Every day I see wonderful mothers doing a lovely job nurturing their little ones but so many of these women doubt themselves as they face criticism for their parenting choices, especially if they happen to have a high needs baby.
Even though – or perhaps, especially when – it seems that you are the only person whose baby only sleeps for moments, or cries when he isn’t being held, or isn’t easily soothed or is easily over-stimulated, take heart: you really aren’t the only person who is having a difficult time. Sadly though, there is a conspiracy of silence around what babies REALLY do and how mothers REALLy feel – very stressed, often isolated and much of the time, inadequate.
This is why it really is important to find yourself a support group or at least a few likeminded people who will tell you that you are doing a fabulous job and that you WILL survive.
Just yesterday I spoke to a mother on the phone who was feeling totally undermined by advice from family, friends and virtual strangers, including her mothers’ group. I reassured this mum – who was doing a wonderful job with a high needs/ reflux baby that she hadnt ‘created bad habits’ and wouldn’t have a child with ‘behaviour problems’ ( her wee one is only 3 months old so hardly on the road to delinquincy!) because she was holding him too much/ not leaving him to cry to ‘teach’ him to sleep ( as though crying teaches anybody anything other than to ‘give up’!). I also suggested that this mum desperately needed to find a cheering squad – others who would support her parenting choices or, at the very least,mind their own business. I told her, as I tell all mothers, “if they aren’t bringing casseroles or offering to do an ‘overnighter’, then they have no right to criticise. And you have no obligation to listen to them.” One place I suggested this mum might find support was the Australian Breastfeeding Association. This seemed fairly daunting because she is a country mum with quite a distance to tarvel to her nearest group meeting.
But, today this mum emailed me and here is a part of what she wrote:
“We spoke on the phone yesterday evening about my little bub and her sleep. Your encouragement and reassurance was just the tonic I needed, and I ended up changing my plans today so that I could go to the ABA meeting for the first time. It was fantastic and there were several women with high-needs bubs with very similar stories to mine (their kids are a bit older than XXX and they survived!) who share the same compassionate philosophy – as you said they would. I made friends with some lovely ladies who live just around the corner (a big thing when living in a relatively isolated area) – and have been told to pop in for a cuppa anytime. I’ve taken comfort from yours and their experiences and can fully relax in the knowledge that things will happen in their own time. I cannot tell you what a huge weight has been lifted from my shoulders in the past 24 hours. I feel like I can just enjoy XXXX now, trust my instincts and go for it!
So, to all you mums sitting at home feeling as though you are ‘the only one’ holding and rocking and soothing a high needs baby or, in fact, any baby (becoming a mother is a HUGE life change!), please come out of your closet and find your cheering squad. I promise, it will boost your confidence and your sense of self. Go on, pick up the phone and get out there ‘face to face’ with other people who will support you.