Thursday, November 1, 2012

Postpartum Dreams (pt 2)

So….maybe you’re convinced enough in our need to up the support of postpartum families, and ready to start putting it into action.  Because, obviously, the only way to put belief into action is to start blessing others…well, and self-prepare.  ;-)

Wondering where to start?  Here’s a list of what I would love to see happen or at least be considered for every postpartum mama.  Much of the inspiration comes from friends, too, who shared what they would love in the ideal postpartum recovery.  I was almost surprised at how similar everyone’s ideal lists were to each others and to mine.  So while bearing in mind that every mama needs personal tailoring, I’d dare say a lot of this pretty well would bless most postpartum moms.

  1. Meals.  And not just for a week, but a full 6 weeks.  I think a pretty good balance/ideal would be daily for 2 weeks, and 3-4 times a week for the following 4 (but obviously, every mama would have her own preference- and nearly daily for 6 weeks would be awesome, too).  That’s approximately 28 meals total- which sounds like a lot as one person, but if a whole community banded together, is probably very doable with minimal effort from each person.  I really love Take Them A Meal for coordinating.  There's also Meal Baby, amongst others.  It does all the work for everyone, plus allows givers to make sure their meal is unique!
a)      Make sure you check on dietary needs as well as personal preferences, especially of children.  Picky kids really annoy me (just sayin’!), but setting personal prejudice aside, meals aren’t as helpful if the parents still have to make a separate meal for their kids.  Also, definitely check for allergies!  If you have the time to do so, consider too catering to their general health-level lifestyle.
b)      On the other hand, though, don’t let that intimidate you.  And unless there are actual dietary needs/restrictions (i.e. needing to stay on a GAPS diet or dealing with major side effects), even a typical healthy family would thoroughly enjoy Pizza Hut.
c)      Check on what the family prefers as far as drop-off time and visitors.  Is mom really tired and does she want to be mostly left alone so she can feel free to sleep when baby does?  Or is she lonely and desperate for a friend to come hang out for a while?  Either may be equally true, so know your mama or just ask.
d)      Obviously, be considerate and don’t take germs over.  If you have sick kids and still want to do a meal, consider dropping it on the porch.  It might not be as fun for you, but the new mama will be infinitely grateful!
e)      Remember that dinners aren’t the only meal people eat.  If you can invest the time, consider bringing some stuff for breakfasts or snacks….or lunch if you don’t think dinner will stretch into leftovers.  And again, feel free to let it just be a box of crackers and block of cheese, provided allergies/strict dietary  needs aren’t an issue.
  1. Offer to pick up groceries, especially if you’re already going to the store.  Ask if you can get anything and drop it off.  It’s really nice to not have to shop for a while, and not sending dad means more time he’s available.  A few family members got me a couple things a time or two, and it was really nice!  Especially for fresh produce, our main need that I couldn’t preplan for/pre-buy.
  2. Cleaning help.  For many women, I think this one needs some cultural expectations changed in order for it to be comfortable.  Nonetheless, it would be a pretty huge thing!  And while the house really can just wait for a while….sometimes it can be a stress-point.  I know it was for me, although Ben did a great job with it.  But when too much clutter piled up (going under Ben’s radar, since it doesn’t bother him), it would be so stressful for me to sit there staring at it, physically incapable of getting up and dealing with it myself.  I always felt bad asking for help with it, too.  If I didn’t have a helpful husband, it would’ve been an even bigger issue, since dishes and what-not wouldn’t have gotten done, either.  Also, with other children in the picture the 2nd time around, it became a lot harder for him to take care of everything.  He was trying to meet my needs since I was immobile, care for and spend time with Vivi, work, go to school (from home) and keep up with the house.  He’s awesome, but it was a lot!  So- I think it would be awesome if people offered to come do some basic cleaning once or twice a week.  Clean the bathroom, vacuum, perk the kitchen up, clean up toys, put away gifts, etc.  It could easily be divided between a few people.  If each person who came to visit spent 5-10 minutes helping with something, you could probably even maintain.  To get there, mamas need to be made to feel that it’s okay for you, the visitor, to walk into a messy house!
  3. Laundry.  There’s no way around the fact that it has to get done…or that it piles up really fast with a newborn.  (Remember changing outfits at every diaper change, which occurred every 1-1.5 hours around the clock?)  Offer to come over for a folding party.  Or to start/switch a load while you’re there dropping off a meal.  Or to take their laundry home with you and bring it back clean and folded.  After both kiddos, it was at least a few weeks before I could bend or kneel to switch laundry without causing severe pain plus backsliding in the recovery department.  Not to mention, it’s one of those few tasks that actually is difficult with a baby in front.  I would’ve been lost without Ben’s willingness to start and switch laundry for me, and bring it out by the couch where I could fold it.  Next time around, when he’s working outside the home, it’s definitely a department I might love more help in.  I remember a friend folding a basket of laundry that was sitting there when she came with a meal after Vivi.  After getting over the mortification (my house isn’t perfect!!!), it was really nice that she so sweetly just picked stuff up and folded it while we were chatting.  As a mama of 10, I guess she knew that sometimes it’s the little things.
  4. Some mamas voiced a desire for a live-in helper.  If you’re in a season of life that you could offer that, it could be a huge blessing.  I’m not sure I’d like having someone around all the time….but I know in the future (Ben working away) it probably will be almost-needed for help with toddler-lifting, etc., the first couple weeks.  Or at least to have someone come a few hours a day.  And some mamas would absolutely love having company around all the time, especially if they’re used to a highly-social pre-baby life.  J
  5. Other moms mentioned how nice it would be to have someone come hold the baby so they could take a shower, fix their hair, or whatever.  Or help provide the motivation to get out for a walk.  Self-care is important!  Especially if you’re parenting a “high-needs” (or is it just normal?!) baby or believe in giving your little one as much hands-on time as possible.  Awesome as it is, it does burn you out, too…especially if your baby is fussy inspite of your best efforts.  A shower can be your sanity-saver. I know it was for me with Vivi!  It also would’ve been impossible without Ben around to hold Vivi as a shower while she screamed by herself was not a valid (or relaxing) option for me.  A well-cared-for mama is much more nurturing and less stressed!  So remember- as a mama, and as someone helping a mama- care of the mother benefits everyone. 
  6. If she has older kids, consider doing something fun with them- bringing over a fun new toy (playdough, coloring stuff, or other economical things that would keep them occupied with minimal mess would be great!), take them out to a park or back to your house for a while, or play a game with them while you’re there.  I really loved the fact that every time my mother-in-law came over after Timothy’s birth, she made a point to play with Vivi.  Not only does it free mama up for a bit to enjoy her baby, it makes life extra-fun for the older kids to get some extra-special attention.  Their lives have been thrown out of whack, too…not in a bad way, but like everyone else, they could use some help adjusting, too!

