The year was 2008.
A young, naive woman is pregnant with her first child.
She is unsure, lacks confidence and wants to be certain she does the best job for her unborn child. Yet there are a great deal of books, resources and information - which ones to start with? Which ones to trust?
So she turns to older, more experienced mothers who all but thrust this book into her hands and begin making the promises.
Your child will sleep through the night at eight weeks if you follow this book.
You won't have breastfeeding issues.
Your child will be settled and happy.
You will be a good mother.
The book is full of advice. Not just advice, but research! Science! It must be right!
It all makes sense now. Parenting will be a breeze. The book has told her everything she needs to know.
Don't trust your instincts, it said. That way leads to folly, trust us instead!
Your baby will cry, but mostly this will be to manipulate you. You must be firm, even if you want to give it a cuddle, this will only let the baby win. Don't give up and comfort it, stay strong and it will learn to self settle! Routine, routine, routine, that is the only way to go! Feed every four hours - hold out until then so that they're REALLY hungry and have a full feed.
It makes statements like:
There's no evidence to suggest that crying is bad for babies.
It's actually good for babies to cry for a period of time every day - it's natural.
Don't cosleep. Mother's don't get enough rest with cosleeping.
Children must sleep in their own rooms.
Attachment Parenting is misguided and results in exhausted/poor mothering.
November arrives and her child is born.
She tries. Lord knows, she tries. But he won't stop crying, screaming, with a red face and tiny little hands bawled into tiny little fists. People tell her he is hungry and should be fed. She can't see it. They must be wrong. Babywise had told her that he needed to feed every four hours. Demand feeding would destroy breastfeeding, spoil him and have him feeding from her constantly until he controlled her completely.
Despite having a natural, drug-free, complication-free birth, they keep her in hospital for five days, refusing to let her go home because she is clearly depressed, not coping and struggling to care for her newborn who begins losing weight, cries inconsolably and struggles to settle. Her breastmilk doesn't come in for five days.
Eventually she signs herself out of the hospital. It must be the hospital's fault. That's why the book's advice wasn't working. That's why he wants to be picked up all the time, won't sleep and won't feed properly. She'll be fine as long as she just goes home.
But things don't improve. Her breastmilk supply is limited, the baby restless. She and her husband spend countless nights pacing the halls trying to settle their little boy. They hold firm and don't bring him to bed with them despite their exhaustion, try not to spoil him, pick him up too much and give into his obviously stubborn, temperamental nature.
The mother slips further into depression, rarely looking into her son's face. Soon he stops looking into hers. When he's not crying, he sits cheerlessly and robotically on her lap while she ignores him.
"Spare the rod, spoil the child," she keeps reminding herself.
Eight weeks come and go. The baby cries all night still. The mother has failed. She is a wretched creature. A terrible mother. It was all a horrible mistake.
Maybe the book is wrong? Maybe she should feed whenever he cries? Maybe he could come into her bed occasionally?
Sometimes he pushes away from her, keeps his eyes averted, scrunches up his little face in anger, then he flips and clings to her, feeds constantly, wants to sleep only in her arms. The baby is so unsure in his attachment to his mother. He is a baby in distress.
"Oh no! The book was right all along! Attachment parenting isn't the answer!" she thinks. As a mother, she's failed again. She's failed her son again. Now thoroughly despairing, depressed, unconnected, she begins needing just one beer to make it through lunch time. Then she needs a beer to make it through to bedtime as well.
Eventually, help is sought. "Consistency," the midwife says after listening to the mother's distraught story. "You need rest. You need to refresh. He needs consistent, affectionate nurturing." The mother nods. The advice sounds good. "Stop looking to the clock to feed your baby. The clock doesn't need feeding."
A loose routine is hatched out, but the baby is to be fed when hungry. The baby is to be given rest, love and attention.
Slowly the months slip away. The baby learns to cuddle. The baby learns to laugh and giggle. The baby learns kisses and snuggles. The mother eventually gets better, begins enjoying parenthood. She learns to play with her child, interact with her child, enjoy her child.
She can see now what this book lacks. She sees that it is so concerned about structure and discipline and not love - the greatest Christian principle of them all. It pits mother and baby against each other in a nonexistent battle for control. Between the parent's needs and the child's needs. It is parent-focused with unbalanced, incomplete data and research. It provides no unbiased advice, advocates no nurturing, divorces mother and instinct.
The mother wants those first four months with her son back. She desperately wishes she could have them returned, change them, be the mother HE needed instead of the mother she was "educated" to be. She knows the Ezzos aren't entirely to blame. She's the one who chose to take their advice, to apply it, to lose faith in herself. But they are not innocent either.
They have published this book. The information is careless and their opinion is raised to that of gospel. Biblical references are twisted and garbled in order to fit the Ezzo's approach. Scientific research is cherry picked, or in some cases outright misleading.
At the end of the day, though, the mother has won. She gave birth to a second son. When he cries, he is comforted. When he is hungry, he is fed. He sleeps when he wants to and at night he cuddles up in his mother or father's arms, safe and sound. He looks into his mother's eyes and already tries to smile. He snuggles his head into her neck and gurgles when she presses kisses into his. She is happy. She is in love with her two boys. She is the mother she wants to be. It is nothing like what the Ezzo's wanted.
She likes it that way.
By K. K.