If bloggers got year-end bonuses, this would be mine. In this note, a new mother shares her discovery of infant expert Magda Gerber’s child care approach and the profound effects it has had on her family…
I stumbled on your blog through the guest post on “tummy time” when my daughter, now six months, was about two months old. I was totally captivated by the video of Baby Liv and then spent hours reading your whole blog. Very quickly I just had this enormous sense of relief come over me: I hadn’t realized how tense I had been until I discovered how amazing this feeling was! And on the same day that I started reading about Magda Gerber and RIE parenting, the baby caught my sense of peace right away. Suddenly she started sleeping more, in part because I didn’t jump up every time she stirred. She wasn’t taking really short naps, I found—she was having wakeful periods (sometimes very vigorous wakeful periods) in the middle of long naps that I had been destroying by picking her up too quickly.
What relief to realize that my young baby needed her own space and time: that I didn’t need to be entertaining her every minute or teaching her the alphabet in order for her to develop. I could trust my child to grow up, and I could help her along the way. Wow–my whole perspective shifted, and I became so much calmer. So did my baby!
But RIE has turned out to be an unexpected source of comfort in other ways. As a result of a rare condition, I’ve suffered several vertebral fractures over the last couple of months, and my spine is still very delicate. This means that for the next year or so, I have to be extremely careful. I simply can’t pick my baby up or “wear” her (you’re right, it’s a terrible term), for I risk even worse permanent disability. I can, thankfully, still hold her in my lap if someone hands her to me.
If I was still under the sway of attachment parenting (which I do think is different from RIE, and which I believe encourages, perhaps inadvertently, the anxieties of new parents to develop into self-destructive behaviors and worries), this would be completely devastating. After all, it would mean that my child would fail to properly attach, that I was an insufficient mother, that we would all be emotionally stunted by my physical limitations.
But under RIE, my physical value as a mother is rather limited. I am not a beast of burden for my child. Rather, I can sit and watch her play and comment. I can read books to her. I can play games with her. I can empathize with her and talk to her. And all of that is considered plenty.
With so many thanks,
“Parents often say to me, “I want to hold my baby all the time to show him how much I love him.” Most animals can show affection only through touch, but we humans have an extensive, varied and refined repertoire of ways to demonstrate love. To me, a mature, evolved person shows love by respecting the *otherness* of the beloved. You become a good parent not only by listening to your instinctive messages but by paying close attention to your baby, by observing the infant. Sensitive observation flows from respect.” – Magda Gerber
(Photo by cheriejoyful on Flickr.)