Turn It Up: Parenting from the Heart
My first son was born in February of 2010, just before my 30th birthday. I had dreamed of having a child since I was one myself, and I was blessed to be in a situation where I could leave my career to become a stay-at-home mom. The days leading up to childbirth were full of anticipation, yet with each day that my perfect little boy grew inside of me, my anxieties of how to perfectly care for him grew as well.
I began reading every parenting book that came my way. I subscribed to motherhood blogs, and I took advice from grandparents, neighbors, friends and strangers. After my son’s birth, I joined online support groups and made sure to leave no question unasked. I prepared my list of inquiries for the pediatrician at each well visit, and spent endless hours researching milestones, sleep training, introduction of solid foods, the proper amount of “tummy time,” and any other topic that piqued my intense desire to do everything perfectly.
I breastfed for the first year, and while I didn’t get my period during that time, I developed a new sort of PMS: Perfectionist Motherhood Syndrome. After all, if God saw fit to bless me with this tiny, helpless, perfect little being, then wasn’t it my job to become anxious, stressed, exhausted and completely confused in my quest to do the perfect job raising him?
My exhaustion soon turned to frustration as, despite my newly acquired “Parenting 101” education, nothing was working. The sleep training guide I followed blew up in my face, exacerbated the sleep issues, and caused me to feel depressed and unfit. Likewise, despite our perfect food introduction schedule, we couldn’t figure out the culprit of my son’s eczema, and when the doctor assured me that the steroid cream would fix all of our troubles, I felt a complete unease when applying it.
Over time I realized that everything that came hard for us was accompanied by my fighting a very basic instinctual feeling. How perfectly natural it felt to nurse my son to sleep as we both drifted off into a peaceful slumber in my bed. It seemed so mechanical to set an alarm to make sure he didn’t stay there, or to fight my urge to sleep so I could attempt to return him to bed, only to hear his cries moments later.
Friends weighed in with experiences, but no two stories were alike. Whose advice should I take? Nothing felt right. I had always excelled at my jobs, and most things came to me with some degree of ease. I knew that motherhood wouldn’t be without its challenges, but I had not expected to be so utterly horrible at it.
As my parenting evolved, I found a group of mothers who resonated more deeply with me. Some referred to themselves as “granola moms.” I quickly gained confidence in our co-sleeping habit and found relief in the support of my belief that children needed to be lovingly guided, not admonished and punished. I appreciated my newly acquired friends and soon began to feel I’d found my stride.
However, it didn’t take long for new concerns to catch my ear. Some of my new “crunchy moms” shared devastating research about circumcision with me. They explained the reasons I needed to get rid of my microwave and my WiFi, and expressed their disapproval of common life experiences that would be detrimental to my child. I was quickly made aware of all the things I was doing wrong, and became overwhelmed by the new demands.
As the birth of my second son approached, I was swirling with a new avalanche of information. How would I grow my organic garden, keep up with my household duties, afford all-natural cleaners, and keep my children from being traumatized by sensory-overloaded toys, BPA, fluoride and all the dangers lurking under the surface of my world that was beginning to crumble?
Two years ago, after receiving my youngest son’s autism diagnosis, I contemplated the path my parenting had taken. Where was I? How did I get there? Who had I followed? And why could I reflect back on moments of deep regret, despite the fact that I had done it all “right”? My youngest son was diagnosed with regressive autism, so he had lost abilities that he formerly had, but it wasn’t an overnight occurrence. It was a slow and painful slide toward a rabbit hole of confusion. During that whole time, I struggled to buy into the advice of doctors and friends around me that everything was fine. I fought my intuition on what I should do, and allowed interventions that went against every fiber in my being.
The details of my first three years of parenting do not support, nor do they discourage, any particular parenting style. They neither prove nor disprove any science regarding the causation of autism, and there is no evidence that suggests that either of my sons would be better or worse off had I done one thing over another. But I will tell you that two years ago something in me changed that has made my life 100 percent better, and as the old saying goes, “A happy mom is a happy home.”
An incredible awareness came over me shortly after I began chiropractic care and learned about our body’s innate ability to heal itself with the removal of subluxation or misalignment of the spine. It made such obvious sense to me; it was as if I had known it all along. An “aha” moment, so to speak. When disturbances creep in, preventing the body’s basic ability to connect with itself, disease ensues because the body is basically placed under arrest and unable to respond, act and heal as it was designed to do. There is no substitute for our body’s natural response, because each person is so uniquely created that any one-size-fits-all approach will fall dramatically short of the body’s intricate knowledge of itself and ability to provide exactly what it needs.
It became indisputable to me that the same was true of motherhood. From the moment of conception, our bodies know exactly what to do to grow and nurture our babies. Our body supplies oxygen and nutrients to our baby in the womb, while removing deoxygenated blood and waste products. During this time, our body slowly creates the space necessary for this growing baby, and our entire structure changes to allow a safe passage at birth. None of this happens by our command or understanding. We do not direct our bodies on what to do, how to encourage the growing spine, intelligent brain, beating heart, functioning organs, eyes, ears or nose and their ability to take in those senses through the central nervous system, sending those inputs to the brain and receiving messages. This is done by an innate intelligence that lives within us to create and form life.
By the time babies are born, they can already hear and recognize their mother’s voice and touch, and they can sense their mother’s presence. They innately know to cry when they are separated from their mothers, to ensure that their mothers will return to them and continue to nurture them. How can we believe that this innate intelligence, which creates and sustains life on the inside and then causes our body to create a life-sustaining fluid on the outside, could somehow be shut off on the day that our baby is born?
From the first time you hold your baby in your arms through childhood and adolescence, doctors, grandmothers, well meaning friends, neighbors and strangers will tell you what is best for your baby, and in hasty moments of panic and confusion, we often surrender our God-given connection—our innate intelligence—to the confidence of the outside world. As a mother who has learned the hard way, I plead with you: Don’t shut it off! Don’t ignore your intuition! You are hardwired with a connection and ability to care for your child. You know what no one else can know. You are the best provider for your child, and when something feels wrong, when medical doctors tell you what is necessary but deep inside your gut—that same gut that once held and formed your child from a lifeless egg into a human being—is telling you to look for other answers, then I urge you to listen. Mothers, it’s time we take back the health of our children. As a mother of two young boys, I am eternally grateful for doctors in all different fields who can lend their skills when necessary. But doctors are not equipped to raise our children.
Why are our children suffering? Why is one out of every four school-aged children medicated? Why is this the first generation whose life expectancy is shorter than their parents? Because the noise outside has become too loud to hear the voice within. Silence the world. Believe in your ability.
You are designed with the intelligence and ability to create and sustain life. You have a gift and, with that gift, an obligation to care for your child and ensure that their innate intelligence is left intact to guide them.
I found nothing so freeing as the day I left more than 20 motherhood online groups, unsubscribed from several motherhood blogs, and boxed up a plethora of parenting guidebooks. I’m not saying that these things can’t be useful, encouraging and helpful at times, but I had allowed them to subluxate a guiding system that knew exactly what to do.
Mothers, don’t turn off the noise inside. Turn it up!
This article appeared in Pathways to Family Wellness magazine, Issue #48.
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