"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.)