Second Chances

"They" say (whoever they may be) that the first child is always the guinea pig. The first child gets things tried out on them, the parents make mistakes, learn new techniques, etc and then try to do "better" with the second child. Or maybe it's not even until the third, fourth, or tenth child until you realize certain things.

This blog post may not mean anything to most people, but then some might be able to relate. If you aren't a parent (a mommy, especially), then it might not make any since at all! It might even offend some, even though that is not my original intent.

When Charlotte was born, I had never read a parenting book. I never went to a parenting class and I never really worried about all that. I had heard that everything would just come naturually to me and everything would work out. For the first ten weeks of her life, this was truly the case. We struggled a lot with nursing at first (which never really panned out), but otherwise, everything was ok. Even though we never planned on it (or even thought about it), she slept in our bed and much to my surprise, I LOVED it. Thomas and I both loved having a sweet cuddly little baby right there to kiss and snuggle with at night. Everyone told us we better be careful or we'd never get her out of our bed! Ha. Now, I WISH she would at least take a nap with me! But no, she refuses time and time again. :)

At ten weeks old, I picked up a book someone at church gave me called Babywise (actually, it was the "Christian" version.. Growing Kids God's Way). I also read things similar to what the book teaches online. It told me Charlotte NEEDED to be put on a strict feeding and sleeping schedule or else she'd grow up to be a defiant little brat who would learn that crying = attention. Let me tell you, them's be strong words to a new a mommy, unsure of her capabilities and full of doubt on this new mothering journey. As a first time mom, not having a clue, I was scared of messing up. I wanted to be the PERFECT mother, or at least as perfect as I could be. I was afraid of not listening to "the book" and to others around me saying that she needed to learn to soothe herself.. She needed to fall asleep by herself.. She needed to be put on a schedule.. She needed to learn ORDER! Because don't you know that God is a God of order? (<--insert puking smiley here)

So I listened. I decided that she, indeed, needed to learn to "cry it out," even though she was barely out of my womb. She needed to learn that mommy wasn't going to come to her "manipulative cries." The little sinner!

So when she was 10 weeks old, at bedtime we fed her, rocked her for a minute, then I put her in her crib and I walked out the door. She immediately started to scream, kick her legs, and flail around. My heart started pounding, I felt sick inside. I believe I actually threw up at some point that night. I had to lock myself in our bathroom to drown out the cries. Actually, I had to leave the house and met a friend at Starbucks to talk out my feelings on the matter. Why wouldn't she stop crying? Why wasn't this working? Does God approve of this?

This lasted for 3 hours. THREE. HOURS. Then she fell asleep, alone in her crib, and in her pretty little room. And yet I felt so ugly inside. I felt like I had sinned against God for abandoning this sweet little creature He had blessed me with.

Later on that night, my eyes swollen with tears, I went and picked her up and brought her back to bed with us. I didn't care if I had "ruined" all that crying work, I just knew that I needed her close to me. I didn't like the thought of her sleeping alone, so far away, in the dark.

In the weeks that followed, I still tried to put her on a "schedule" but in a gentler way. We did transition her to her crib a few days later and she has stayed there ever since (much to my dismay!). There were many many times I have cursed Ezzo's name and his book for bringing doubt into my mind about the things that were important to me. For months after that 10 week mark, I struggled with PPD, doubt, and fear of doing it "wrong." There were times I didn't like being a mom at all because my baby just wouldn't cooperate with "the schedule."

When I think about it, I can still hear her. I can still hear her screaming and I can see her precious tiny body in that yellow sleep sack kicking and flailing... And me just standing there doing nothing. Nothing. It has been almost two years since then and yet I still think about it almost on a weekly basis, even if for a few seconds. It haunts me.

In a way, I am grateful. I am grateful that we didn't continue with most of the Babyunwise methods and I am grateful that my sweet girl's cries still affect me and touch my heart strings to this day. I am grateful that over the past two years I have learned more about the heart and character of our Lord, and that has caused me to be more discerning when it comes to parenting methods and how we are to love our children. I'm not sure where I heard it, or maybe I thought of it (highly unlikely!), but the best advice I have is this:

Parent your children like God parents you.

Patiently. Gently. Mercifully.
With kindness and love.
And with abundant grace. Grace overflowing.