For a list of 100 creative ways to bless a new mom, visit Lisa Jo and check out one of her most popular posts!  Not only does she discuss the basics, she delves into tons of creative ideas- many of them easy to fit into your schedule.

*As a side note, I just have to say that although meals for 6 weeks didn’t happen ;-), I was blessed with very supportive people and more help than many women get.  My mom sent multiple meals my way (even if it was just leftovers, which were always yummy!), and one of my sisters-in-law also stopped in multiple times when she was in the neighborhood with extras from a dinner she’d made for her family, burritos and waffles for the freezer, etc.  My mother-in-law stopped over several times, and in addition to bringing dinner would also spruce up the kitchen if necessary or play with Vivi.  I loved that when she came over she’d always make a point of playing with Vivi.  She even took her to the park once so Ben, Timothy and I could nap!  Another SIL brought a meal and picked up some produce for me once.  My sister stayed with me overnight when Ben went on a family celebration trip while I still couldn’t lift Vivi…she treated me like a queen and scampered around keeping up with everything.  And additionally, we got a few (much appreciated and quickly devoured) meals from friends.  Postpartum season makes me starving, so hearty meals from others always tasted SO yummy!  Anyway- just have to throw that in for the awesome people in our lives!* 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Postpartum Dreams

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about a dream (surprise, surprise!)….of becoming a postpartum doula.  I don’t know if I ever will, officially (and if I do, I see it being down the road a ways), but an even bigger dream is to put postpartum doulas out of business.  (sorry, you wonderful group of people!)  It’s a dream to re-set howour whole culture thinks- how we view birth, motherhood, infancy, and thepostpartum mama.  It’s a dream to see new (whether they’re new for the 1st time or the 5th!) mothers pampered and cared for.  To have Super Woman expectations thrown away.  To see moms feel unburdened and freed- free to invest all their energy in bonding with their new little one and the rest of her family. 

