By Tracy G. Cassels
To the mother who felt like a bystander during the birth of her child, I’m sorry. We failed to make sure you knew that this was your birth, not theirs, and that no one should force you into procedures you don’t want.
To the parents who placed their newborn in a room apart from theirs because they believed it’s what they had to do, I’m sorry. We failed to make you aware of the basic fact that babies should be close to their parents and that being in another room doubled their risk of SIDS.
To the parents who brought out the baby training books and treated them as gospel, I’m sorry. We failed to make sure you felt confident enough in your own abilities as a parent that you had to turn to someone who has never met your child and never will, all while ignoring your own thoughts and beliefs.
To the mother whose baby was taken away after birth and kept in a hospital nursery, I’m sorry. We failed to make sure all hospitals have in-room boarding which is best for mother, baby, and family.
To the parents who left their child alone often because they believed it would teach them independence, I’m sorry. We failed to give you the information you needed about child development and how a child really learns independence – the kind of independence you want for them.
To the mother who wanted to breastfeed, but ended up on formula because others told her she wasn’t producing enough milk, I’m sorry. We failed to provide you with the support you needed.
To the parents who wanted to bedshare but didn’t because they thought it wasn’t safe, but snuck in naps on the sofa with their babe when they were so tired from having to actually get up to deal with wakings, I’m sorry. We failed to give you the right information so that you could safely bedshare and not put your baby at higher risk by taking quick naps on the sofa.
To the mother who suffered post-partum depression because of events in her birth but was told she didn’t matter because her child was safe and that was all that mattered, I’m sorry. We failed to make you aware that you do matter and you matter a ton because it is you who will be caring for your child after he or she is born and you need to be healthy to do that as well.
To the parents who left their baby to cry to sleep because they were so tired they felt that something, anything, needed to be done, I’m sorry. We failed to give you support and help when needed so that you could parent your child with love all while feeling taken care of yourself.
To the mother who knew she wouldn’t breastfeed and went straight to formula under the assumption there was no other option or that it was the best alternative, I’m sorry. We failed to make it know that there are women all over the world sharing the gift of breastmilk with babies all over the world who can’t get it for any number of reasons.
To the parents who left their baby to cry to sleep because they wanted to teach their child to self-soothe, I’m sorry. We failed to make it better known doing this actually disrupts the process by which your baby learns to regulate emotions and that your little one is still highly stressed even when he or she is no longer crying.
As a society we have failed so many families and if we want to build a sense of community around us, we can no longer look at these failures as someone else’s problem. We have to acknowledge our own individual roles and our own ability to respond. We can sit back and be angry at “the system” for failing so many families, but anger alone does nothing. We must start taking responsibility (not blame), and take whatever small or large an action we can to help. Our children and their families deserve the best start they can have and that means we must arm parents with what they need to feel confident and secure as parents. This doesn’t mean more people telling them what to do, but more people providing them with information and support.
As Ghandi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world”. I would go one step further though and say to fight for it too.
Update: I have written a follow-up due to some of the comments received on this one that suggests a bit of misunderstanding. You can read it here.
[Image Credit: Nicole Forrester Blog]