The Best Parenting Advice I Ever Received Wasn’t Spoken

3 Mar

 

The-Best-Parenting-Advice

I remember one miserable day, that wasn’t unlike a long-string of awful days I already had with Noah. He had been crying all day long and was comforted by nothing. I was at my wit’s end and truly felt that I was losing it.

When my husband came home from class, I put Noah in the car with me, (he screamed even more frantically if he was away from me) and drove to Walgreens to buy a bottle of colic calm. (I cannot remember why I decided to go to Walgreens instead of my husband!)

Noah continued to frantically and angrily scream the entire drive. I was an emotional wreck and tried my best to focus on driving. When we arrived, I took a deep breath, stepped out of the car, wrapped Noah up in my baby carrier (yes, he was still screaming) and prepared myself for all the assumptions.

As expected, everyone in the store glared at me. What kind of trashy mom lets her kid scream like that? I could feel their judgment. The “oh poor baby” sentiment was dripping out of their eyes. The silent thoughts about what kind of terrible mom I must be for having a baby cry like that felt palpable to me.

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Keeping it real. Motherhood ain’t always about looking cute.

I was standing in line at the register, Noah was still screaming, an older woman walked up to us and said,

“Oh, poor baby.”

I was furious. I didn’t want her two-cent sympathy. She didn’t know me. She didn’t know anything about anything. I was so sick of everyone feeling like my son was the only victim of his colic. I snapped back at her and said, incredulously,

“Poor baby? Good one! How about poor mom, because that’s a little more like it!”

She took a step back and looked at me like I had a foot growing out of my forehead. (Really, at this point, it was in my mouth. Like I said, I was officially losing it.)

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My mom and sister came for a vist in July. Noah was three-months old. I made things work by wearing Noah all the time.

I tried to rush out of the store and get home, but not before I was stopped again, this time by a young mom.

Noah was still crying, of course. The conversation went something like this, with us slightly yelling to be heard over my son’s screams:

“Oh, I just had to come tell you my daughter had colic too.”

“Oh really?”

“Yes, for like a week she screamed all the time. And then I did (insert unscrupulous and irrelevant advice here) and she stopped crying.”

“A whole week of colic, huh?”

“Yeah, it was the worst thing I’ve ever experienced. I’m so glad I figured out what to do. How long has your baby been colicky?”

“Well, my son has had colic for over four months now. And yes, I’ve already tried everything you’ve suggested.”

“Oh…”

“Well, as you can see, I need to get home.”

I spun on my heels and headed to my car. Feeling relieved to be away from everyone’s speculations.

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Noah, 8 weeks old, with a cute grin.

You’re Not Doing Enough

I can’t tell you how many moms came to me and told me what I needed to do. Cut out dairy. Eliminate wheat. Stop eating eggs. Meditate. Put my son in orange clothing. Stop stressing. He’ll be happy if I get happy. Stop doing this. Start doing that. Stand on my head while I drink green tea from a red straw and recite Byron poetry. See a chiropractor. Get Noah craniosacral therapy. Stop breastfeeding. Breastfeed him more. Stop coddling him. Swaddle him tighter. Just let him cry. Stop bed-sharing. Have your husband hold him more. Clip his tongue tie. Give him reflux meds. Give him Chamomile tea. Get him tested for allergies. Tell me that I’m paying for my easy and beautiful birth with a difficult baby. Recommend I go see this (really expensive) doctor. Spit on a string and tie it to Noah’s forehead. Try this herb. Use this oil. Rub sage into his diaper. And my favorite: get demons cast out.

I felt like all the advice I received was rooted in this idea that if I just changed one more thing in my life, if I just did something a little better, if I just tried a little harder I would fix my son. If I would just stop being so selfish by eating cheese and eggs I would fix him (or something like that). At the time, none of their advice felt compassionate, or needed.

They didn’t know was that I was doing all of that, or had already tried it. I had exhausted myself looking for a cure and wondering what the hell I was doing wrong.

Actions, Not Advice

And then one day a good friend called me. She saw my Facebook update about how…

“I’m thankful for the calm after the storm. Last night was the worst night yet, but this morning we’re all coping just a little better, even so I could really use some TLC.”

I picked up the phone, mustered up my most energetic and happy hello, and without introduction Marissa, my doula and Mommy Moxie friend, said,

“I’m on my way. Amanda (our mutual friend) and I are picking you up and taking you to my house. Zoe can play with my kids, and we’re going to take care of Noah and you’re going to sleep all day in my room.”

At first I refused. No way was I going to let my friends have to deal with my screaming baby. Inwardly, I knew a real reason I didn’t want their help was because I felt and looked my worst, and I really didn’t want to let my friends see me like this, in shambles – pathetic and miserable. After my adamant refusal she said,

“Girl, I’ve mothered four children. I promise you, I can handle you, your messy hair, your bad breath, seeing your dirty house when I pick you up, and holding your son while he cries. Besides, having two more kids in my house will not alter the intense chaos that is always present in my home as it is. Amanda and I will be there in 20 minutes whether you so yes or not. And don’t even think about trying to look cute, because you’re just going straight to my bed to sleep.”

And that’s exactly what happened. She and Amanda arrived at my home, took one look at me and hugged me tight. They took each of my children to Marissa’s mini-van and buckled them up in their car-seats, and looked at me and said,

“Alright, let’s go.”

