No mother looks forward to receiving unsolicited parenting advice, but for Kelly Dirkes, a comment from a complete stranger about carrying her 10-month-old in Target struck a particularly sensitive nerve.
Kelly was carrying her adopted daughter, Grace, in a baby carrier while shopping and when another shopper noticed, she had some advice for Kelly.
The shopper told her she was “spoiling” her baby and that she would never learn to be independent.
Kelly gently responded to this harsh criticism by smiling at the woman, kissing Grace on the top of her head, and continuing to shop even though she held back her full response.
Kelly later wrote a heart-wrenching letter to the woman at Target and posted it on Facebook.
Although it was directed at one woman, the post has gone viral for its touching message and revelation of why the stranger’s advice was so upsetting.
Kelly wrote, “If you only knew how she spent the first ten months of her life utterly alone inside a sterile metal crib, with nothing to comfort her other than sucking her fingers.
“If you only knew what her face looked like the moment her orphanage caregiver handed her to me to cradle for the very first time–fleeting moments of serenity commingled with sheer terror.”
“No one had ever held her that way before, and she had no idea what she was supposed to do.”
Not only did this stranger tell Dirkes she was spoiling Grace, who has Down syndrome, spent most the first year of her life in an orphanage, and dealt with serious medical issues such as organ failure, the woman also expressed her “worry” about Grace’s dependence on her mother.
She addressed this by saying, “If you only knew that that baby in the carrier is heartbreakingly “independent” –and how we will spend minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, and years trying to override the part of her brain that screams “trauma” and “not safe.”
The end of Kelly’s letter drives home the point and transcends beyond this specific situation at Target to speak to the vocation of all mothers.
Mothers everywhere are teaching their babies that they are safe, that they belong, and that they are loved.
Let this story serve as a reminder to not be so quick to judge another mother’s decisions. We are in this together.
If you agree that “spoiling” a baby is a privilege, share this story! It may be just the encouragement a fellow mom needs to read today!
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