“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.
22 thoughts on “A Short Post for Young Mothers”
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SPIRIT-LED PARENTING, by Laura Oyer and Megan Tietz. It is a very helpful parenting book that says just this. Can we not count on the Father (the Ultimate Parent) and His Holy Spirit (the Ultimate Helper and Teacher) to teach us how to parent? God spoke through your mom that day, Rosina. What a gift those words were!
My daughter had troubles learning to go to sleep. So at 8 months we tried letting her cry it out.
Never again. NEVER again.
Even with my husband going to comfort her every so often, she cried very hard for nearly two hours, while my heart broke. She had not spoken before this, but finally in her desperation, she paused in her wails and cried clearly, “Da-da!” That was my firstborn’s first word, and it makes me so sad that it was spoken not in love and joy but as a desperate cry for help. At that point we said phooey on cry it out, and I did what my heart had wanted the whole two hours. I held her and comforted her and put her to sleep my way.
Too much of the time we parents are pressured by others, well-meaning or otherwise, into using methods that aren’t the best for our families. For some children or families, some of the books and methods work. But for plenty of others, they don’t. God’s approval and God’s guidance is what we need, not the approval of others who don’t live in our home and who aren’t responsible for our children.
Amen! And that sounds like a book I should read.
I was caught up in all the hype of Babywise. Even now my heart hurts I remember my son crying in his bed while I cried in the living room. I wish I could do it all over. I wish I had known then what I know now about attachment. Just a few weeks ago I said to my husband, “Someone needs to write a review on the Babywise books and warn mothers about how this book affects attachment”. Thank you for writing this post!
I didn’t know either how it affected attachment. Working with foster kids, and realizing how hard I have to work to nurture attachments with them made me really notice the way babies are treated! I want to tell mothers to hold and hold and hold their babies, to look them in the eyes and talk to them, to play with them and delight in them. And a good mother naturally does these things. It’s the voices insisting on rigid training that are the enemies of good attachment.
No, I am not a (biological) mom, but this post is good. Your mom is such a dear, sweet person. Did you know I am named after her?😊
Ruth Anna, you’ve mothered many and done it well. I can’t think of a nicer person to take on my mom’s name! 🙂
I just want you to know how much I appreciate you and it seems like every post you write resonates deep within me…I’m often saying amen in my heart or in tears till the end because they hit so close to home.
I was a new mother 9 years ago in Guatemala with a very fussy little baby and had also read babywise….one of the biggest mistakes of my life….anyway our sweet son had special needs from the get go and we were pretty naive on the whole parenting thing but had sincere hearts and wanted to do it right. After a while of letting him cry and it “not working” like the book said it should I finally decided that I was the mother and caregiver God had given this child and I would do what my heart told me to do…..but I wish I would have started sooner….
One post you wrote several years ago also really blessed me about having a child with special needs and how you just need to go about loving and caring for them differently that a more straightforward approach…and all the advice people and family give on if you would just train your child then you wouldn’t have these meltdowns…. so I just want to say how much courage you have given me and I will pray that God will keep filling you to overflowing with His sweet spirit and wisdom! Clearly you are a vessel he is using to spread His love to a lot of hurting people.
Much love and blessings to you, Crystal Yoder
Aww, thank you! Parenting is often very hard, and the judgment of others makes it so much harder! Throw in children with special needs and it really is a challenge! 🙂 I’m so glad you listened to God and your heart, even when others had differing opinions. I would love to have you over to chat and exchange stories of what we have learned! God bless your family!
Once again, Rosina, this is so good. I have such mixed feelings when I ponder your words. I read Babywise after it was recommended it me. It worked marvelously with my oldest child. She latched onto it right away with very little crying. I got a happy contented child almost overnight.To this day she functions much better with a very structured lifestyle and I think this type of structure was exactly what she needed when she was a fussy newborn. I recommended Babywise to other struggling young mothers and it did not work for them. Should I feel guilty for recommending it? At the time, I was only passing on what had worked for me…
I have no doubt you gave your daughter exactly what she needed! The LAST thing in the world that I want to do is to pass judgment on another mom who obviously loves and cares for her family! And it’s not wrong to share ideas. At the same time, I think it’s important to validate the mothering heart that young moms already have.
Thank you for writing this. Stories of young moms making themselves let their babies cry, just rip me apart. I’m so glad your mom was there and she was a wise mom in that moment for you.
I’m glad, too. We all make mistakes in parenting, and there are plenty of things I wish I could redo. But I’ll never regret the hours spent in the rocking chair with my babies.
Rosina, you are absolutely correct when you say a mother should follow her instincts. Let me tell you a story, too.
I do not know anything about Babywise other then what was posted here, but the idea of ignoring a child’s cry is old. My mother did not believe in listening to a baby’s cry – “you will spoil the child” was the theory….and you guessed it: I have no affection for her beyond that of any other person. It just is not there. Deep inside I regard her as a cruel person because she is ….charming to others but to live sacrificially for her children, no. And I was rebuked by her for picking up my crying child…
Yes, mama, when your child cries baby him/her, hug him, kiss him, say crazy nothings, cuddle him. A child understands this communication and it says “Love.” Without it there will be some serious repercussions.
I’m so sorry that you have that deep mother-wound. But I’m proud of you for breaking the cycle with your children. You chose to pass down healing and connection, and that is a very precious gift.
Babies have no concept of time and space. Being left alone to cry tells them they are abandoned. There is a reason I never bought a crying doll for my girlies. Drove me crazy. Thus I also resisted Babywise. Also, serious stress kills brain cells. Develop your baby’s brain with lots of contact and cuddles. They were closer than your skin before birth; why should not your scent and your heart beat comfort them?
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Yes, I agree. Some babies who have had to cry it out have loving, attentive parents and still do well. But others never attach, and carry those wounds their whole lives. It’s ingrained in a mother to cuddle and nourish–and I believe that is a God-given gift.
Yes, sister! I have often wondered if Babywise would have repercussions…. I guess it did.
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This recent podcast by Sally Clarkson really went I to this topic. I love it, and your post too. Thank you!
Thank you! That looks like a podcast I would enjoy!
Informative post!! being a parent is really a hard job… thanks for sharing this valuable article.