Marissa brought me into her home. While Amanda held my son and Zoe ran off to play with a house full of new toys and friends. Marissa tucked me into bed. Set a glass of water next to me and turned on the large box fan, pulled down the blinds, turned out the lights, and shut the door. She promised me that when Noah was hungry, or if Zoe needed me they would bring them to me, but other than that, the most important thing I needed to do was sleep.

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Staying with my parents in Arkansas while Peter was in Chicago, starting his first semester of grad school and looking for a home for us to move into.

Marissa and Amanda wore Noah in his sling and they used a white noise app on their iPhones – both seemed to keep his cries at bay for a little while. It also helped that they didn’t get frazzled when he screamed because their nerves, unlike mine, were not shot to hell. They rocked him and soothed him and enjoyed my baby – even when he was screaming. All the while my little Zoe played with a house-full of happy children.

And I slept the whole day. Unlike my own home, Marissa’s house was big enough that I couldn’t hear Noah cry if someone else had him. Her room was dark and very quite – providing me with rich deep sleep.

After the end of a full day of sleeping and feeding me, they drove me home. They hugged me and told me things would get easier, that they were here for me: the good, the bad and the ugly. One-hundred percent here for me. They reminded me that sometimes the best thing to do is simply trust that this stage won’t last forever.

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My sister and parents gifted me with a trip to Maui in September of 2011. My mom took this shot. Noah was five months old here, still in the thick of his colic.

I arrived home with a full-cup. Thanks to their care I felt a little more prepared to face the world knowing I had friends who had my back. I cuddled my son and knew that even if it didn’t feel like things were going to get better that things would. (And they did, you can read about that here: To My Son On Your First Birthday: A Mother’s Understanding)

They taught me, without saying a single word, that the best parenting advice doesn’t start with words but begins with actions.

(That next day Marissa called to check on me, and to let me know she woke up with one of my used breast pads stuck to her arm. I laughed hard.)

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Marissa and Amanda. Friends who made a difference. Thank you!

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13 Responses to “The Best Parenting Advice I Ever Received Wasn’t Spoken”

  1. Michelle March 3, 2013 at 9:22 pm #

    Those ladies are amazing. They are shining examples of how mothers in community need to help and respect each other more. I am so thankful they took good care of you.

    Thanks for blogging this! I am going to share via my Facebook and with my centering clients.

    • Joy March 3, 2013 at 11:18 pm #

      They taught me what it means to ‘mother the mother.’

  2. Addie Kidd March 4, 2013 at 2:34 pm #

    Oh, how beautiful. Love in action! When I read the first words of Marissa’s phone call I got chills. Aren’t friends… real, strong, take-action, unafraid friends, the absolute best?!
    Your article reminds me that maybe I could take better (more useful) care of those I love around me; less words and more actions. Thank you. And bravo to you, Mama, for soldiering your way through that difficult time.

    • Joy March 6, 2013 at 9:51 am #

      Yes, their example has challenged me on not just offering support to moms, but to be a support to moms. Advice and support are not the same, and we get that confused all the time.

  3. Rachel March 4, 2013 at 2:43 pm #

    That is so lovely! What incredible friends. This is why “it takes a village.” Thanks for sharing this story.

    • Joy March 6, 2013 at 9:51 am #

      Everybody needs a village! :)

  4. Cecelia Griffiths March 4, 2013 at 11:17 pm #

    Nine straight months of screaming if she was conscious. That’s how I remember my second child’s infancy. All the stuff listed we tried, and then some. We had a few brief successes with the vacuum cleaner as a bite noise machine, but couldn’t turn it off or she’d start again. I actually recorded my vacuum cleaner and played it to her. The GP, the famous paediatrician, nine million fellow mothers and various staff at Children’s Hospital were all stumped – nobody could figure out what was wrong. my husband and i would argue over who got to go to the corner store for whatever I’d deliberately run out of that day. Exhausted, I got strep throat monthly for thirteen straight months. Then one day, at nine months, she got up and walked, right into a very good natured, easy childhood.

    All of that was twenty five years ago, but nobody who knew us then has forgotten her epic infancy. Now, she’s a mother herself, and has the easiest little girl going. There is no justice. I can confirm, though, that grandparenting is way more fun than parenting!

    • Joy March 6, 2013 at 9:49 am #

      “Epic infancy” I love it! Thanks for commenting!

  5. Colleen March 6, 2013 at 1:23 am #

    Oh how I needed that. I wish someone had helped me with my colicky little one. She screamed non stop for six months. She is now 3, and amazing. She is also very high needs and still immensely challenging. I wish I knew someone like your dear friends.

    • Joy March 6, 2013 at 9:48 am #

      They need to be cloned, don’t they… :) Hugs!

  6. Mishka Brownley March 12, 2013 at 7:47 pm #

    What wonderful support! Kudos to your friends. I wish every women had sisters like them to lean on.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Back in the game! | IT IS ONLY THE BEGINNING - March 5, 2013

    […] The Best Parenting Advice I Ever Received Wasn’t Spoken (thejoyofthis.com) […]

  2. Joy’s Top Ten Most Read Posts in 2013 | The Joy of This - December 31, 2013

    […] 7. The Best Parenting Advice I Ever Received Wasn’t Spoken: I talk about how broken and helpless I felt during the early days of my son’s colic and the things that helped me cope the most. Hint: good friends who knew not to give advice but to simply be present. […]

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