Sunday, May 04, 2008

Use your heart and your head

When Michael was born I was thrilled. The thrilling feeling quickly passed as I realized I had no idea what the heck I was doing. When Sean left for work in the morning, I was in tears. When he came home, I was still in tears, and usually the same clothes. Neither Michael nor I was getting much rest and by his three-month birthday I felt like I’d lost my mind.

Then two good friends invited us to their home for a meeting about parenting. At that point I would have listened to anyone who could help me figure out this mothering thing. Actually, the mothering thing I got; I mean, I felt great, intense love for that little bundle of joy. I just couldn’t figure out how to get him to sleep! And that was one thing this parenting class addressed, so I was bound and determined to go.

The information we heard during the six-week class changed our lives. We learned how, by following a simple routine, Michael could learn to sleep for naps and through the night. After one week of being on the routine, Michael was taking three naps a day and sleeping 12 hours at night. And the program was so simple; I just had to keep three activities in the proper order: eating time, wake time and nap time. As long as those three things went in that order, Michael ate and slept at regular intervals. And the wake time we had was so enjoyable

He was a new baby, and I was a new momma. I was also a major proponent of the class, called Preparation for Parenting by Gary and Anne Marie Ezzo.

Some of you just tuned out at the mere mention of the Ezzo’s, and quite honestly I can’t blame you. There have been articles in the Christian and secular press about them, and I can’t recall a single one that was positive. Even Dr. Dobson, surrogate father of all American Christians came out against Prep. for Parenting. When Dr. Dobson’s not on your side you might as well call it a day because for better or for worse that man has unbelievable influence over a large number of Christians.

I am very, very grateful I didn’t know any of that when we took the class. And when I found out I was shocked. What’s not to love about a book that helps babies sleep? What mother doesn’t want her baby to sleep at naptime and bedtime? Seriously, what crazy woman out there does not want her baby to sleep???

What I discovered was not that mommies wanted their babies awake; I discovered the Prep. material was getting a bad reputation because some parents were not using common sense when applying the routine. Instead of feeding a hungry baby, some mothers became a slave to the schedule. They denied a hungry baby food.

While that is detestable, that is not fault of the book or the Ezzo’s. That is the crazy mommy’s fault! One of the first principals in Prep. (now called Babywise) is to use the common sense God gave you and if your baby is hungry, for heaven’s sake, feed your baby.

I bring this up now, 14 years later, because a friend from church and I decided to start a Babywise book club for expecting/new mommies. We sent emails out to several women inviting them to come for three weeks and discuss the book. Both my friend and I were so excited.

I expected some ladies to say yes and some to say no. What I didn’t bargain for was a response from an acquaintance claiming her knowledge of medical literature and her training (she’s going for a PhD in psychology) caused her to pass on the book club.


My great (and sinful) desire was to email her right back, saying, “Knock yourself out and enjoy those sleepless nights, honey.” Thankfully I didn’t. But I had to wonder why she felt the desire to say her "knowledge of medical literature" caused her to pass on the book study? Doesn’t she know what she’s implying? And, I wonder, has she even read the book for herself?

Fourteen years and three kids later, I am still incredibly thankful that Wade and Jennifer invited these sleep-deprived parents to their house where we learned about a wonderful, loving way to help our baby order his days so his nights could be peaceful. And I am so sad that some parents can’t figure out how to use the brain God gave them to see that any parenting information is a tool to be used and adapted in each individual family. The few parents who abuse the routine are ruining the opportunity for the rest of us to get out the very helpful material presented in Babywise. And that is a crying shame.

*A side note: I am a firm believer in the material presented in Babywise. I do, however, have great concerns about Gary Ezzo himself. So please realize I am praising the information in the book, not the author.