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I was so worried, so afraid. And I cried as I shared these worries with a few other moms at my church. One mom, in particular, looked at me with what I assume was supposed to be a comforting look but in reality, it was just patronizing. “Wait till she’s a teenager,” she said. “That’s when the real worry begins.”

My daughter was just two months old. She was my third baby, so it’s not like I was entering motherhood fresh out of the gate. But I was worried as she’d barely been nursing for the past week and when she did, most of it came back up. She was losing weight, she wasn’t sleeping, and she cried more than usual.

That Sunday morning as I stood with these ladies opening my heart, I wasn’t so much looking for advice. I’d already taken my daughter to the clinic and gotten answers and a prescription, so I knew it was just a matter of time before she would start feeling better. It’s just that I was still hurting for my baby, and I was looking for understanding and empathy from these ladies.

She was older than me and past the baby stage. Her kids were teenagers, so I suspect she figured she knew more than me about how to raise kids. And she probably did. She’d definitely had a lot more experience than I had. She’d made it through the baby stage, the toddler and preschool stages, and even the middle school stage. Her kids were teenagers, so yeah, she knew more than I did. But her words seemed callous.

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I know her intentions in saying those words to me were good; at least, I think they were. I suspect she was trying to put things into perspective for me. She was trying to comfort me, to alleviate my anxiety. But her words were not comforting, and they did not alleviate my anxiety. What they did was make me feel small.

I think she’d forgotten what it was like to have an infant. She’d forgotten how it felt to experience fear and worry for a brand-new baby. She’d been through tougher situations than I had, and I suspect that because of this, she saw my problem as one not worthy of concern. I think she was trying to tell me I didn’t need to worry, but what she did was invalidate me.

I’ve seen and heard this type of comment many times over the years; seasoned moms trying to help new moms gain perspective. And while I believe that most of the time, these comments are spoken with good intentions, they are not helpful. Not even a little. Not even at all. They are damaging. They minimize what a hurting mom is experiencing. They are at best, placating, and at worst, demeaning.

These kinds of comments relay to new moms that really, what they’re experiencing is a small, insignificant problem not worth their concern. It dismisses their feelings, and in some ways, minimizes the well-being of the child because the real problems only occur when they get older.

When, as a seasoned mom, we make these types of comments, while we intend to help, we are actually comparing our own struggles to those of this other mom. And we are telling her that our struggles are more significant than hers. It is so important that we remember this is the hardest thing she has, as of yet, experienced. And instead of making comments inferring that it’s only going to get more difficult as her baby gets older, we need to show compassion and understanding.

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But it’s hard sometimes, to know what to say, isn’t it? As I remember that moment many years ago, this is what I know: instead of hearing those words that denoted comparison and/or dismissal, “Wait till she’s a teenager. That’s when the real worry begins,” what I really needed to hear was, “Oh Melinda. It’s so hard!”

Because it was hard. At that point in my life, it was one of the hardest things I’d gone through as a mom. I needed my feelings to be validated. I needed to share my heart in a safe place and to have it held in tenderness. I knew she couldn’t fix the problem, but she could have held my heart.

I remember my fear, and I remember how I just needed to be heard and held and validated. Because I remember what it felt like, this is how I speak with new moms now: “Oh, friend. This is so hard!” “Your heart must be breaking, can I pray for you?” “You must feel so tired, let me come over this week and bring you supper.” “I know this pain. I’ve felt this pain.”

I don’t try to fix the problem. I don’t offer unsolicited advice. I don’t compare and one-up with my own experiences, and I don’t brush off her feelings. I simply hold her heart because that is really all she needs.

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So God Made a Mother's Story Keepsake Journal

Melinda Tarcon

Hi! I'm Melinda! I am currently living in a small, fly-in/fly-in community way up in the Northwest Territories, just a 150 kms from the Arctic Circle. I write about how I strive toward holy homemaking on my blog, Holiness & Hygge. You can find me on Facebook at Holiness & Hygge | Facebook, on IG at Holiness & Hygge (@holinessandhygge) • Instagram photos and videos on Pinterest and on YouTube at Holiness & Hygge - YouTube

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