We have so many expectations thrown on moms- and they aren’t just hurting mamas, they’re hurting our babies.  And that is most definitely a problem.  When it’s a big race to get back into your groove as quickly as possible, to be back to making all your meals within a few days, to be ½ expected to turn down any offers of help pretty quickly…it prohibits complete postpartum healing, it drains mama so she’s more prone to postpartum depression and (my biggest peeve) it means babies get thrust aside, tossed from one contraption to the next, so they don’t get in the way of normal life…of productivity, of being Super Mom.  (It’s no wonder companies like Graco thrive!)  Science has more to say all the time about how early-life experiences impact a baby for the rest of his life.  It’s looking likely, actually, that experiences we don’t remember might have a larger impact than ones that we don’t, for better or worse.

When a mama is free to enjoy her baby and other children, transitioning to a new family life can be truly beautiful and stress-free.  It can be a lovely time of bonding, of spending more time than ever with each of your children.  She can create a life-long impact on her baby as she touches, holds, and enjoys him. 

On the other side of the fence, I know what it feels like to be helpless; to let others do your work.  Part of it is my personality and that’s okay- I will always be the type of person who most appreciates a day where I accomplish something.  I love to be at work- it’s one of the reasons I love babywearing; so I can snuggle and move forward with my ideas and pursuits.  Provided we moderate ourselves so it doesn’t cause PP healing issues, I don’t think that’s a problem at all.  Nor is it a problem to sit back and enjoy your baby without worrying about a thing, if that’s your personality.  J  God’s blessed me with a natural check against doing too much- a long recovery period of not being able to move around.  It kind of forces the issue. 

But even if you’re a go-getter, high-energy, moving-type personality (me!), I still think it would be so helpful to have basic needs taken care of.  To know dinner wasn’t a problem, or maybe even that basic housework was done.  Then, if all the babes were having a good day, and you wanted to, you could tackle some extras, or a meal for the freezer.  Or you could use the energy to do fun stuff with your kiddos.  And if you were having a bad day?  If baby was up all night, having a fussy day, and mama was exhausted?  Well, then, no worries and no stress!  You can relax, take care of your family, and know that no one’s going to starve.

The transition into having a new baby around is hard.  And unless you’re super woman, I don’t think there’s any way around having stress involved if you’re expected to do everything for yourself from the get-go.  There’s just a learning curve to throwing another little person into the family-mix.  Not to mention, I think we forget how many hours are spent breastfeeding, changing diapers, and changing outfits in the early weeks.  (Does anyone else remember having to do a complete outfit change for you and the baby at least once in the night due to leaky boobs?!  I sure do, with both….because no matter how hard I tried, at some point I would fall asleep while nursing and hence not “close up shop”, complete with 3 nursing pads, which meant an uncontrolled letdown.)  Even if you’re doing great….it can feel overwhelming and you can wonder how you’re ever going to get anything done, besides going back and forth between changing the toddler and baby. 

But around 6-8 weeks, usually, a light switch-moment happens.  Suddenly everything gets so much easier (for most women).  Your baby might be nursing a little faster and leaking diapers a little less often.  You’re heading back to feeling pretty normalish (although full recovery from all the nutritional stores pregnancy/birth took out of you can take months more).  Baby’s gone through the 2 (typically) most difficult growth-spurts, and with 6 weeks under your belt, you’re starting to feel like you rock and can actually do this thing.  (You do rock, by the way.  Every mother does.)  Your other kiddos are adjusting well, especially if you’ve invested a lot of time in them and made the transition as smooth as possible (if not….you might still be facing a lot of issues).  Your hormones are starting to balance out again, which really makes everyone happy!  You are generally ready and capable to take back over the management of your home.  Relying on others for several weeks will in no way handicap you.  Those first several weeks have a lot to take in for you, your husband, your baby and your children.

