I’ve decided to open up the My Mountain series again, on more of an adhoc basis, as I’ve had a couple of new guest bloggers contact me who fit the series so beautifully and who’s stories I really wanted to share. This week it’s Jenny from Mom Loves Best sharing her biggest parenting challenge.
My child has always been perfect in my eyes. From the minute she was born, I thought she was the most beautiful girl the world had ever seen. After a few weeks though, I started to notice her head wasn’t shaped like other babies’ heads were. It was lumpy in some areas, and flat across the back instead of rounded like a normal head would be.
At a routine check-up, my pediatrician confirmed my suspicions and heightened my alarm when she threw out a big, unfamiliar term at me. My daughter had a condition called deformational plagiocephaly. I didn’t know what it was at the time, but it sounded scary. Turns out, it was just a fancy way of saying that her head was misshapen, which is something I already knew.
The doctor said that my daughter was spending too much time on her back, and not enough on her tummy. I immediately felt like the worst mother ever, because she was right.
My daughter always cried non-stop every time she was on her tummy. I knew that tummy-time was important for her, and my instincts told me I should make her do it. But I had been subconsciously avoiding the issue because of incidents with other people.
The first was at a parent meetup when another mother made a snappy comment in response to me struggling to get my crying daughter to play on her stomach. I tried to reassure myself but I was embarrassed, and the seed of self-doubt had been planted.
To make matters worse, my husband’s well-meaning family members had always told me not to hold my baby too much in the first few months because she would become spoiled. I didn’t believe them, but their constant criticisms weighed heavily on my mind, and as a new mom, shattered what little self-confidence I had left.
As I sat in the doctor’s office, sobbing because I didn’t know what plagiocephaly meant for my child’s health, I was mad at my family members for their interference. But mostly I was mad at myself. I had let my daughter down, and I swore it wasn’t going to happen again.
Relief washed over me when the doctor said the flattening wasn’t affecting my baby’s brain or growth. Even still, we had to correct the situation, the doctor said. I had two choices – I could figure out a way to get my baby to spend much less time on her back, or my baby would have to wear a helmet for a few months to stop the flattening.
I decided there was no way that helmet was going to be put on her unless I had exhausted every other option. I completely revamped our schedules to figure out a way that my baby would spend as little time on her back as possible. When she slept, I held her, even if it meant I didn’t sleep. When I was at work, my fantastic babysitter was holding her as much as possible.
Tummy time was on the menu now, and it didn’t matter if she cried or not. It was good for her, so she was going to do it. I increased the length of the tummy time gradually and tried to do it every hour or two.
It was a long process, and it wasn’t always easy, but eventually her head shape began to look like all the other babies’ heads. That meant she wouldn’t need a helmet now until she tried to learn to ride a bike.
Even though her head is now normally shaped, the guilt I still feel over this is immense. I remind myself there’s nothing I can do about it at this point except learn from my mistake. I’ve used it as a valuable lesson – moms should always listen to their gut feelings when it comes to their babies. And they should defend those instincts with every bit of energy they have.
These days, I don’t care if another person thinks I’m too strict, overprotective, or maybe even a little crazy when it comes to my child. If something doesn’t feel right, I pay attention to that feeling. I no longer apologize for my mama bear instincts and behavior – I embrace them.
Jenny is just another mom trying to do her best. She loves making lists, finding killer deals online and spending quality time with her family. When she’s not trying to prevent kids from burning down the house, you can find her giving actionable parenting advice and buyers guides at Mom Loves Best. You can also find her on Twitter @momlovesbest.
*If you would like to contribute to the My Mountain series with a piece about your own biggest parenting challenge please email firstname.lastname@example.org*