—I felt like, “Now a child is more important in this home than I am.”
Bob: Was this even before the baby was born?
Dave: Yes; I sensed it as months sixth, seventh, eighth; you know. Then after we had children—it was a struggle for me—because I was like, “You give them everything, and I get the leftovers.” We had this discussion. In fact, her dad, at one time, said it to her. Do you remember this?
Ann: Thanks for bringing this back up. [Laughter] Yes.
Dave: You don’t have to talk about it.
Ann: No; I’m happy to.
Dave: I remember it like it was yesterday. I was like high-fiving the guy. We had never talked about it, but her dad sort of pointed out—
Ann: We were eating dinner. My dad, as we were eating—our kids were babies and little—he said, “Boy! It must be nice to be one of your kids.” I said, “Yes; I think that’s nice of you.” He goes: “Poor Dave!”
Ann: “You treat your kids way better than you treat Dave.”
Dave: I look over; I’m not kidding—like: “Wow! [Laughter] Somebody else sees what I feel.” “Thanks, Dad!”
I think the identity thing is so important; it’s Chapter One in your book, so obviously, you think it’s important, too. What we see parents do—and I’m not saying I haven’t done this—is that they find their identity now in their children, especially as they get seven/eight—they get into sports, or they’re good at something else—you find your identity in them. You don’t even realize you’ve sort of lost yourself.
Bob: God’s just awakened a mother’s heart in you; and this is a whole new dimension of love, and caring, and nurturing. That can pretty soon overwhelm all of your heart—that’s where your focus is. You go on to talk, in the book, about the priority of the marriage relationship and why this needs to be so important.
Stephanie, talk about the challenge of feeling so drawn to the dependent needs of a child, and your husband can make a sandwich for himself; right? [Laughter]
Stephanie: Hopefully. [Laughter] It’s challenging because—especially, I think through those first six weeks when you’re home. There is a vicious little cycle going on. You are feeding the baby, which can take up to 40 minutes; then, you’re dealing with blowouts [Laughter] after the feeding; then, you have to have them awake for a little bit of time; then they fall asleep for maybe a few minutes. Then it’s time to start the whole cycle over again.
For those first six weeks especially, and sometimes it’s even longer than that, you feel like your whole life is caring for the needs of the baby. That’s fine; you kind of have to; but, yes, your husband can get neglected in those weeks.
Bob: Do you remember feeling your heart drawn away from Rob and drawn toward your love for this helpless, dependent baby?
Stephanie: I don’t remember that, but that could be in part because our lives were so crazy at that point. He was a full-time student; he worked full-time/traveled. We had this child; so I was trying to take care of the child, so that he didn’t have to do all that stuff.
Ann: I can remember feeling overwhelmed by the demands of a baby and children; so when Dave—I could feel Dave pressing in, like, “What about me?” I’m feeling like: “Are you kidding? I have nothing left!”
You [Stephanie] felt like that, too. I think that’s typical for women—of even figuring out: “Who am I? Am I just a mom now? How do I walk with Jesus in the midst of this demanding life?”
Bob: Rob, were you feeling neglected at all from Stephanie? Do you remember, when you had your baby?
Rob: I think there were definitely times that I felt like there the—
Bob: —like you have been dethroned.
Rob: Yes; I’d get what’s left over after everything else. That’s one of the reasons why this identity issue is so important, because it can be sneaky. It just consumes you without you realizing it. What happens is—you start responding out of your new identity as opposed to who you are in Christ.
You start reminding yourself of the truths: that I have security in Christ, that I’m loved by Christ, and I’m strengthened by Christ; as a result of that, then I can respond differently to these situations.
Bob: I remember this. The doctor told us, after our first child was born, that we should wait to come together in marriage for six weeks. We went back for a six-week checkup, and the doctor said, “How has intimacy been?” We said, “It hasn’t been six weeks yet.” The doctor said, “Oh, you did that?” [Laughter] I was like: “Wait a sec! Wait just a second! You told me I had to! That’s why I did that!”
This is a part of the adjustment that takes place—the separation that can happen between a husband and a wife. Marital relations are on hold for a little while. Even when you re-engage, as a couple, a wife is in a very different place with her body at that point. That can be a hard adjustment for couples.
Rob: Yes, I totally agree with that. It’s one of the reasons we thought it was important to address that subject; because there are a lot of things that change, sexually, prior to a baby and after a baby.
Again, if I don’t have who I am in Christ solidified/if I don’t believe that Christ is giving me everything I need in order to love, and give, and serve others—my wife included—then those moments are going to be frustrating. Or think about—let’s say you’re past the six-week period. Here you are—you’re ready to have intimacy; and literally, right at the time you’re ready to have intimacy—
Stephanie: —your baby cries.