Entry into the world would be so much more peaceful and loving for everyone involved if the postpartum season was a season of rest….figuratively (in a peaceful sense, where there aren’t any worries and are few have-to’s on the list) or literally (for those who can or have to sit still).  It would be better for everyone.  Babies would have a calmer pathway to learning the ropes of the world….dads wouldn’t feel so left out in the cold (or burdened by trying to do everything for their wife- I think we often forget about the transitions they go through, too!)….other children wouldn’t feel left out, either, as mama would have lots of time to shower snuggles on them….and mamas would be happier, more fulfilled people.  

And you know what?  It’s not even all about others stepping in and helping out, even though that’s a very huge and necessary part.  Another large portion is relaxing – or changing altogether – our expectations of new moms.  New moms need to feel like they’re doing an awesome job for burrowing themselves in their family for the first several weeks and nothing else.  Mamas need to know and understand that it’s not normal to be managing the house and getting everything done 1 week postpartum.  Women need to be educated about the damage that does for them and their little ones….and encouraged that investing in their baby’s lifelong emotional well-being is totally productive.  Women need to come to see it as okay to have a friend stop over and do their laundry or clean the toilets.

I have several friends that have recently stepped into the journey of motherhood.  And it’s hit them hard.  I can’t help but wonder why...or feel that our culture has a lot to do with it.  I would dare say in most cases it’s a mix of too many expectations on mama/not enough help and too many expectations on babies. 

That’s cause for a whole other article, but in a nutshell, we as a culture expect WAY too much out of babies.  We assume they’ll just fit into our old lifestyle and our plans.  We assume they’ll start sleeping through the night quickly, and that they can be thrown here and there and just be picked up to get fed and changed occasionally- sadly, a first-time mom once bluntly vented the latter expectations in not knowing why her (sick, feverish) baby was crying, seeing as how everything was taken care of.  That is so wrong in so many ways!  I have way too much to say to fit it all in here, so I’ll just say that babies are humans and yes, they do change your life.  If you don’t want your life interrupted, don’t have kids….it’s a pretty simple alternative with all the contraceptives out there.  But please don’t assume you can treat your baby like a piece of furniture and be doing everyone good.  Our culture has become so desensitized and I can only hope that as more research continues to show its face, we’ll start to see the damage we’ve done and are doing.  Babies need to be held and held and held.  They need to be loved, snuggled, soothed and walked.  They need to know you’re there- don’t forget that you aren’t the only one going through a major change!  Your baby was literally attached to you for 9 months, in a dark, warm place, right by your heart.  Being little doesn’t mean lack of awareness.

Okay, back on topic.  Regardless of cause (and sometimes, families get blessed with a really high-needs baby), it just seems to me, in looking around, that postpartum and adjustments to a little one are way harder than they should be.  Which is where I think it would be so awesome if more people would catch my vision and we could all work together to make a difference.  Although postpartum depression (PPD) is hormone triggered, I also believe we’d see huge drops in rates.  Though hormone triggered, PPD occurs most often in situations with no support and a lot of expectations.  Mamas need emotional encouragement and physical help.  And Daddies….lets not forget them.  I truly believe that supporting and mothering mothers more would have a huge (and positive!) impact on dads.  It would free them up in so many ways, and make the adjustments easier on them, too.

I hold a pretty passionate belief in preparing yourself for the postpartum season.  (I'm sure some of it's my personality which can't help but agree with Napoleon when he says (paraphrased) "If you want something done well, do it yourself.")  I’ve written fairly elaborately about what I like to do to prep the house and freezer.  And that helps hugely in achieving the postpartum season I want, without relying on others.  I still think it’s important, because obviously, our culture has many years, perhaps decades, before they’ll be ready to make a 180* and start mothering mothers to the fullest extent that they need.  In the meanwhile…joining forces between doing our own prep/encouraging others to do so and offering/receiving help afterwards (and, of course, continuing to spread the vision!) can help make strides.

And maybe someday….we’ll see change in a major way.  For today, I’m looking for ways to implement what I believe on the small scale one person can….and to share my vision, so others can catch it.  

Would you like to see changes in the postpartum world?  What are you doing to make it happen?

Monday, September 3, 2012

For my baby boy who's growing up....

