Photo: marisa svalstedt

Tears stream down my face as I walk around the house with my screaming one-year-old daughter. I bounce her, I hug her close, check her diaper, try to feed her mild, but it’s all futile.  Her little face is scrunched up, turning beet red before my very eyes as she continues to scream louder, flailing her little arms. In a panic I grab my phone and hit the Send. “Mom? I don’t know what’s wrong. I don’t know what to do. She just keeps screaming and crying. Nothing is calming her down, and I can’t stop her. I can’t take it. I’ve tried everything,” half yelling, half sobbing into the phone.

My mother, hearing the distress in both her daughter’s, and granddaughter’s voices says, “Do you want me to come over? I’ll be right over,” and hangs up the phone. I am immediately overwhelmed with feelings of shame. What kind of mother am I that I can’t handle one little baby on my own? I’m terrible. I had to call my mom to come help me, and now my mom has to come take care of her adult daughter, because she can’t take care of her own baby.

I hear the door close, and see my mother climbing the stairs, putting her arms out immediately to take my screaming child.  Rocking my daughter back and forth she asks, “Have you eaten? You should go eat something,” but I can’t. I’m too upset to even think about food. I watch as my mother tries everything I’ve already tried. She gives my daughter milk, bounces her, pats her back, but my baby only screams louder. With much concern I say, “Maybe there is something really wrong. Maybe she’s in pain. Do I need to take her to the hospital?”

Unfazed, my mother looks at her grandchild, and says, “My, my, you really are upset aren’t you?” She turns, giving me a reassuring smile, letting me know this is far from the end of the world. “Babies just get upset sometimes honey. I’m sure there is nothing wrong with her. You’ve done nothing wrong. Sometimes they start crying, and then they forget why they are crying, and then they are crying because they are worked up. It’s what babies do. Don’t worry so much. You’re a wonderful mother”.  I feel my nerves begin to calm as her knowledge sinks in. Together, with the help of a warm, sudsy bath, we slowly calm my screaming bundle of joy.

I never babysat much as a teenager. I never had friends with children living close by when I reached adulthood. No degree, no job experience could have prepared me for motherhood’s many mysteries. As many say, children don’t come with a book of instructions, which is true; however I’ve found the best navigators in these rocky waters are my mother, and mother-in-law, women who have lived through, and seen all there is to the art of child rearing.

When feeling like I’m losing my mind, I’ve called my mother to reassure me I’m still doing a stellar job. When I’ve worried about my child’s eating habits my mother-in-law assures me, “No. Your child is not going to starve. She will eat when she’s hungry.” They’ve offered to give me moments to shower and brought me prepared food, silently cleaned dishes I’ve failed to address, and doled out advice about everything from recipes, to illness, activities, to developmental milestones. They are wise, filled with valuable information, and empathetic hearts.

Moms don’t just raise babies. They help raise new moms. They’ve seen every step, gone through every stage, and with far less resources than available today. They took their children on vacations without the aid of IPads. They fed their kids with far less options than found in today’s grocery stores, and nursed them out of illness/ crying fits with less accessible information.  They already know what to expect, what a new mom deals with, and with this information, are the greatest administerers of support one could hope for. When it comes to child rearing, these women are pros. There is no better helper to mothers, than a mother. I’m lucky. I have two amazing ones.

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