Wednesday, October 22, 2014

You Are the Expert

I was 18 when I married and barely 20 when I gave birth to my first child. (I narrowly escaped the title of teenage mother). I was outwardly full of confidence, but inwardly completely ignorant. In many ways, I still held the attitudes of a teenager in the sense that I was determined to do things the opposite of my parents just to prove that I was an individual. This left me feeling pretty alone, so I looked to books and experts to tell me what was best for my baby.

I became a regular in the parenting section of the local Barnes and Noble . I would grab an "Everything" bagel at neighboring Noah's Bagels in the Fremont Hub and then head next door  and just park myself there for hours, reading every parenting book I could find. (Money was too tight to actually buy books and the internet still involved a dial-up connection). Many of my friends were raving about the "What to Expect..." series of books. Wouldn't it be cool to just read a book written by an expert on babies that would tell me exactly what to do at every juncture of the first 2 years? Then there was Ferber, promising to "Solve Your (my)  Child's Sleep Problems," once and for all.
Half of the women in my family felt that the most important thing I could do was to "get that baby on a schedule".  My grandma said "When you have a baby, there is nothing else to do." I was overwhelmed, confused, stressed, and a little desperate.

The two topics that I was struggling with the most were how to get this boy to sleep and how to get him to eat. I was breastfeeding exclusively and co-sleeping, both of which were uncharted territory in my inner circle. In the midst of this confusion, I sought help from a gifted Lactation Consultant named Jannaki Costello. I sought her out as another expert, someone I was hoping would tell me WHAT TO DO. How long do I feed this baby? Do I let him sleep, or wake him up? How do I know if he is getting enough? Will I screw him up for life if I overfeed him? Jannaki didn't tell me any of those things, she simply said "Be a baby watcher, not a clock watcher. You are the expert on your baby"
That was life changing advice. I stopped looking outside of myself for the answers and started looking in. I realized that no one knew this little boy like me. I had created him. I had carried him inside my body for 9 months. I knew him better than anyone else on this earth. I knew when he was happy or sad or tired or hungry. When I stopped studying books and started studying HIM, I started to recognize the difference in his cries. I knew which cries meant hungry and which cries meant tired and which cries meant overwhelmed. I knew when his giggle was about to turn into a hysterical scream. I knew that the ducks at Newark Lake were like medicine and that Target was poison. He loved long walks and hated the mall. I knew his heart and I knew his spirit. The clock and the doctor didn't matter so much anymore. All that mattered was my child and our family. I was free.

I am not suggesting that I never read another book or consulted another doctor. I love to learn new things and stay abreast of the latest research. But now, I wasn't easily shaken or confused by the variety of opinions out there. I sought specific knowledge that I needed to BECOME the expert on my child and I applied with prudence only those pieces which I knew would serve me and my family best. I saw my doctor as a valuable source of medical advice and diagnostic expertise. I received his recommendations with gratitude and respect. That doesn't mean I always followed them. I recognized that he was the expert on medicine, but I was the expert on my son. He presented me with information and choices, and I ultimately decided what action I would take.

We must BECOME the experts on ourselves and our families. We must restore not just the happiness and health of Moms, but the confidence as well. We must re-enthrone Mom as the expert on herself and her children. Many women live under the false assumption that their doctor or their psychiatrist are the experts. They are not. They cannot be. They do not know you or your child as intimately as you know them.

When you visit your doctor, he visits with you for 5-7 minutes if you are lucky. More likely than not, you don't even see him. You meet with his medical assistant or nurse. In that 5-7 minutes, he is supposed to diagnose your problems and prescribe the right solution. We put so much faith in the doctor's ability to get it right every time that we obey them with God-like reverence and then sue them for millions if it doesn't work out. That is not fair to doctors or patients. Doctors are pretty honest about their expertise...after all their business is called a PRACTICE.  They are still practicing....on you. They have not arrived an omnipotence or omniscience. They are not responsible for our health. It is an illusion created by modern society to help us feel safe, as if our lives are in the skilled hands of someone else who is All powerful and all-knowing.

The reality is that every single individual is responsible for their own health and well being. There are many experts in many areas, but only one expert in YOU. What if you don't feel like an expert? That's okay, the only real choice is for you to become the expert on you. Educate yourself, listen to your body, watch your family carefully, and equip yourself with powerful tools to aid in healing. Seek expertise and advice when needed, but never again surrender your innate knowledge and power to an outside expert. Heal yourself first, then use what you learn to reach out and bless the lives of those you care for.

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