Friday, March 11, 2011

Following Motherly Instincts, Ignoring Voices of Judgement

Simply put, it just feels right. A mother's intuition truly can save her baby's life. Click here for an incredible story of a mom who follows her instincts, does everything the doctors told her she MUST NOT to do, and saved her baby's life!

When my daughter was first born, she was so tiny I couldn't imagine having her in the bed with me. I was scared we would crush her!  So she slept in a bassinet by the bed. I would wake up suddenly and jump to check on her, and rub her till she took a deep breath. I was sleep-deprived in a big way. My ear was constantly in tune to her breathing. Friends and family, even doctors told me to just move her out of the room so I couldn't hear her, and I'd finally get some sleep. I tried it briefly, but it was worse.

I would jump out of a deep sleep and run to her room, and rub her, I'd sit on the floor and listen to her breathing for hours. I am very aware that people saw me as a nervous mother. And I was. I had this nagging feeling that her breathing wasn't right. It was too fast, too fitful. I brought her back in the room, and started letting her sleep next to me after breastfeeding. After that, both of us started sleeping peacefully, finally. My husband would sometimes let her sleep skin to skin on his chest. I noticed that when they did this, her breathing and his were perfectly in-sync. He would take a deep breath, she would take a deep breath. Her breathing was rhythmic and peaceful, as long as she was close to us. I was sure that my daughter slept better on her stomach than her back, and had been laying her in the bassinet that way after she had cried so much on her back. But when she slept in the bed with me, she almost always pushed up to her side. Sometimes she faced her daddy, sometimes she faced me, but always she slept more soundly and breathed evenly.

My night-fears subsided. This was the answer for us. I would wake along with her, and easily slip back into sleep after her needs were met. I wore her in a sling during the day, didn't let her cry, and carefully nurtured her every need.  She thrived, gained weight, and was a happy, strikingly beautiful little spirit.

From the time she was 3 months old, whenever we had a problem, concern, any struggle we went through, everyone I went to for advice told me the same thing. "Get her out of your bed room." I thumbed my nose at them and said, I don't believe that's the answer. They said, "you and your husband will not be able to connect." We connected more, in our mutual bond with her. They said, "you won't get any sleep." We got more sleep. They said, "She will think she's not okay if she can't see you." "Your relationship will not be sound." "She will be unable to self-soothe." "She will not mature emotionally." "You are holding her back out of YOUR need to be close to her." "She will be insecure." "She will be spoiled." Oh yes, I heard it all. Still, I did not budge. I am glad I didn't. If you want to know more about co-sleeping, and the scientific research surrounding it, click here.

10 months
I am proud of my courageous behavior until she was 15 months old and started having trouble sleeping. Maybe it was a growth-spurt, maybe she was just going through a developmental phase, maybe she wasn't getting enough activity during the day, maybe it was that she wasn't full enough. She would squirm, play, get up and down, kick us in the face, jabber until 2am, etc. I answered the new sleep deprivation by assuming that everyone was right. I thought co-sleeping wasn't working anymore. The Ferberizers must have been right. It didn't even occur to me that there could be a physiological reason for her sleep issues. We moved her out of the bed to a crib in our room, and then when we couldn't handle the constant crying all night, we moved her out of the room.  She was old enough for us not to worry about SIDS, so we knew she would be "fine."

She was not fine, and neither were we. I was shutting down my motherly instincts and closing myself off to inspiration. Had I been willing to cultivate and follow my personal inspiration and intuition, ignoring the voices around me, we might have figured out what was causing her sleep-problems, and we would have saved ourselves and her a great deal of pain.

I still feel the sting of those early days.  I see their negative effects on my daughter.  I see insecurity, social anxiety, and other issues stemming from her babyhood that she struggles with. These are issues that I saw developing and turned a blind eye, not willing to admit I had made a very huge mistake.  I put away the slings and I quit breastfeeding her during this time, against my mother's advice.  My reasoning was she's already crying, she might as well get it all over with at once.  I thought that like a band-aid, I should just rip it off all at once.  I was 7 months pregnant, so for the most part I was applauded for keeping it up as long as I had.  But she felt completely rejected and cried for days and days, hours upon hours, begging me to take her back.  Oh yeah, and I started potty-training her around that time as well, because of social pressure.  I just threw it all at her at once.  I sent her the message--it's time to grow up.  NOW.  I don't care if you're still a baby.  I think I might have even said that to her!