I have since thrown out the parenting books... especially most of those labeled "Christian." It seems many Christians are so eager to tout grace and mercy, except when it concerns our precious children, even babies. Children may need to learn order, but how will they ever learn Grace unless we show it to them? We push and shove our children out the door of independence, not realizing that independent children come all too soon, without any pushing required. My little baby is now a big baby, usually not wanting me to hold her at all, she is much too busy for that. :)

What I wouldn't give to go back in time and be able to scoop up that sweet crying little baby and let her know that mommy is ALWAYS there for her... Even when it's inconvenient... Even when it's in the middle of the night, or when it makes me uncomfortable... Even when other people are telling me I am spoiling her or doing it "wrong"... I don't care what people think anymore. I don't care if they think I'm not doing it right or if they think my child will turn out to be a spoiled brat. People will think what they will, and then we will just prove them wrong. :)

The only one I dare to please is God, and Him alone. I beg for his mercies anew every day, knowing that the only way I can raise my daughter to be a godly woman is by his grace and guidance. Thank you God for second chances.

“As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you.” Isaiah 66:13

“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!” Isaiah 49:15

(.... And maybe next time I will share why we don't spank! But that's only when I want to feel the flames under my feet while I hang on the stake... Just kidding. Maybe.)


The Mama Beth said...

We all live and learn. I'm sorry you have that unhappy memory. It's obvious you love her so much, and you guys have made so many happy memories to help block out that one bad one. Thanks for speaking against that awful book! I hope others read this and understand how much bunk that stuff is.

Emily said...

Hilary, this was raw, truthful and truly touching. What truthful words. You know I fully understand. Katie cried 2 hours, woulda been more but we quit and we both ran to her, then threw the book out! Her cries still haunt me too. I love you, you are one of the kindest and most loving mother I know. You are truly gifted and Charlotte is one of the sweetest most precious children, and I know Vivian will be too. Never doubt yourself. You're a remarkable women, wife and mother! Thank you for sharing this! I have toyed with the idea of writing one similar. Maybe I will. You, like you always do, have given me courage! Love you dear friend, sister in Christ and treasured mother confidant! 

Mandie, Daniel and Dawson said...

You know that I had/have a terrible sleeper...and I never could bring myself to do this. Of course by the time I even considered it, D was too big and climbed out of the crib...anyway, I'm a firm believe that to good parents, it just comes. The baby books are crap, imo. I am a good mom and I know what's best for my child and I'm not going to read some book to tell me how to raise him. You've figured it out and you're doing a great job. This next time around, I hope the beginning is a little easier for you and no PPD comes into sight.

Janet said...

Completly agree that is an awful book!!!

Tiana said...

I understand that different things work for different people...I did use babywise as a guideline, I needed some structure as a new mom and as a second time mom as well. Neither of my babies ever cried for more than a half hour, and only a couple of times (they are both naturally good sleepers), and both of them have fallen asleep in my arms, slept in bed with us when they were sick, etc. (things that are nono's according to babywise). Both were sleeping through the night by 12 weeks (our second at 10 weeks), so I will continue to put every future baby I have on a schedule, and use babywise as only a guideline as I have in the past. With that said, I don't think mothers should go against their convictions, so do what works for you and what you think is best for your children (as long as it lines up with God's word). Congrats again, Hilary!

thehills said...

Let me just say that I dont believe schedules in and of themselves are bad! Of course not. IMO, (loose) schedules are good for children and mommies, and gives everyone routine and the ability to know what comes next. And I'll even say that I dont think that a gentle and modified CIO is bad, either, BUT only if used at appropriate ages (6+ mos).

The main issue I have with Babywise is his attitude towards "those" parents and his false claims that if you don't do it his way (or "God's way", as he says... ugh), then you are bound to raise needy, clingy, whiny children who are a pain to be around. Of course, what new mom wants that??? When you have very little experience with babies (like I did), its easy to just take someone's word for it and do what the "experts" tell you (or those with lots of kids). I will admit, I am easily swayed by certain things (even though I may be convicted about them), which like I said, is why I've thrown out the parenting books. It's just easier that way.

The funny thing is that Charlotte WAS a good sleeper, and still is. That's my whole point. Ezzo tends to make a mountain out of a molehill and make you think you have a problem, but you really don't. At least this was my experience. He tends to pit mother against child and sets up an adversarial attitude between them. I guess this is one of my biggest issues with it. I read a blog post from a mom who did BW one time that said something along the lines of, "Praise God, Johnny (6 wks old) only cried for 5 minutes today before his nap instead of his usual hour!!" Im not sure if that is a victory or a complete pity in the eyes of God.

I dont know, I have met more people who have had bad experiences with the book than not (just a read through Amazon will show how controversial it is) to ever recommend it to a new mom.

I admire those who are able to pick the good and ignore the bad, but I still stand by what I say that Ezzo's book is dangerous and should stopped being published. (And I havent even mentioned the feeding issues that many have come across with this book... But those stories aren't hard to find, either!!)


mpence said...

I agree with most of your post. I have never read babywise. I do not however think there is anything wrong with putting a baby on a schedule. I have never really had to force a schedule (except for my twins, who wanted to sleep at the EXACT OPPOSITE times, and I would keep one up, get the other up early, and worked really hard to get them on the same schedule, lol!). It comes naturally. I feed on demand. By about 6 weeks old, all of my babies have worked out a 3 nap/day schedule.