Rob: —your baby starts screaming. [Laughter] All of a sudden, that’s the end of that!
Rob: You’re just like—
Stephanie: —because Mama has to go get him.
Rob: “Are you serious?!” [Laughter] You go have a conversation with your child—like, “Dude, I love the fire out of you, but you are jamming me up bad right now.” [Laughter]
Bob: At six weeks, he’s looking up and smiling; right? [Laughter]
Dave: You have two chapters out of twelve in this book on parenting; right?—Tying Your Shoes—about your marriage. One of them is “Sexual Intimacy,” but the other one’s “Prioritizing Your Marriage.” How does a couple put their marriage first when they’ve got little babies, or little kids, or teenagers at home?
Stephanie: One of the things I would encourage all parents to do is take advantage of the little moments. You have to be creative, because you’re not going to get a window every day that’s the same. One thing that Rob and I worked at doing was, even as our kids got older, was: “Hey, it’s Sunday night. You all are going to your rooms early, so just go.” Or we would make sure that the babies got in—got their feeding done, got their diaper changed, and they were in bed.
Then, one of us would run out to the local Dairy Queen, or wherever, and get some milkshakes, and head back home; sit on the couch and just enjoy talking to each other while having our ice cream. We love ice cream at our house, so that was a go-to; or just sit and watch a movie. Just spend time with one another, communicating with one another, catching up with one another throughout the week—just enjoying a little date at home.
One of the problems that some people have is expectations. They expect that they have to go out somewhere once a week/every week. You don’t have to do that; you can be creative and do things at home.
Bob: Were there ever times when that date night would come around, and you’d go: “What I’d like is sleep—not milkshake/not movie. I’m tired; the best thing for me would be let me go to bed.”
Bob: Did you fight that?—or did you say, “That’s really what I need tonight, and we’ll have a date night later.”
Stephanie: That’s where communication has to be key. No, I didn’t fight it. What would happen is—we’d turn on a movie—and it still happens some—ten minutes in—I’m out.
Bob: —you’re asleep; yes.
Stephanie: So, it doesn’t really matter; the thing that’s important is just to communicate that: “Hey, babe, I appreciate the fact that you want to make this a priority—spending time with me—but right now, I’m so tired that it’s not going to matter. I’m going to fall asleep once the movie starts,” or “I might even fall asleep while we’re talking.” That’s where you have to communicate with one another.
We, as ladies, sometimes, think that our husbands can read our minds; but they can’t! We have to communicate that to them and work that out, whatever it looks like. Usually, it’s Rob saying: “Honey, go to bed. You need some sleep.”
Ann: That’s really making a choice to put your marriage first. I know, for me, it was hard for me to even sit down at the end of the day; because I’ve got a million things to do. You’re saying, “Our marriage matters, and I’m going to let those things go,”—the demands of the house, or whatever needs to be done—“I’m going to choose to make this a priority.”
Rob, did that mean a lot to you—that Stephanie would take that time?
Rob: Absolutely. I think it has to go both ways. In other words, one of the ways we encourage each other is we know what each other would find helpful in that moment. One moment, it might be go grab milkshakes, have a nice date on the couch. Then, a different night might be, “Go to bed; because it’s been a rough week.” There can be variation and adjustment. Learning to talk, and to read one another through those lenses, is a desire to serve.
Dave: I also found—and tell me if this is true in your home—that sometimes, I needed to get her out of the house; because the home was an extension of her. Sitting on the couch, she couldn’t disconnect.
We’d go to a restaurant, and I’d get the sitter. I’d kind of make it happen. Again, this isn’t every time that’s the only way we would date. Sometimes—I’ll be honest—when we’d be sitting there at that restaurant—she’s not there for 45 minutes—she’s sitting right across from me; we’re talking; and her brain Is still with those children, because they’re an extension of her. About 35 minutes in, I’d say, “Oh, you’re here!” It wouldn’t be a long date—there was no movie; there was not enough time for that; there was not enough money for that—paying a sitter and going out. It was like an hour-and-a-half; we’d go back, and it was like a breath of fresh air.
There are all kinds of ways to date; right? But it was the key, like you say in your book: “Prioritize it; make this important.”
Stephanie: Yes; you know, we have to remember that, as husband and wife, that’s the permanent relationship in this family unit. The children?—they’re great; we love them, but they’re temporary. They’re going to, one day, grow up and be out of the house. What are we going to do then? If we’re not nurturing that marriage, throughout our children being there, then we’re going to have some trouble once they all grow up and head out.
Bob: I think the important thing we’re talking about here is—if you’re in the stage, where the child has not arrived yet: you’re pregnant; you’re expecting; you’re excited—you need to be aware—go into this with your eyes wide open—“Life’s about to change for both of you. Your relationship is about to experience some adjustments,”—that’s just going to be a reality; the demands are going to be different than they were before.
