If there’s one thing I’m certain of, it’s this: deep within all mamas is the instinct to go in to bat for their babies. They will do anything and everything to ensure their little ones thrive.
There’s something else I’m certain of; our culture tells us our instincts aren’t really all that important.
Society tells the worried mother she’s probably just anxious. It tells the scared mama she’s overthinking things. And it tells the angry and frustrated mama she’s overreacting.
Maybe you’re the mama with the sweet heart, who wants desperately to believe everyone cares as much as you do.
Perhaps you’re the mama who listens to those deep instincts, but who has lost confidence after hearing, “I really think you’re overreacting” once too often.
Maybe you’re the angry and frustrated mama who is not giving up, but who is feeling weary and broken down.
Whichever mama you are, I need you to know your instincts matter.
I’ve been all three types of mama at different times. I only wish someone had told me it’s never wrong for a mama to advocate for her baby.
Why You Are Your Baby’s Best Advocate – 6 Things Every Mama Needs To Know
When I questioned my baby’s head-to-toe eczema and I was told, “It’s normal for babies to have eczema”, I wish it hadn’t taken me so long to search for a provider to help me find his triggers.
When I felt, deep down, something was seriously wrong with my daughter, I wish I hadn’t let others stop me from pursuing the proper diagnosis, rather than waiting for months. A mama can only hear “She’s fine” so many times before feeling like she must be crazy.
So here I am to tell you, you’re never wrong to advocate for your babies. And here’s why:
#1: No One Is More Invested In Your Baby Than You
I’m certain the vast majority of healthcare providers and educators genuinely care for you and your children. I’m certain most of them have the best of intentions.
However, no one else felt the exact rush of emotions, or the weight of responsibility you did, the moment that pregnancy test showed a second line, or the moment your child was placed in your care.
No one else’s thoughts immediately jumped forward to the birth of your baby – the fears, the hopes and dreams – as strongly as yours did. Perhaps your partner immediately shared your feelings and emotions, but your midwife or doctor, understandably, had different feelings.
Their roles are vital. Their goal is a healthy mama and a safe birth. But your goals stretch far beyond the birth.
There is no one right way to give birth. But mama, please listen to your instincts. Find the right provider, and be involved in your birth decisions.
When your child sees a doctor, you will always be more invested. Not because doctors don’t care, or because they don’t have good intentions. But because this is your child, and you know each and every decision will have a lasting impact.
You will always be more invested in your baby than any professional will. And you will always think beyond the decision at any one moment, towards your baby’s future. You will wonder how this medication or that education plan will affect your child’s entire future.
#2: Advocacy Starts Right Away – Even Before Your Baby Is Born
Birth affects babies, and it also affects mamas. Regardless of how you give birth, a provider who assists you in a proper transition into motherhood empowers you.
A provider who encourages and values your instincts sets you up to be your baby’s advocate. Choose your provider wisely.
You will spend your pregnancy and your birth making choices for yourself and your baby. Sometimes you will be completely confident in the options presented to you. Sometimes, you might not feel completely sure.
“You know that feeling in the pit of your stomach? Listen to it” – Sally Kathryn
This advice is especially true for pregnancy, birth and parenting. Listen to what the professionals say, look for the evidence, and then, using your instincts, make a decision.
No one will ever be more invested in your child than you are. You’re her best advocate from day one.
#3: You Know Your Baby Better Than Anyone Else
Maybe your baby is only a few hours old, or perhaps she is five years old. It doesn’t matter. In most situations, no one knows a child better than her mama.
Whether it’s the three-hour-old baby you carried for months, or the five year old starting kindergarten, this is the child whose spirit you have watched slowly blossom from the moment of birth.
If you are worried about her health or development – or about anything else – keep advocating for her.
When a provider can offer an explanation, or share evidence, it reassures us our concerns were valid, but we needn’t be worried that our children are developing differently.
At other times, when we’re told everything is fine after a thirty-second exam, or given a quick evaluation, we know the provider has missed something we can see clearly.
Sometimes we want to push for our kids to thrive, not simply survive.
Maybe your baby isn’t severely ill, but just struggling a bit with development. For a professional, these little differences often slip between the cracks. But you know your baby needs a hand, or a boost – something to help her be her best.