Dear, sweet, 10 month old baby, Timothy,

No one prepared me.  No one told me how much I would adore this “9 month phase”.  That phase everyone talks about, when you suddenly realize how independent you’ve become with all your crawling, and come back to home base a bit more- wanting to be held, not letting me leave the room without you, and so forth.  But baby boy, I do.  My heart melts every time you crawl across the living room as fast as can be.  The way you give up and begin to cry if you’re not getting to me fast enough.  The way you burst into a smile when I get you, or you reach me.  The way you tug at my legs and try to pull up.  It all takes my breath away.  I love how big you’re getting….but I love the reminder that I’m still your home base- that you still aren’t quite big enough to tackle the world on your own.  I love how much babywearing we get to do again, since you don’t like me to leave the room without you.  I love the way you nestle into my back oh-so-happily (after, of course, arching as I try to get you on there….can’t break old habits!) in the wrap or Kanga.  I love watching you grow up- the way you’re starting to pull yourself up to stuff – and the way you find the tiniest things on the floor.  I love how you look at objects from every angle, holding them in every position in your hands whose coordination are getting pretty good.  I love how you adore Vivi, and look for her when she isn’t in the room.  I love how you play with her and follow her around, and get SO happy when she gives you attention- which is often, because the love is mutual.  You two make me so thankful you have each other.


Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Grace for Parents a Generation Up

My generation provides a lot of perfect examples of how the homeschool movement has flopped.  Sad, but true.  It doesn’t make me think homeschooling’s bad (we’re planning on doing it, after all!), but there are definitely some major pitfalls- especially with “the movement”.  The biggest thing that bothers me – the biggest failure in my opinion – are all the legalistic, controlling parents.  It’s the kids who aren’t allowed to think for themselves….it’s the young adults who have to either live under the chains of their parents, or break away entirely.  And I sit back wondering, “What the heck are those parents thinking?”  Considering that it’s a very common thing, I guess most parents don’t actually mean to. 

But today….I was thinking a little bit about what parents in general, and specifically homeschool parents, go through.  They’re still wronging their kids…but I could see why.  You pour everything you have into your kids…and you want it all to turn out okay.  You have an idea of what “okay” is.  You make the choices you do because they seem like the best to make.  You’ve thought through why you believe what you do, and are certain it’s right.  So, whether consciously or subconsciously, I bet most parents want their kids to make the same decision.  The intensity level is probably increased for most homeschoolers, because you’re investing that much more of your life in your kids.

(I do realize there are more malicious reasons, as well, on the parts of some parents…  And, I also realize the homeschool movement has done some good things, and has some success stories.)

We were joking at a babywearing meeting recently….about “forcing” kids and kids-in-law to babywear.  About what we might have to say to a kid who thought otherwise. 

I thought about how hard it would be to have a son marry some girl who was adamant about plastic parenting and using cry it out.  Or worse, having one of my kids – my flesh and blood – adamantly supporting it.  About standing by as my grandbabies suffered the side effects of cry it out, BabyWise life, etc.  I’m passionate about the way I parent our kids.  I research and read, and observe in real life.  I know – from research and real life observances – what cry it out does to babies.  I know it causes irreparable damage.  I know what kind of irreparable damage occurs when babies spend a substantial amount of time in car seats, cribs, and other contraptions.  I’m learning what kind of irreparable damage occurs in a punitive-based parenting style.  God’s been gracious enough to show specifically how damaging that would’ve been for Vivi, before the damage was done.  Did you catch that word- irreparable?  As in, permanent?  My grandbabies suffering permanent damage because my kids don’t parent “right”?  And me just watching? 

Ummmm… thanks?

And I remembered.  No expectations.  That’s what we want for ourselves; it’s what we want for our kids, too.  We give grace to our peers, and we give grace to our kids now.  We “allow” our friends and relatives to parent the way they see fit.  Someday, I’m going to have to give grace to let our kids lead their adult lives- including choosing how they parent.  Even if they don’t embrace my passions.  I’ll have to give grace, and trust to God He has a plan for each of their lives.

Because even uglier than the idea of cry it out being used for my grandbabies…is the idea of holding my children in bondage with my expectations.  The idea of them feeling the need to cut ties all together…or parenting in a certain way just to please me- just because it’s what I believe, not because it’s what they believe.  Even uglier is refusing to extend to my babies the very thing I strive to extend to everyone else in my life.