I think parenting takes balance though...not just grace. I have seen that turn out horribly in many families...

God uses the imagry of nursing a baby at the breast to the comfort her gives. I think WE as Moms are to give that to our babies to be the first example of God.

But God also says that foolishness is bound in the heart of a child, and the rod of reproof will drive it far from him.

The rod and the staff are to comfort us in psalms 23. The staff was used to gently steer a sheep, but the rod was used at times to even break their legs so that the shepherd could carry them back to safety when they went astray.

It is a balancing act at all times.

I actually really liked growing kids God's way, but I did it when I had toddlers, not babies. I do not think the same applies to babies...just as God gives us the same kinds of changing expectations. A new Christian is not expected to act the same as a seasoned Christian. It is the difference between drinking milk and eating steak.

I believe Grace in parenting is ESSENTIAL - but so is discipline (a father chastizes the som whom he loves.) You just can't have one without the other. A Child NEEDS boundaries. They actually WANT them, and in the end, are happier with they have them!

My only caution about your post is to not ignore all the scripture that talks about rebuking, disciplining, training, correcting, and chastizing, but to balance those with the grace. Without both, a child will not have a complete picture of who God is, or what God expects from us.

I am also not saying that putting a newborn, or even an older baby to cry for hours. I personally like letting my babies fall asleep in their beds, putting them down drowsy, but awake, starting when they are just a couple days old, but have never had many tears over it...in fact, I don't tend to get tears over being put down until close to 3, when all of a sudden, they don't WANT to nap, but they still NEED to nap, lol! (Going through this with Callie right now...and yes, I do let her cry for the 10-15 minutes it takes her to fall asleep...)

mpence said...

All of that being said, I have had 1 baby who slept through the night (12+ hours) at 5 weeks old, and another who didn't sleep through the night (8 + hours) until 17 months old. I don't know that I did much different with either of them (or any of my others!), but it was where they were, and I met their needs as they came.

Each child is different and unique, and I think as parents, we have to be very aware of that, and not fit them into the same mold...or have the exact same expectations for them. I think it is honoring to our children and to God when we acknowledge that they are very different people, created in God's image and likeness to be who they are. It is not our job to break them, but rather to help mold/shape them.

thehills said...

Michelle, I absolutely agree with you. I love reading your posts here and on iV, they are always very encouraging. :)

I just want to make clear that in my post Im talking about BABIES, especially those under 6 mos old.

I know I hinted at the spanking thing at the end of my post, and like I said I'd like to address that further later... But all I'll say right now is that I absolutely agree that we should discipline our children. However, discipline does NOT equal punishment and I think many people get the 2 confused. You can absolutely raise your children in the Lord without spanking them. I have never spanked Charlotte (ok, I swatted her hand a couple times out of MY anger, and I felt horrible about it) and we don't use time outs, either, and she is turning out to be a very sweet natured and obedient child. Redirection and consistency works great for her, as it does most children her age. Yes, she can be pretty stubborn at times, but that is normal and I just stay consistent with my approach and she eventually learns. :)

IMO it is very sad that when Christians hear the words "training", "discipline," or "chastisement" they automatically think this means hitting. This, I believe, is a product of our culture and not what the Bible really teaches. (BTW, do a Hebrew word study of "the rod" verses in Proverbs... You'll be very surprised what you find.. I know I was) :)

Anyways, that is a post for another day. Thanks for commenting, Michelle! :)

thehills said...

I will also say that I get VERY *VERY* frustrated when people assume that just because we don't spank that we don't discipline and that we are permissive parents or that Char doesn't have boundaries. NOTHING could be further from the truth. My husband will be the first to tell you that I am not permissive at all when it comes to disciplining Charlotte. Permissiveness is wrong, wrong, wrong, and I dont condone that in any way and I dont believe God does, either. I just dont believe you need to spank in order to lead a child in righteousness. I think people get Grace and Permissiveness confused sometimes, too.

Anonymous said...

i read ezzo when my first son was a few months old, and knew i could never follow it. that didn't stop me from beating myself up about what a "bad mother" i was. five children later, i know how ridiculous that was, but those books are very convincing for susceptible new mommies.

Tiff and Seth said...

I TOTALLY agree that BABYWISE is a HORRIBLE book!!! I get nauseated when I read others blogs and it talks about letting their baby "cry it out" so that they don't become spoiled. I'm sorry- Janie Ann NEVER has had to cry it out and "soothe" herself. As her mother- I am here to soothe and comfort her whenever she needs me- midnight, 2 am or 3 pm nap.