16 months
The secure bond that I had worked so long and hard to form with her was severed, causing her emotional scarring beyond my comprehension.  For her psyche, it was as if her mother had suddenly died, and been replaced by an uncaring, unloving caregiver.  To make matters worse, I began punishing her for 'misbehavior.'  When she responded negatively.  Time-out, spanking, scolding, all things so foreign to her angelic experience, I still held her and cuddled her sometimes, sure.  I thought I was a really good mother, because I was "tough" on her she was obstinate, and super-duper sweet when she was compliant.  But I was nervous about her clinging to me when the new baby was born, so she was pushed to give up all things that gave her comfort and security, even her own diaper.  She had no soft place to land, no one to lean on, no one to cling to, and she gradually began to give up.  She was never the same afterward.  She never will be.  I just hope that out there a mother is reading this and thinking, 'I would never do that to my child.'  That is my deepest desire.  I didn't know which part of what I did was wrong.  I knew something was wrong, and it took me until less than a year ago, 5 years later, to finally see what had actually happened--what I had actually done, with clear vision.

My life now is dedicated to becoming the kind of mother who would never dream of acting without inspiration, and never against my nurturing instincts.  I am devoted to helping my daughter heal as much as she can, and overcome the difficulties she continues to have.  My life's goal is to teach her (and my other children) where her greatest comfort and solace lies, and teach her how to access it.  My mission is to be a bridge between here and there for her.

I can't say if all her problems stemmed from when she was a baby, maybe she was born with an obstinate personality, I don't know.  I will never know.  But a part of me did see what was happening to her, how tortured she was, how she hurt inside, yet I kept on looking for the rewards everyone promised.

I waited for the 'security' and it never came.  I waited for the 'independence' and it never came.  I waited for the 'compliance' and it never came, I waited for the 'trust' and it never came.  It didn't come for a very, very long time, and it wasn't because of anything that Dr. Ferber, Dr. Phil, Oprah, Parenting Magazines, Mommy Message boards, family members or anyone else suggested.  It is still a work in progress, and it comes only by and through principles of Christianity.  Principles that I am just now beginning to understand apply to all parts of life and family rearing.

Moms, why are we giving other moms advice?  Why do we judge each other?  Why do we push young moms to do things OUR way?  Are we arrogant enough to think that we have all the answers to someone else's problems?  Do we really think our advice should trump personal inspiration?  Do we think that Dr. Spock knows more about our children than their creator?  Do we honestly think that our natural instincts to nurture and protect our children should be squashed into non-existence?  On this page I have several links to sites that explain the ideas I am speaking about.  Even the self-help books I recommend, I do not suggest you read or study them if you are not inspired to do so.  If God wants to speak to you out of them, He'll let you know.  But make sure you know where your inspiration comes from.

My sister and I have an agreement.  She does things differently than I do, I do things differently than she does.  But we both encourage and support each other.  We champion each other's efforts to receive inspiration on behalf of our children, and although we may not agree all the time, we respect the effort each of us goes through to find the answers we are seeking.  This is the most important work we will ever do with our lives.  Our children are counting on us to shape their characters and establish an environment they can truly THRIVE in.  Their success as parents, a.k.a. future generations hang on our efforts.  Will our great-grandchildren look back and thank us for how we lived?  Or will they look back and shake their heads, and have to strive to break the patterns we established?  Who do you want to be in the course of history?

MOMS!  Young, old, empty-nesters, and newly weds, YOU are the expert!  YOU are the specialist!  YOU are wiser than all the collective knowledge in the world, when it comes to YOUR child!  BE your child's CHAMPION!  Be courageous enough to BE what your child needs you to be...YOUR BEST.

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