Parenting advice comes in all shapes and sizes… and whether you ask for it or not, it comes. Some of it is good, some of it is bad and a lot of it is, well, for lack of a better word, painful. When you have a child, as soon as you are handed that baby, your parenting is scrutinised.
In our birthing plan we were very clear about what we wanted for the first few hours of our life with Bo. We wanted respect. Respect for the bonding that would take place, respect for the decisions we made about how to bless her, how to love her and how to welcome her into the world. We were very grateful that the hospital that we were at were extremely respectful of our wishes and regardless of how dramatic the final moments of Bo’s birth had been, within fifteen minutes the room was cleared, the lights were dimmed and we were left alone and in peace with our baby.
I chose to co-sleep in the hospital. It wasn’t a conscious choice, it was just what happened naturally because we were allowed (Bo and I) to evolve into our real-world partnership and begin to find our feet together. What we needed was closeness, and so during the night, Bo’s tiny newborn body slept in the crook of my arm in our single, crisp-white sheeted hospital bed. The midwives raised their eyebrows a few times (I could see the SIDS warnings flashing behind their freshly minted smiles) but they held their tongue. The staff respected my decision, and I was grateful to not have to justify myself to anyone. Bo and I have been happily and safely co-sleeping together ever since, and for us, it is the very best decision I could have made (or not made as the case may be).
If only we could write a life-plan, or a life-preferences sheet and give it to everyone in our lives and have them respect our decisions for the way we would prefer our life to go just like we can in a hospital for the birth of our child. If only I had my doula on hand for every step of my parenting, my very own advocate, standing by my side, holding my hand and whispering encouragement in my ear. This parenting gig is hard, and the second you walk out of the hospital (and unfortunately for some mums it starts in hospital with the midwives) people will judge the decisions you make.
I know a woman, with a young baby just like Bo, who was very recently verbally attacked in a shopping centre food court for bottle feeding her baby. The woman scolded this mother, telling her that babies should be breast fed, that she was, essentially, not doing what was best for her child. I also know of other mothers who have been made feel uncomfortable breastfeeding in cafes, restaurants and other public places by general members of the public. The first few weeks, months, years of a mothers motherhood is an extraordinarily emotional time and to think that anyone feels they have the right to comment (with anything other than praise and encouragement), or indeed pass judgement on the way a mother feeds her child (as long as the child is indeed being fed) greatly disturbs me. How have we lost so much respect for each other that we can’t just stand behind someone and say, we as your brothers and sisters, we support you…
The idea of respect has been on my mind a lot lately. Respect for peoples choices. Respect for other people situations – regardless of the outcome that those situations may have on me personally. Respect for babies as people. Respect may be something that is culturally ingrained in us, and this is something that I’m planning to ponder further as it’s something that I’m facing day to day here in the village.
Why can’t we just find it in ourselves to let go of our own judgements and ideals and just respect each other and find love and acceptance just because we are people, all in this together, just trying to make sense of this wild world… one day at a time with no life-preferences plan to follow.
What’s the best parenting advice you’ve ever heard? What’s the worst?