Feeding, changing, burping, soothing, walking, more feeding, more changing, bathing, dressing…. It is 4 am and my daughter is awake and ready to play.
It has been 3 months of parenting and the demands on my body and heart are intense. I used to babysit often. I would pour my heart and soul into the little ones and then the parents would come home and I would be on my merry way.
Sometimes while caring for my daughter I wonder, “when are your parents coming home? Oh yeah, that’s me!”
In all of the work of keeping my little person alive it is so easy to forget her humanity, her soul.
Early on in the journey when I was breastfeeding all day and all night trying to get baby’s weight up (see post: The Breast Audit) all I thought about was latching and how long to feed for, what position, what colour her poo was and the numbers on the scale.
Honestly, my mind was so full of performance anxiety there was little room for appreciation of the little life in my arms. That is until I watched my daughter interact with one of our doulas. They supported us during the night for 3 weeks postpartum (one of the best decisions ever! motherme.ca).
Before picking up my baby, the doula greeted her and introduced herself and told my daughter what she would do.
“Hi…., this is…… Did you have a good feed? I am going to change your diaper and hold you while Mommy sleeps”.
She said all of this with the biggest smile ever and I could tell that she truly loved my baby and… respected her.
Yes my title may seem a bit provocative. Respecting babies? Aren’t people always saying “don’t treat me like a baby?” Love, cuddle, care for babies but respect them?
I walked out into the living room and saw that the doula was holding my daughter close to her face so they could see each other clearly and was talking to her gently and singing songs. When she saw me, the doula said, “Here is Mommy. I will give you back to her now. I had such a nice time with you. See you tomorrow.”
I was in awe. Later that day I held my little one close to my face and talked to her. The worries of physical demands and performance faded away as two people began to fall in love with each other.
When my baby cries I used to feel helpless and angry, sometimes I still do, especially when she is in the car or changing her diaper or putting her down when something just needs to be done and I can’t hold her. I used to turn the music up loud and try to ignore her. Now I say, “Thank you for telling me how you feel”. I smile and ask, “what do you need?”
It doesn’t always calm her down but it calms me down and an annoying noise suddenly becomes communication. My daughter is saying “Mommy, I am hungry/tired/bored/lonely/uncomfortable etc… and I can say “I hear you, I acknowledge you, you matter.” I can’t change all of her difficult situations. Life is hard. Car seats and diaper changes are necessary. (Sometimes she does like them-yay!).
I used to care for seniors and say that their physical needs are similar to children. I feed, clothe and bathe them. But the difference is that I need to respect seniors and treat them with dignity.
I realize now that is wrong in some ways. Children also need to be treated with dignity and respect.
Of course I didn’t play with my client’s toes or blow on their tummies or sing silly songs about farts and poop. I don’t ask my baby about her family or how she likes her eggs done.
The similarities are that I can acknowledge their humanity; their right to know what I am doing for them; their right to express their feelings and desires.
Many, many people have said that children learn not by what we tell them to do but by what we do ourselves.
How many times is the following verse quoted,
“Children, obey your parents for this is right” (Ephesians 6:1)
compared to the verse after it?
“Fathers [and mothers and other parents/guardians] do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4 NLT)
And what does the Lord say?
Children are the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven and we should be like them. (Matthew 18:1-5).
Alex Kendrick, actor/producer/writer said the following about parenting in an interview:
Children will listen to those that they think love them the most. If you want your children to listen to you, show them love.
When I think about how my baby’s brain is literally exploding with new information, sensations and experiences; how every day she bravely faces a brand new and sometimes scary world, I am in awe. What a privilege it is to know her.