And a schedule- I was lucky enough to have a baby that slept thru the night (8+hours) at 5 weeks old and she put herself on a schedule- I didn't push her to eat when 2 hours was up- if she was hungry at 1.5 hours- she ate, if the next time it was 3 hours, I didn't force her to eat at 2. You have instincts as a human/baby to know when you are hungry, thirsty, tired...etc. and it's not up to ME as the mother to force her to eat b/c 3:00 everday is "snack" time- when she got hungry- she let us know!!

I read on someone's blog that at one of her kids feeding time, s/he didn't eat- but an hour later was screaming, but b/c i wasn't time to eat the mother just waited it out. I was HORRIFIED!!!! That is like the old saying- you do something bad, you will go to bed hungry... NEVER in my house!!!

Anyways- I totally agree- Babywise is not a wise book choice at all!!!! You are a great mother and Charlotte and Vivian are lucky to have such Godly parents to raise them! I know you are in MS- but if you ever need anything- let me know and I will do whatever I can!! Xi love!

Will said...

I'm confused - how do you KNOW god exists?
And how do you know that, if we assume a god exists, it's the christian god? Why not one of the alternatives?

Gem said...

mpence --

Do you know anything about shepherding? Have you ever known a shepherd? The rod was *never* used to break a sheep's leg. Never. That is rhetoric that has been passed down generation to generation and is inherently WRONG.

Foolish is bound up in the heart of a child -- bound up and gagged. The verse has been used to say that children are inherently foolish and must be chastised and punished to get rid of that foolishness. Nothing could be farther from the Truth! God Himself through Jesus said that unless we become AS A CHILD, [with our foolishness bound and gagged] we cannot enter the kingdom of Heaven.

Please re-read, study, and ask questions about the "facts" you have been taught. I have, and my eyes have been opened to a harshness that was never intended by God, old or new testament.

icebear said...

i agree that a lot of parenting books are trash. any sort of swatting or spank discipline is reserved for correcting dangerous or repeated actions... like climbing a book shelf- even tethered shelves can be dangerous, etc.
both my kids co-slept. my littlest one has her bed right next to my side. she falls asleep with us, i set her in her bed and if she wakes up, i'm right there. our oldest refused to sleep by herself until close to seven years. she had a fold out mattress she slept on our floor. yeah, it was a problem as far as hubby and i having to give up our, a-hem, private time... but after the kids are grown and gone there's time left for that! lol But we never had fear of the dark issues and any nightmares were quieted immediately. If she was sick, she knew i was on patrol and everything was going to be ok.

I never understood the idea that being there for your kids is spoiling them. Spoiling happens in a totally different way. I want my kids to trust me by showing myself to be trustworthy, that i put their needs on a level where they know they can come to me for anything- especially if they get into trouble or are heading that way - so it can be rooted out and taken care of before it gets beyond control. This does not mean they get every material thing they want or get away with staying out late, acting like heathens- they are expected to understand that even if they are good at home and their grades are great there are some things they simply aren't allowed to do.

Adulthood isn't about getting to do whatever you want, its about knowing what should and should not be done and having the self discipline to stick by it.
Kids need to learn this but still be allowed to be delightfully carefree within reason until they do have to start acting their age...

oh, i could go on. but i remember i was raised pretty well myself, i remember what made me not want to listen to my parents and what showed me that i should. i use that memory to try and balance out what i do with my kids. my oldest daughter processes information a lot like i did at her age, so i try to keep a guideline going and pay attention at all times.

Nobody has this parenting thing in the bag. We do the best we can and love them dearly.

Will said...

This still isn't really solving the central problem: does god exist?

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Amanda said...

Thanks so much for this post (I stumbled across your blog through babycenter.com). :)

I've had some similar experiences as you in terms of Christian parenting books. I will say, however, I that I have been pleasantly surprised with the book Parenting With Love and Logic. It's not for newborns, but has been very helpful as I've jumped into the toddler/preschool years.


vivien said...

Hey, I just found this blog from a comment you made on an article at Babycenter, and just want to say "amen." I'm not currently a Christian, but maybe part of that was because I haven't met enough Christians like you. At any rate, I have the same reaction to putting my baby on a rigid schedule, and especially to "crying it out." It's cruel, and it's only effective if your long term goal is to teach your child you don't really care about their needs.

I went home for Christmas with my 7 week old daughter this year, and my mom and sister kept making snide comments about how much attention my baby gets from me. My mom in particular kept saying, "well I sure didn't do that for you and you turned out fine," or things to that effect. I wanted to say, "Mom, I feel broken inside, I almost always feel like I'm not entitled to love or acceptance, and I struggle every day with feeling like there's something fundamentally wrong with me." But of course I can't say that to my mother.

Anyway, it was refreshing to read this post. Keep up the good parenting!