Be aware of the fact that it’s going to be decades before you go back to it’s just the two of you, and you can make up your own schedule. If you want to go out on a Tuesday night to see a movie, you don’t have to ask anybody; and you don’t have to get a sitter. It’s going to be a long time before those days come back. Be aware of that; embrace that.
Here’s what’s not going to change—and it’s at the core of your book—your relationship with Christ is not going to change. Now the question is: “How does that drive the new priorities that are in front of us in our family? How does Christ empower me to do what He would have me do in this situation as we welcome a baby into our home and into our family, and as we make those adjustments?”
Ann: The question I get more often than anything else from young moms is: “I want to keep Jesus as the center of my life. I have no idea how to do that anymore with these babies in my house.” What’s your encouragement to moms?
Stephanie: That’s a really good question. I remember being in those shoes. I remember several times, during naptime—I would try to take advantage of naptime; but sometimes, as a new mom, you need to nap during naptime. That’s okay. I remember trying to do my study of the Word during naptime; and oftentimes, I would wake up, a half-hour later, after praying through my list of people—probably didn’t make it very far—or reading my passage, I would fall asleep.
Taking advantage of the moments you do have—it doesn’t have to be, “Okay; I have to read ten chapters of my Bible today to be spiritual.” Take a couple of verses; meditate on God’s Word. Use feedings in the middle of the night to pray for your friends or to pray for your family. Use that time to listen to an audio Bible or a podcast. Being creative and taking those little moments, throughout your day, meditating and just thinking on the Word.
Rob: If I could add one thing to “How do you build your marriage with Christ at the center?”—it’s: “Be gracious in hard moments.” Neither you nor your spouse really know what you’re doing. You have a baby for the first time; yes, you have some ideas—I mean, you have the basics: “I have to change them; I have to feed them; I have to clothe them,” —I got the basics. But how that looks, on a day-to-day basis, can be challenging.
There are moments when you don’t know what’s going on until you learn your baby’s cries—if there’s a cry: “Boy, this is a painful cry,” or if this is a cry, “I’m just up. I’m just talking to myself.”
Bob: “I’m just letting you know I’m here.”
Rob: “I’m just letting you know I’m here.” [Laughter] “I’m having a good ol’ time, chatting with myself. I’m all good.” Learning to be gracious with one another in the unknown.
Bob: I’m thinking of the passage that teaches us all that love overlooks a multitude of sins. That’s what you’re saying: “Let’s give each other a ton of grace in these times of adjustment. Let’s assume the best. Let’s believe the best about one another. We’re both dealing with modifications in life/stuff we weren’t prepared for. This is a new chapter. We’re figuring it out. Let’s make sure we stay on the same page—that we’re still committed to one another. We’re still giving each other a ton of grace,”—that’s a great word.
I’m thinking of how helpful it would be for a couple, in the pregnancy season, to get a copy of your book, Tying Their Shoes, and to read through it together to get ready for what is coming. We’ve got copies of Rob and Stephanie Green’s book, Tying Their Shoes: a Christ-Centered Approach to Preparing for Parenting. You can order it from us, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY to get a copy. Again, the title of the book is Tying Their Shoes: a Christ-Centered Approach to Preparing for Parenting. Order, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to get a copy.
Let me also mention our Art of Parenting™ video series that’s available. This is a great video series for couples to go through when you’re expecting a baby/ after you’ve just had a baby. If you’ve got teenagers, it’s a great series to go through, as moms and dads, of teens. And go though it with other couples; you’ll find that that is so helpful. Again, find out more when you go to FamilyLifeToday.com; or call us at 1-800-FL-TODAY.
Now, with the start of a brand-new year, we’ve got something pretty exciting to share with you guys. We want to see more and more people, and more and more families, engaging with God’s Word in the new year. With that in mind, our friends at Logos Bible Software have agreed: “We’re going to be giving, to anyone who requests it, the Logos Bible Software platform with a library of more than $2,000 worth of Logos resources and books available. We’re doing that for free.”
All you have to do is go to our website, at FamilyLifeToday.com, and click the link that you find there, and request it. You’ll get the download key, and you can add that on to your computer—not just your computer—you can add it onto your mobile devices as well, because Logos works that way. I use Logos all the time; I love it! It’s our gift to you; go to FamilyLifeToday.com; click the link you find there for Logos Bible Software and get the Logos system and a library of books for free to start out the new year.
Tomorrow, we’re going to talk about, among other things, how you get rest as new parents—not just physical rest—but: “How do you get rest for your soul/spiritual rest in the early days of parenting?” Rob and Stephanie will be back with us, again, tomorrow. We hope you can be back with us as well.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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