I came across this post on Facebook this morning and it struck a chord. I thought I’d share, in case you hadn’t seen it yet.
This sort of judgement and “kind advice” from strangers has been a part of my life since before I even gave birth and I’d be a fool for not recognizing how it fashioned me into the advocate I am today.
This is how I turned “If you only knew” into, “here’s what you don’t know” and why I believe advocacy is so important in the parenting community.
Our first trip to target after Liam was born. He was a week old and it was my first trip out of the house post-C-Section. My husband had encouraged me to go with him to get out of the house because he could see I was a bit down.
The trip was a nightmare.
The baby was asleep the entire trip there and into the store. We placed the carrier in the cart and from that moment on, it was a barrage of advice from strangers.
He had begun to cry, I assumed because of the lights and the rattling from the cart. As we tried to finish up our shopping as fast as possible while he cried in my arms, women seemed to come out of the walls like roaches in the dark, I’d turn around and there’d be one, turn the other way and there would be another… All cooing and trying to comfort my child as though I wasn’t doing it well enough on my own.
Why was he upset? Because there was nowhere to sit and nurse him but the bathroom and I refused to do that to him. Also, (and honestly, probably more relevant) my severe postpartum wasn’t allowing me the luxury of believing something terrible wouldn’t happen on the way there, so all I could do was stand there, walk slowly and try to do whatever I could to calm him.
Also, he was what they call a “high needs” child who struggled with bottles, needed physical touch to be calm, became anxious quickly when left alone and just needed more care and attention.
After he began crying, I tried nursing him standing up and walking around, but it was too hard for me to get it together with the cover on and people kept throwing nasty glances at me if the cover fell away and god forbid they had to watch a newborn eat in public. With the pain from the C-Section, I didn’t have enough coordination to manage holding him, getting him to latch, keeping the cover on and not twisting in some strange position that pulled on my incision, so I just held him close and tried to comfort him as best I could.
I even had one lady come up and whisper, “honey, you need to stop what you are doing and take that baby home- shopping can wait” with a tone that wasn’t even attempting to hide the condescending superiority. I replied, “if I could just feed him it would be fine” She said, “do you have a bottle”, I said, “no, I have a breast”. She laughed and said, “well, now THAT certainly is a terrible idea- maybe you should just take the baby to your car and feed him covered up. Let hubby here do your shopping.” Then she walked of like she’d just done some great service to the world and I was left to understand how distorted our world is.
After that, I saw it everywhere- that “kind” advice… “put him down or he’ll never walk”, “don’t let him nurse to sleep, he’ll never sleep on his own”, “if you keep nursing him, he’ll never learn to talk” and literally thousands of other, incorrect and down right STUPID tidbits of terrible, judgmental advice… a year later, I was fed up. A year later, I was done with people and their bad, selfish advice. I started to fight back with ACTUAL knowledge from the modern scientific, medical and psychological community. I’d just finished my degree in psych and I used what I knew and learned as much as I could about breastfeeding, baby-wearing, co-sleeping and more so many other topics… when that saccharine-sweet grin with the “helpful” advice would come my way, I’d put them on the spot. I’d ask for their source of that information, pushing their unreliable, false information back with facts, sources and documented truth.
A year after that, I had my daughter and I thought it would get better, people would see that I’m an experienced parent now… no one will judge me or give me terrible, selfish advice, right?
Wrong. In fact, the judgement got worse because now there were TWO children “sucking my life away” as some, supposedly well-meaning people often joked… I nursed them both, slept with both, cuddled both and made them my priority because that’s what moms are supposed to do.
Then, the moment came when someone in my family told me to “cover up or just feed her regular food like everyone else”.
Three days later, I started this blog and the Facebook support page to honor, lift up and provide educated FACTS to moms in hopes that I could help other mothers fight back against all this invalid, inaccurate judgement and condescension masked as “support”.
The phrase, “if you only knew” was something I often whispered under my breath as people shamelessly gave advice that was incorrect, damaging to babies or just flat out stupid, but you know what? We shouldn’t have to whisper it and we shouldn’t have to deal with it. We shouldn’t have to politely smile as we “allow” great aunt whoever to tell us that baby will grow up with buck teeth if you let them nurse past 4 months or to sleep-train at 3 weeks of age or else they’ll be “needy” their entire lives.
The only way we can deal with this false and potentially harmful information is by doing the research and learning the truth, then having the nerve to SPEAK that truth when people give you wrong information.
I encourage every mother who has ever had to think “if you only knew” to instead, SPEAK – “here is what you don’t know”.
Stop the judgement. Stop the bad information from spreading. Stop being a doormat to others’ egos. There is nothing, ANYwhere, that says you have to just cope with that because YOU need to be the polite one.
See this stuff for what it is. It’s condescending judgment and it’s unacceptable. Have some self-respect and have the strength to protect your legacy as MOTHER and stand up against it all. Your baby, and possibly someone else’s, will owe their happiness to you.