My sister and I are only 14.5 months apart, and really only 11 months if you consider her corrected age at the time, as she was born 3.5 months premature. Only since becoming a parent do I look at early family photos and realize my mother had two babies at once!
When things appear (and are) difficult with my children now, my mum shakes her head and says "I have no idea how I did it, and we went back to work at 4 months back then!"
At the age of 30, my parents had kids somewhat later than the norm for their time. In fact, they were only sure then, that they wanted kids after spending ten years together, both being sure they didn't.
The neatest thing about their parenting journey in the mid 80's is that they didn't do it at the same time as their friends, they didn't read any books, didn't have access to google, didn't seek out or require any expert advice of any sort. What they did, purely and solely, was follow their intuition.
Every story they tell me shows me that for every decision, big and small, they just went with what their gut told them to do. My dad tells me that the only way I would sleep was nestled in his house coat as he rocked in his chair, which shows me they did not practice cry-it-out techniques and rather embraced the value of skin-to-skin. But they didn't have names for these practices, they just did what felt right!
The most fascinating part is as I read aloud excerpts from the many parenting, sleep, postpartum support etc. books I am diving into these past few years, the majority of things that resonate with me enough to share them with my mother, have her saying," See, I just did that!"
She says it with a rightful and almost newly found pride in her eyes. As if something put into words by some expert 30 years later is confirming a brand new mother's intuition from the past. A mother who wasn't even sure she wanted kids but once she decided, dove in with everything she had.
It goes without question that the way we parent has something to do with how we were parented. Some things from our youth we plan to carry forward, others perhaps we hope to not repeat (until the nearly inevitable fate of turning into our mother occurs and we hear her come out of our mouth one day and we gasp as we bring a hand to cover it and think "Where did that come from!?!?"). It's not even to say that I needed to hear all of these realizations from my mother in the past few years to know how she shaped the way I mother. The memories are ingrained.
I have no doubt that her mothering with instinct, confidence, and love, laid the foundation needed for me to also do so in a time of such conflicting views on what is right coupled with access to so much information, expert books, and a million other reasons to question ourselves. It is so interesting that what my mother came from was very different in her perhaps, quite typical, 50's prim-and-proper, come home at lunch to have your hair re-braided but no I-love-yous, type of home. Yet she broke the cycle and showed us so much love.
I am thankful to her, for then, and for now. I am so lucky to be such good friends with her today and actually be able to remember sitting around and talking kids, parenting, and all of it with her 30 years ago. It is more than a blessing. We would have been friends back then too, and it is rare that a 30 year gap leads to such similar parenting values.
And the funny thing is, if we actually compared notes, our parenting wouldn't even look that similar on paper. But it's not even about breastfeeding or bedsharing, it's about compassion, responsiveness, unwavering unconditional love, admitting to being imperfect, honesty, and most of all, following your intuition over and above anything else.
Thank you for passing your intuition on to me. I love you mummy, happy Mother's Day.
Julia Nichol is a Postpartum Doula and Infant Sleep Educator at Intuition Parenting Support Services and a mother of two. She works to support parents in following their Intuition on their parenting journeys. She would love to hear from you about your journey!