'If only you knew': mum's message to stranger who tried to shame her

Kelly and her eldest daughter.
Kelly and her eldest daughter.  Photo: Facebook

There is something about parenthood that makes people offer mums and dads all sorts of unsolicited advice on the best way to bring up their children.

That was something US mum Kelly Dirkes was well aware of when a stranger warned her about "spoiling" her baby daughter by wearing her in a carrier during a recent shopping trip.

But what the woman who issued the warning did not know was that the little girl snuggled close to Kelly's chest had had a rough start to life, spending her first months in an orphanage rarely being cuddled or held at all.

The woman's comment, and her ignorance, prompted Kelly to pen a Facebook post in a bid to educate people to not make assumptions about a child or family's situation.

"If you only knew what I know," 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.

"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.

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"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."

In the post, which has been shared more than 20,000 times, Kelly goes on to explain that the love and attention the baby girl had received since becoming part of a family had led to amazing changes.

The little girl now loves being rocked to sleep by her mother and father and sings out for them when she wakes up in her cot.

"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 ..."

In addition to thousands of shares, Kelly's post also attracted lots of supportive comments.

"Amen, sister," wrote one woman. "My babies will always know their parents' arms as long as I am alive to wrap them around them."

"Follow your instincts...they are strong and right!" said another.

The family are also parents to a little girl named Charlotte, who they adopted from a Russian orphanage in 2011.