I see now- as my areas of passion are touched on- that it may not be easy.  But it is my goal.  And with God’s help, we’ll conquer.  I still hope that they’ll parent to the best of their ability- and yes, I hope that includes parenting instinctively.  But, our children will be free….and greater even than the legacy of parenting instinctively, we’ll share a legacy of grace and freedom.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

My Greatest Dream.....

I love it when God gives clear direction and re-sparks your passion for an area of life.  For me, that happened with motherhood recently.

I’m a dreamer and achiever, and I’ve wondered for a long time about how to share my passion for babywearing with other people…how to help more moms, especially in my area- but anywhere in general, too.  I’m also an entrepreneur at heart, so I’ve been tossing around the idea of becoming a vendor for some of my favorite carriers, setting up a website, seeing if I could speak at some MOPS groups or something, and so forth.  It was an exciting prospect- there would be so many awesome angles to it.  But after looking into what all I needed to start out, and starting to make heads and tails of the government stuff, and then figuring out how much money I would need to “borrow” from Ben….and doing lots and lots of dreaming…I started trying to figure out realistically how much time it would require- for starting up, and as I grew – and whether or not that would effect my family.  I’m still not sure how much time I’d need per week….but I’ve no doubt that it would be quite a bit, especially in the start up phase.  Yeah, I could do it….but, especially if we were to have another little one, there’s no way I could do it without taking from my family.  Taking from time with my babies, taking from time as wife, taking from preparing healthy and creative meals, taking from the home.  I considered the possibility ofusing NFP for a brief season so I could get things rolling without taking time away from everyone who needs me, and waiting a while before having another baby, since Ben was very supportive of whatever direction I chose. 

I didn’t feel like there was one clearly right or wrong way, which felt strange.  Because the thing is, I no longer have super clear ideas about family size, patriarchy, etc.  I no longer feel it’s wrong for a woman to pursue dreams beyond being a wife and mom.  But figuring out how life works, and what’s right for each situation can sometimes feel confusing- because there isn’t one across the board decision.  My decision isn’t better than the next woman’s.  It’s just the right one for me.  Even though I no longer feel chained (not that I ever felt chained by it, because it fits me personally…but adhered in a legalistic way?  yes.) by patriarchy and man-made ideas of gender roles and functions.

So I prayed about it….and God responded with such clarity, it’s sparked a new passion for life and my role as a wife and mom.  It’s the awesome part of a personal relationship with Father, instead of a rule book.  Though I’ll be honest- that kind of thing doesn’t happen everyday for me.  Usually, I feel like I’m just plodding along.

The answer was no.  Or at least, not now.  But this time….not because it would be wrong to pursue it, but because it isn’t my biggest dream.  I have lots of dreams and ideas, and they just can’t all fit together.  There’s picking and choosing involved.  For me?  I choose being a mom. 

God reminded me that being a mother is my biggest, most beautiful dream.  Right now is the only fertile season of my life.  If I choose to put that on hold just so I can pursue something else – something I could pursue anytime – I’m going to really regret it in 25-30 years.  I have a love affair with babies…and I’m a long ways from ready to not have one around.  I wouldn’t be able to choose not to- I know myself too well.  I would regret putting time into the business that would take from Ben and the kids.  I would regret splitting my time in more directions than I can keep up with.  What I’ll never regret, though, is putting the business on hold for 25-30 years, and delving headfirst into this beautiful, life-changing, world-changing dream of being a mother.  I’ll never regret having another baby to hold, or saving time for my older kids.  I’ll never regret homeschooling or being involved in my kids’ lives in a huge way.  I’ll never regret sleepless nights and snuggly days.  I’ll never regret pregnancies and the wear and tear.  I’ll never regret the effort to bring a baby into the world.  This life….I’ll never regret. 

I’ve wanted to be a mom since I was 3.  That’s as far back as I can remember…it’s my deepest, greatest and oldest dream.  For me, it’s one of the greatest things life has to offer.  I’m honored and grateful that God chose to fulfill that dream for me.  The thing I love about God speaking to me, instead of adhering to some guy’s rules is that reminder.  I choose being a mom, not because I’m better than someone else, but because it’s my greatest desire.

