Whether it’s about clothes, shoes, hair or life choices, one of the things many people have to deal with is unsolicited advice. When you’re a mother, and people know you have kids, that unsolicited advice often spills over into the arena of child-rearing. Kelly Dirkes is all too familiar  with the latter. She was shopping at Target, and wearing her baby in a carrier, when out of the blue, another female customer told her to be careful because she’ll spoil her baby and the baby will never grow up to be independent. Instead of showing the customer that she got under her skin, Dirkes said she smiled, kissed her infant and kept on shopping.

Later, Dirkes took to Facebook to vent her frustration. In her post, she recounted the unique set of circumstances surrounding her daughter’s life. Dirkes’ daughter is adopted. For nearly the first year of her life, Dirkes’ daughter spent most of her time in a crib in an orphanage. She was rarely held or touched. The lack of human contact left an indelible mark on the baby, so much so that when Dirkes held her daughter for extended period of times, the baby didn’t know what to do. Thanks to Dirkes’ tender loving care, the infant has come around. She is beginning to love being held and “sings” after her naps because she is looking forward to being with her new family.

Dirkes’ Facebook post is transcribed below: 

“Dear Woman in Target-

I’ve heard it before, you know. That I “spoil that baby”. You were convinced that she’d never learn to be “independent”. I smiled at you, kissed her head, and continued my shopping.

If you only knew what I know.

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.

If you only knew that she would lay in her crib after waking and never cry–because up until now, no one would respond.

If you only knew that anxiety was a standard part of her day, along with banging her head on her crib rails and rocking herself for sensory input and comfort.

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”.

If you only knew what I know.

If you only knew that that baby now whimpers when she’s put down instead of when she is picked up.

If you only knew that that baby “sings” at the top of her lungs in the mornings and after her nap, because she knows that her chatter will bring someone to lift her out of her crib and change her diaper.

If you only knew that that baby rocks to sleep in her Mama’s or her Papa’s arms instead of rocking herself.

If you only knew that that baby made everyone cry the day she reached out for comfort, totally unprompted.

If you only knew what I know.

“Spoiling that baby” is the most important job I will ever have, and it is a privilege. I will carry her for a little while longer–or as long as she’ll let me–because she is learning that she is safe. That she belongs. That she is loved.

If you only knew…”