Monday, March 9, 2009

Crunchy

I wear my babies. I don't believe in letting kids cry themselves to sleep. I breastfeed exclusively as long as possible. I love cuddling next to my boys at night and don't really mind when they crawl in bed with me. I want to home school. I try alternative treatments before resorting to medicine. I can rattle off at least a dozen reasons to drink organic milk. I absolutely do not consume any artificial sweeteners and don't allow my children to either. I really want to have my next baby (if there is a next baby) in a birthing center instead of a hospital. So, yes, I'm a bit crunchy. But I prefer the term "attachment parent."

I follow several blogs of other attachment parents. Although I'd never heard this term before having children, I've discovered the trend and fallen in love over time. I wasn't this way at first. I started off my life as a parent with an induced labor and an epidural. I let our pediatrician set an ultimatum for me regarding my son's breastfeeding (he must gain weight by the end of the week or we start formula). I carried my baby in his car seat and never considered taking him out to carry him if he wasn't screaming. I thought home schoolers were weird and a bit selfish (if I'm being totally honest) for taking something away from their children which can't be replaced. I thought I was going back to work.

Something in me changed. I can't say it was immediate. Early on, I knew I couldn't go back to work. I began cosleeping with my kids quite a bit (mostly just so I could get some sleep) and worried about what foods they put into their bodies. But there wasn't a day that I said, "Today I will become an attachment parent." Something about Aaron changed my life. I don't know if it was the thought that he might be my last baby, the fact that he was a difficult baby to soothe, the confidence that came with being an experienced parent who was able to make more educated decisions, or none of those, or maybe all of those. But I know that I started wearing Aaron, and it felt amazing. I stopped complaining when my kids slept in my bed. I refused to see the pediatrician who gave me the nonsense advice about formula and found a pediatrician I fell in love with. I started feeling a pull away from corporate education and towards something much more friendly. And I started looking for other people like me out there.

I found them. LOTS of them. They're called attachment parents. And I realized that I was one of them. Well, sort of. You see, I believe firmly in vaccinations. Actually, I consider it an act of cruelty not to vaccinate a child from a potentially life-threatening disease. I really clung to some of their research on the dangers of vaccinations and considered doing a modified vaccination schedule with my children but then I realized that I was taking their medical care into my own hands, and, seriously, I'm just not qualified for that. So, I decided to trust our pediatrician (whom I love dearly). And then there's the issue of behavior. I don't believe that discipline, when used lovingly and appropriately, is stifling a child's soul. I don't spank my children and think that, in general, it's an unnecessary practice, but I do lots of timeouts and heart-to-heart talks and chore-charts. I think it's good for my kids. Oh, and I don't think that babies really care if their mamas had an epidural or if they screamed their way through labor. The end result is the same. So maybe I'm not an attachment parent. Do you have to follow all their beliefs to be one? Not completely adhering to the values of attachment parents can make me feel a bit guilty.

My youngest child bit me while I was breastfeeding, so I weaned him around 10 months. It was a selfish decision--no doubt about that. At the time I read and read and read about breastfeeding and how to retrain your child not to bite you and then (warning: moment of disclosure) nursed him in secret for a few weeks after that because I had already told my family that he was weaned. I read and read about how selfish it was not to breastfeed, and I felt SO guilty. Every morning I would express a tiny bit of milk, just to be sure that I still could, and I made a point to nurse the baby at least once a day, to keep my milk flowing. About 2 weeks into this, I tried to breastfeed him, at which point his crying got stronger, so I tried giving him a bottle. He settled immediately. I have no doubt that it was because the bottle flowed so much quicker and easier. I spoiled him with a bottle and, thus, destroyed any chance I had of continuing to breastfeed. But somehow I felt very free anyway. I really liked being able to drink a glass of wine in the evenings, take my Prozac in the mornings, wear clothes without any regard for how accessible my chest was, etc. It was nice. And I felt bad about how good I felt.

It's great to find a group of people who share similar values and ideas, but I've decided it's very unhealthy for a person to make decisions on her parenting based on the definition of a parenting style which sounds appealing. So, I release myself of any guilt which I bear for inductions, epidurals, forced weanings, grocery-store brand milk, stroller rides when it would have been just as easy to put him in a sling, and the list goes on and on. Oh, my it feels good to be free of those burdens. But it feels bad to feel so good. Crunchy and crazy. Perhaps that's my parenting style.

4 comments:

KristinV said...

Like you, I developed into an attached parent. As I fell in love with my son and became more confident as a mother, my choices became so clearly dictated by his needs and his interests. What anyone else is doing just doesn't worry me anymore. I'm way too conservative to feel at home in most API groups but I'm a lot more earth mom-ish than your average Knox mom. That may mean that we never fit perfectly into any one niche, but hey, isn't following my heart and sticking to my principles a great way to teach my son to think independently and find happiness from within? Seems like a good starting point in life...

David said...

If you're interested in discovering your parenting style based on the latest research, please check out the Parenting Style Application by Signal Patterns on Parenting.com.

The underlying model developed by our team of psychologists reveals an underlying complexity far richer than just 'strict' or 'relaxed' classifications.

And what's particularly interesting is that you can take the test for a spouse and see where potential conflicts might lie and get advice on how to deal w/them. You can also compare results to your friends'.

Mike Sharp said...

My wife seems to have turned into a hippie. Not sure where I went wrong with her. :)

Recovering Sociopath said...

I knew early on I wanted to practice attachment parenting and breastfeed, but I sort of accidentally backed into cosleeping and babywearing (guess I didn't know as much about AP as I thought I did!).

Just discovered your blog after reading your comment at Pensieve. I like you already. :)