Today’s post is for the moms out there that find themselves living in doubt. It’s an experience that happened a couple of months ago when our family was vacationing in Disney World for my son’s 5th birthday. I hope that it will serve as a reminder to not underestimate the power that we have to encourage (or discourage) our fellow moms…
It started out as nothing more than a stubborn whine, easily drowned out by the swarms of folks making their way through Frontierland. I glanced around – no one had even batted an eye. I calmly scooted my rocking chair so that we were angled facing the corner, thinking (hoping) that maybe if my daughter was less distracted she’d be able to relax enough to nurse and fall asleep.
Let me back up a bit. We were both exhausted, having spent the better part of the previous evening in the Urgent Care, since stuffy nose + plane flight always seems to turn into double ear infections for my kiddos.
Ironically the night before was the longest my daughter had ever slept without waking up to nurse…the pain in her ears had prompted a nursing strike that had gone on for 18 hours before she had finally latched on in her sleep around 5 am. That session had provided me with a lot of relief, but I was still battling engorgement as well as sore nipples from her ahem, rather abrupt refusals.
The antibiotics worked quickly, as they often do for ear infections, and the next morning my sweet baby girl felt much better, though still not back to her usual perky self. The rest of the family had headed into the Magic Kingdom very early that day, while I took my time with Baby Zu to make sure she was feeling okay. She was very clingy, but very content riding on my back in the Bitybean, so we met up with everyone in Frontierland. While my mother, son and husband flitted to and fro from ride to ride, my father and I found an out of the way porch equipped with rocking chairs. It was the perfect spot for my dad to people-watch (one of his favorite things), and for me to attempt to nurse Baby Zu and get her down for her morning nap.
But that’s when things started to escalate. Within minutes of offering my breast to my daughter, she was not only shrieking inconsolably, but also writhing around as if I was torturing her. People started turning their heads, probably convinced that they were about to become eye witnesses in a domestic violence case. It was hard to believe such a loud sound could come out of such a tiny body. This was one little girl who was ANGRY. She was tired, so she wanted to nurse to sleep, but her ears still hurt too much to suck. But when she’s hurting she seeks comfort from the breast…but then that made her ears hurt…and then that made her scream. It was a maddening cycle that was impossible for a 12 month old’s brain to comprehend.
My dad of course had asked if there was anyway he could help, but there really wasn’t anything anyone could do. She just needed to scream in her mommy’s arms, and all I could do was hold her and love her until she finally gave in to sleep. As I wrestled with her in the chair, desperately trying to calm her down, I started to notice the eyes. First it was just quick, darting glances from people that were passing by, but then it turned into blatant staring. I looked away but I still felt everyone’s eyes burning holes into my head.
I could only imagine what they must be thinking. “What’s wrong with that baby?” “What’s wrong with that mother?” “MY child would never make a scene like that.” “Looks like that mom has ZERO control of her kid.” “I wish she’d make that child be quiet.” Judgment after judgment came flooding into my mind, a I felt myself slowly starting to loose control of the situation.
Then suddenly, out of nowhere, a gentle voice spoke out over the deafening screams.
“You’re a good mom.”
I looked up, shocked, and actually turned around to see if the voice was speaking to someone else. It wasn’t. The voice belonged to a beautiful older woman, who was sitting on a nearby bench with her husband while her two grandchildren enjoyed some ice cream. She smiled very kindly at me, then turned her attention back to her grandchildren.
A few minutes later and Baby Zu was asleep in my arms, where she slept peacefully and comfortably for over an hour…and I may have dozed in and out of consciousness a time or two myself during that period. A few times the woman engaged us in conversation a little bit more once she was settled, but only in small talk. There was no more mention of the previous screamfest.
But my encounter with that woman stuck with me long after she was gone. I don’t know what prompted her to speak up, but it was exactly what I needed at the time. And the more i thought about it, the more I realized how easily she could have looked the other way. So often as moms we get caught up in our own “stuff”, without taking notice of the people around us, or worse yet, allowing thoughts of comparison and judgment to filter into our minds when we see another mom struggling.
So I’ve got two “words” for you moms out there this Mother’s Day (can you tell I grew up Baptist? ;)) First of all, don’t be afraid to offer encouragement and support when you see another mom struggling, even if it’s only a kind word to a stranger. A kind word may go farther than you think.
And secondly? YOU’RE A GOOD MOM. 🙂