Despite our concerns, we’re often told our children are “Okay” – but we want more than okay.
And you know what? You are never wrong for wanting the best for your children. Keep pushing for them. Push until you’re sure they have what they need.
“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive” – Maya Angelou
Most importantly, everyone’s idea of ‘thrive’ is unique. Every child’s best is unique and needn’t be compared with another’s. But never let someone tell you you’re wrong for advocating for your child to thrive, whatever that looks like for her.
#4: Knowledge Is Power – The More You Learn, The More You Can Help
“A worried mother does better research than the FBI”
We live in the age of information. Books, articles and studies abound. I’m not suggesting a mother’s research is equal to a medical or education degree. But your lack of a medical degree doesn’t negate your ability to do research and make proper decisions for your baby.
Not having a degree in education doesn’t mean you can’t advocate for your child’s Individual Education Plan (IEP), or push for extra therapy. Sometimes knowledge is about finding an alternative therapy which you see is working, and not letting someone tell you it’s a waste of time.
Knowledge might mean realising something like eczema, although common, is not normal and there’s a lot you can do to help.
Or maybe knowledge means making dietary changes, despite negative allergy test results, and seeing improved skin, digestion and even behaviour.
You can see the same research and information, weigh up the benefits and risks, and come to a different conclusion than the one a provider might reach. As a result, you could decline one treatment, or push for another.
You might seek a second or even a third opinion, until you find a provider you feel is making evidence-based care decisions.
Whatever your situation, knowledge is power. Knowledge, instinct and genuine investment in your baby mean you can make the best decisions for her.
#5: You Are Not Crazy
If I had a penny for every time I heard, “I just knew,” I wouldn’t be writing this because I would be retired.
Mamas tend to know when something needs to be addressed. Sometimes they know long before a professional can give them a concrete answer.
In the time between that first feeling something is wrong, and a professional taking your concerns seriously, you might feel a bit crazy. You’re unable to shake the feeling that something needs to be addressed, but you don’t have the answers and the professional support you need.
You know your child, you can seek knowledge, and your strong concerns are not in any way ‘crazy’.
Let’s say, for argument’s sake, your child is, in fact, healthy and developing typically, despite your concerns. Is it a problemto be thorough in ensuring the wellbeing of your child? I don’t think so.
This takes us back to point #4: Knowledge Is Power. Whenever you have concerns, seek more knowledge, and seek more support. If there is something that needs to be addressed for your child’s wellbeing, you will find the information.
And if you discover your concern is not within the realm of typical, you can learn more about why you should support your child’s uniqueness, and how best to do it.
More often than not, your instincts are spot on. If you’re worried about your child, there’s often a good reason. You need to keep advocating. You are not crazy, you just need to find the right support for your child.
“Follow reason, but don’t ignore that gut feeling” – Debasish Mridha
Knowledge is vital. But even with all the knowledge in the world, do not ignore your gut feeling. Do not listen to anyone who tells you you’re crazy for making sure your child can thrive.
#6: Don’t Live In The Past – But Do Better If Necessary
“All we can do is make the best decisions we can with the best information we have at the time and place” – Stephanie Bond
Hindsight really is 20/20. There are times I look back and wonder why I didn’t advocate for my children more. Sometimes I thought perhaps I was just overthinking it, or crazy.
I was the first mama mentioned above, the innocent mama who thinks everyone cares just as much as she does. I thought I could trust anything I was told, and didn’t need to press for more.
And then, when my children didn’t get better, or even when they got worse, I realised my gut feeling was spot on. I realised I wasn’t crazy.
When that happens, there’s a brief moment of guilt, but it shouldn’t last. If you’ve found yourself in a similar situation, you have nothing to feel guilty about, mama. You did your best with the information and support you had at the time.
“I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better” – Maya Angelou
I’ll never be a perfect mother, because there are no perfect human beings. I won’t always listen to my gut, and I won’t always make the right choices for my children. However, I’ll strive to do my best and, as I learn more. I’ll strive to do better.
Now I know my knowledge and intuition are valuable, and I’m more invested in my children’s future than any professional, I’ll be their best advocate to help them thrive.
I also know we needn’t settle for simply surviving. We hold the power to help our children thrive (in whatever way that means for them).
You have the same power, mama. Push for your baby. Be her best advocate.