‘Dear woman in Target, I’ve heard it before. That I ‘spoil that baby.’ That she’ll never learn to be ‘independent.’ If only you knew.’: Mom urges ‘spoiling her is the most important job I’ll ever have’ after taking in abused orphan

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“Dear Woman in Target,

I’ve heard it before, you know. That I ‘spoil that baby.’ You were convinced 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 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 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 she is safe. That she belongs. That she is loved.

If you only knew…

Courtesy of Kelly Dirkes

Update: Five years ago today, baby Gracie and I inadvertently blew up the internet.

What started off as me venting to a closed audience after a chance encounter while grocery shopping at Target became something much bigger than I had ever expected. ‘Dear Woman in Target’ was shared by friends, family, strangers, celebrities, and more media outlets than I can track at this point – and published in the print edition of the Love What Matters book. It has been shared more than 75,000 times.

My message then was simple: Mamas, hold your babies (and not so little babies). Hug your babies. Snuggle your babies. Love your babies. Meet them where they are. No apologies needed, ever. No regrets.

A lot has happened in the intervening years. Some of those things were wonderful, some of them were not. And until recently, I did good and bad days with a little Bird on my chest, back, or hip.

My message now, five years on from meeting that older woman in the baby aisle, is tinged with the profound emptiness that only Gracie’s passing can bring. But it is exactly the same as it was the first time I said it… Mamas, hold your babies (and not so little babies). Hug your babies. Snuggle your babies. Love your babies. Meet them where they are. No apologies needed, ever. No regrets.

No regrets. Only love.”

Courtesy of Kelly Dirkes

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Kelly Dirkes. You can follow her journey on Facebook. Submit your own story hereand be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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