Thursday, April 5, 2012

Attachment Parenting

Dear Pea,
I feel like everything about parenting you so far is simply a matter of stimulus-response.  I feel like all the choices we've made aren't really choices at all, they're simply what a parent must do.  But in recent talks with some of my close, more experienced parent friends (mostly on the west coast) and my new mama friends, I realize this isn't true at all.  We are making very conscious choices about parenting you.  They are also just the most natural choices for us, so they seem seamless and innate. 

I think it must have started when we decided to give birth at home.  Trusting that our bodies would figure it out, knowing that this pain is special and doesn't need to be managed artificially, not wanting you to be subjected to any unnecessary interventions...and we were so so lucky that it all worked out! That moments after your head crowned, you were at my breast.  That you spent your first hour on my belly, just snuggling with your daddy and me.  After the placenta was delivered, after the cord was cut, after you had nipped a little colostrum, then we weighed you and washed you off and got you dressed.  And then we just snuggled some more. We all dozed, snacked, cuddled and just sort of all got acquainted with each other.  After that, it didn't make any sense to have you sleep anywhere but in bed with us.  We all slept there together during the day (you were born at 7:53am-we had been up all night and needed some shut eye!), so it made sense to continue it that night.  Plus, there was no way I was letting you out of my reach for even a moment, you were too new, too tiny and had been through too much.  So you slept on my chest that first night.  And the second.  The third day, we got a lesson in nursing laying down and from that point on, you slept next to me.

You still sleep right next to me.  It's wonderful.  Most nights, we are in bed for ten hours, sleeping most of them.  You will wake up when you're hungry and I will feed you, both of us drifting back to sleep like this.  After the first time, I'll wake up a little more to switch sides with you.  Sometimes you need a diaper change.  Sometimes you're upset and we need to get out of the bedroom to let Daddy sleep, but really, those nights are few and far between.  I feel sort of guilty-what new mom sleeps more than she did before she had kids!?!  But sometimes I do. 

Another thing we do is wear you.  You nap in your sling or on my lap.  Sometimes I'll move you to your swing if I need to shower or something, but most of the time, you are right next to me.  I've pushed you in the stroller exactly zero times.  I didn't think much about this until yesterday, honestly.  We were on the subway coming back from a doctor's appointment (your hearing is perfect, by the way) and another family with a baby about your age got in our car.  The differences were striking.  Both girls were napping, but you were asleep on my chest, wearing a hand knit, made-with-love turquoise sun hat. This little girl was flat on her back in a stroller, decked out in all ballerina pink socks, pants, shirt and hat (with the hat pulled over her eyes), encased in a plastic rain bubble (though it was 65 degrees and sunny).  So, you were both asleep and clearly just fine, but it was a jarring image for me.  I would never ever transport you like that.  And they would probably never ever transport her like I was.  And I'm sure both sets of mamas would say their way is easier and it would be true for both of us.  But I couldn't help myself feeling a little sad for this little girl who couldn't be touched without a major production of unzipping the bubble, untucking the blankets around her and unstrapping her from her seat.  I slipped my pinkie finger into your sleeping hand and felt your whole fist tighten around me.  No way is right or wrong, but they are clearly different.

And speaking of the doctor, we went to get your hearing tested by a specialist because Dr. T. couldn't get an accurate reading.  You were sleeping when we arrived, but woke up to the excitement of kids playing in the waiting room.  When we saw the doctor, he was annoyed that you were awake and protesting his putting gadgets in your ears.  "We try to schedule these appointments during nap time immediately after the baby has eaten. What time would that be? Can you come back then?"  I actually laughed out loud.  Sweet Pea, we are not on a schedule.  You eat when you are hungry, you sleep when you are tired and that's that. The clock striking 10am means nothing to you. This actually is intentional on my part.  Crazy as this is, I know too much about food issues and body image and how so many people are out of tune with their bodies.  Many women honestly do not know when they are hungry and do not know when they are full.  I would love for you to never worry about your weight, or to attach judgement to what you eat.  I truly believe that the first step to having that healthy relationship with food can be established as you eat on cue now. 

So, three months in, are we total and complete hippie "Attachment Parents"? Maybe so.  We definitely are following the 8 Principles of Parenting so far.  Will we continue this throughout your life?  Who knows.  I suspect we will continue to try to follow the principles, but know that what it looks like will change.  I have learned in my life that I don't do so well operating under labels. I quit calling myself a vegan even though I was one at 15 and 16, I am just as likely these days to say I am pagan as I don't want to label our parenting style at all. I just like to say we're doing what works for us.  And you are a very happy baby, so it seems to be working for you, too.

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