A beautiful bulging belly, the image of fruitfulness and love, sat before me. Her eyes were brimming with the life growing inside of her, a life which would soon burst through her heart and shatter it into thousands of droplets filled with colors and light and make a rainbow of her soul. There were other feelings there, in the pools of her eyes: fear, insecurity, doubt. A wise man once told me, “God gives children to the most inexperienced people" - truth. Here was a woman turning mother, wondering how the never-ending nine months could have flown by so quickly. Ready or not (as all parents learn, firmly “not”), this baby is coming and coming soon.
She was my client and her question seemed simple, though her voice was anxious and taut, “what do you keep in your home medicine cabinet? I want to make sure I’m prepared.” Being a leaning-towards-hippy-and-all-things-natural midwife who was also raised in the rurals of Northern California by a saintly woman with solid nutritional, herbal, and medicinal values, I should have had a ready-answer. But, being a real life mother, there was this rush of panic, self-consciousness, and insecurity. Who was I to tell answer this question for her?
This is not about what’s in my medicine cabinet. It’s about stepping into the wardrobe behind the medicine cabinet and choosing who to trust in a wide and unfamiliar world where you are the monarch responsible for taking care of little lives. You discover during pregnancy that everyone feels the freedom to tell you what you just have to know and just have to do and just have to… And then you wade (or drown) into parenthood and there are even more voices telling you what you should do or think. How and who do you believe? How do you choose who to trust? What do they know, anyhow? Pretty soon you’re requiring everyone’s credentials, background, and philosophical position on modern medicine before you lend them an ear. And THEN you realize that you’re not one bit closer to making a decision and really everyone is out to confuse you and how, oh how, can there be so many opinions about every tiny piece of parenting? (If you don’t believe me, just speak the word “immunizations” publicly and experience the torrent of opinions that follow).
In my professional opinion, there are things that a pregnant/laboring/breastfeeding woman should do (eat well, drink plenty of water, stay active…) and shouldn’t do (smoke, drink diet soda, run a marathon after 36 weeks…). Everyone agrees, these things are sound and smart and will always be true. Science is not what we as moderns tend to think it is – it is not static or infallible or universal. Wisdom, however, is. We need both, but not equally. Wisdom is a gift; science is learned. Wisdom is unpalpable; science is experimental. Wisdom is unprovable; science is theory proved to law. Wisdom emanates from the Creator who alters scientific “law” upon His whim (or request, sun standing still and all). Wisdom transcends us yet is deeply personal, piercing to our conscience and ordering our ways.
When someone says something like, “you should try using essential oils when your child has a fever and you’ll never use Tylenol again” or “you really shouldn’t give any vaccinations before your child is one year old, my 5-month old had a terrible reaction when we vaccinated,” this is confusing wisdom for science and making intuition a universal law. I am, you are, responsible for the little lives given to our stewardship. For an indefinite amount of time, they are ours. Mine are not yours and yours are not mine and the woman in Target or at church or at playgroup does not know what is best for your family. We need community, we crave input, and it’s good to seek advice from a couple trusted people, but both the decisions and consequences of our family’s health are responsibilities given to us as their parents.
I am not saying to trust your intuition and throw all else to the wind. I am encouraging you to do your research, talk to others, ask questions of professionals, soak these things in and seek wisdom. Attach yourself to your mom/aunt/grandma or to an experienced mom you respect - ASK THEM INSTEAD OF GOOGLE. Do not be driven by guilt or insecurity, there is no shame in having (or not having) Benadryl, Tylenol, Ibuprofen, homeopathy or any other medicine/non-medicine in your cabinet. Vaccinate or don’t vaccinate based on research or trusting your care provider. Don’t make these decisions from fear, for in parenting the fear threatens to run deep and cloudy through all things, marring joy and stealing peace. You have the intuition for your family. Incline your ear and learn to trust.