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Reservations About Recommending - Livin' the Good Life

Jun. 17th, 2013

06:46 pm - Reservations About Recommending

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I'm just about finished reading GOON PARK, and I've developed a love/hate relationship with it. On the one hand, I really don't like Harry Harlow. He learned all these important things in his experiments, but he didn't put them into practice in his own life. He did, however, supposedly help turn the tide of some very destructive child-raising practices of that era. So, he may have helped humanity, but he obviously couldn't help himself or his own family. I don't respect that.

There was also the knotty question of animal rights. Activists today vilify Harlow because he abused monkeys in his experiments. His response to his critics, "Remember, for every mistreated monkey there exists a million mistreated children. If my work will point this out and save only one million human children, I really can't get overly concerned about ten monkeys." I've really put a lot of thought into this. What if child-raising practices would have changed on their own over time without these experiments being done? The pendulum does seem to swing back and forth between trends on just about everything, doesn't it? Did the change really happen only because scientists did experiments that proved harm and called for change? Couldn't it just have easily been some passionate mothers who had had enough and wanted to start nurturing and mothering their infants again?

If it had been up to me, I could not have condoned monkey abuse. If I had seen what Harlow was doing, I would have been revolted. Torture is torture, and I can never approve of it. (Heck, I didn't even let my kids whack trees with sticks, telling them that trees didn't like that.) I would never approve of separating a human mother and her infant, and it hurts my heart to even think of it. But, I also wouldn't approve of purposely depriving a baby monkey of its mother. That would hurt also.

Sometimes I think that science is just trying to prove common sense. The scientists now declare that mothers and babies do better if they are not separated. Well, duh! I didn't need a scientist to tell me that. It's common sense. When the nurse took my first-born, Nathen, off to the nursery simply because it was "hospital policy" it felt wrong. I yearned for him. I wanted him back. He cried for me in the nursery. He needed his mommy. I didn't need a scientist to tell me that my baby would have been better off if he had stayed with me. My motherly instincts told me that. That is why the next morning I took my baby and went home so nobody could tell me what to do with him. Though I was completely new at this, I trusted my own self to take care of my own baby and I instinctively knew that nobody cared about his welfare more that I did... thank you very much!

I can't tell you how many times I've read new scientific studies that "prove" something that I'd already found from my own experience to be true. There is a certain smug satisfaction in knowing that science is finally catching up with me! When science started "proving" that breastfeeding was superior to bottle-feeding I just laughed. Well, of course. I could have told you that!

When it comes to mothering, I think mothers intuitively know what to do. That whole trend of not touching or picking up your baby was started by the scientists (doctors) of the day, probably all men, which I can only imagine went against the grain of every mother who was mothering by instinct. I think a lot of damage was done to children AND their mothers during that period that probably had long-lasting consequences, taking generations to undo. Thank goodness I raised my children when I did. I don't think I could have been a happy mother if I'd felt pressured to neglect and ignore my babies. And thank goodness I turned to other experienced mothers as models and mentors in the humane and natural treatment of my babies rather than the doctors and scientists of the day. When my instincts faltered or I was being advised to ignore them, these mothers, who were farther down the path of parenthood than I was, reminded me of my instinctive self who really did know what to do. Thank you, Mary Katherine, mother of 11 children. Thank you, La Leche League, mentor to millions.