“Parenting is overwhelming,” many young mothers have told me, uncertainty in their eyes and fatigue lining their faces.
I get it. Our world has changed from the gentle parenting passed down from generations, where grandmothers and mothers worked together in the big job of raising little people. Now with the advent of social media and pressure to read all the right books and listen to the right podcasts, there is a hurricane of westernized, modernized parenting information thrown at young mothers, and many of them can scarcely find their way among all the debris.
I want to offer you young mothers a simple truth. God created mothers with a natural instinct for taking care of their young. Follow your instinct.
Let me tell you a story.
My first child was born after a very difficult pregnancy and birth. Multiple times, Will and I thought we were losing him. When the midwife finally put his tiny, squalling body in my arms, my firstborn’s cries split my chest in half and all the love I had gushed out over him. He was so tiny, so pink, so perfect. All the agony and waiting was worth it!
I brought my newborn home and the recovery period began. My mother came to help for a while because I was still so weak from the traumatic pregnancy and labor.
During pregnancy, I had lots of time off my feet so I had read a bunch of books about raising children. One of them was about sleep-training your kids. Putting babies to bed without much ado sounded like a nice idea!
One evening, when my baby was about two weeks old, I decided to start. I fed my baby, swaddled him lovingly, and laid him in his crib.
And he cried.
I went out onto the couch, my body still broken from childbirth, and listened to his pitiful cries from the next room. I sat there with tears rolling down my cheeks.
My mother saw me crying, and gently urged, “He’s your baby, Rosina. Go pick him up.”
“But I want him to learn to fall asleep,” I said. I loved him so much that I wanted to be the best possible mother, and this is how people said to do it.
The tears were dropping fast now. My mother then gave me the best mothering advice that I have ever heard. She said, ever so gently, “Rosina, pick up your baby if it makes you cry.”
I got up and went to the crib where my wailing infant lay. I tenderly scooped him up and put him against my chest the way he liked it. He nestled his downy head into the base of my neck, gave a tiny sigh and went to sleep.
From that moment, that baby scarcely left my arms. He grew into a bright and mischievous little boy, and now he is a tall and handsome twelve-year-old. Now experts are saying some rigorously sleep-trained babies grow up with attachment issues. But guess what? My son is attached to me like glue. He will bring me coffee or give me a back rub if he thinks I need it. He has not had an easy life in many ways, but we are very connected.
When my mother said, “Pick up your baby if it makes you cry.” she implied that my heart knew what my baby needed. It was one of the most empowering statements I had ever heard.
To all of you young mothers, God gave you the instincts that you need to care for your babies. There will be plenty of time to read parenting books and listen to parenting podcasts, but right now, when mothering looks overwhelming, set all that aside. What is right for someone else may not be right for you. Listen to your heart. Listen to those instincts. Follow your heart, and you will be the best mother you could possibly be.