So here I am…just a mom, loving life.  Holding my babies, parenting instinctually, and putting my family first.  Loving every minute of it.  And maybe in 30 years, that business will take a leap.  Maybe by then, with many years of experience, I’ll have something truly unique and special to offer people.  And it would be a way to stay in touch with babywearing when my babies are all grown up.  In the meanwhile, we’ll keep sharing the babywearing love as opportunities come up- and maybe see about speaking at MOPS or other events if the occasion arises.  But most of all, in the meanwhile….I’ll be here, a mom.    

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Finding Art in Babywearing

Ben pointed out to me recently how much of an art babywearing is.  As someone for whom babywearing is not only something that works for us, but a passion and even a hobby, that idea appealed very much to me.  We were walking and I noted that though my Kozy Carrier mei tai just wasn’t working for Timothy on the way to the park, it worked fine for Vivi on the way back. 

It’s really rather beautiful how unique and individual babywearing is.  I’ve long believed different carriers work for different women.  But I’ve learned since just how much the baby has to do with it as well.  Not only their carrying preferences, but how they’re built, how big they are, etc.  Most of the carriers that worked well for Vivi and I haven’t been favorites with Timothy.  There’s an aspect to knowing my babies and finding something that works for Timothy and I….and Vivi and I….and Ben and Vivi…and so forth.  It’s creating music- each “couple” producing something different, but equally beautiful.

It’s a little frustrating in helping share the babywearing love, of course, because so many moms try a carrier (usually a B’jorn or equally un-ergonomic carrier) discover it’s thoroughly uncomfortable and decide they simply can’t babywear.  Or many moms can’t afford to explore and find what works well for them….or aren’t interested enough to put the effort into trying to do it economically or at all.  Babywearing’s rare enough that the artful side can be frustrating for mamas and make it more difficult to spread babywearing love.  But….

It’s beautiful and rich and rewarding when you find just the right way to be close to your little one.  It’s special to have a favorite carrier for Timothy and I….and fond memories of different ones for Vivi at the same age.  It’s rewarding to search and try and find something we both love.  And since I don’t create art on paper…babywearing is my masterpiece.  It’s what I put my creative energy into.  Though it doesn’t fill our walls with rich colors, or our home with notes of music…it fills our lives with beauty of the richest sort.  Our walls echo with laughter.  The corners of the room watch as beautiful, unforgettable snuggles take place.  As rough days are smoothed out.  We explore the great world together.  We laugh, snuggle, and are soothed to sleep.  Yes….this is my music.

And so, I’ll keep learning to dance better- for there’s always room for improvement, and just when you think you’ve got a hold of something, a change occurs.  Because my family’s worth it…and because this is what I love.  And when my arms aren’t big enough to hold my children – my babies – anymore….I’ll learn new dances.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Heart of Attachment Parenting

I’ve been pondering parenting a lot, lately.  There’s the mom guilt that’s crept into a few areas of life here and there...but which I haven't dealt with lately (well, except for when I do utterly fail, which happens often enough), except thinking sometimes I should be feeling guilty.  And I’m reading Spirit-Led Parenting, which has been a really excellent book.  Very encouraging for moms of all walks….good encouragement to leave behind pressure and criticism on all sides of the mommy wars.  Then I read this really excellent article, The Face of Attachment Parenting.  And it all sort of clicked again for me….in a crystal-clear, slightly new way.

Attachment parenting isn’t about the methods.  Attachment parenting is a heart thing.  It’s the way my heart is in-tune with my children’s hearts.  It’s the way we’re…ahem….attached.  It’s about meeting each of my kids’ individual needs.  It’s about being involved in their lives.

Co-sleeping, babywearing, breastfeeding, and many other practices connected to attachment parenting help me achieve that.  But they just aren’t it.  That revelation brings a bit of freedom with it….freedom to parent the way each of my kids need – freedom to be imperfect and still make it through this journey – freedom to give my kids my very best, even though that isn’t perfection. 


Sometimes, knowing too much can feel overwhelming.  I’ve read the research and I know how good babywearing is for my babies.  So….I wear them a lot- and for other reasons as well.  I wear them while we do housework and cook and go on walks….basically, anytime I’m moving.  But sometimes, I’m exhausted…like during our 2-day zoo trip when I had a few points of being quite happy to let him ride in the stroller or pass him to Ben and let Vivi walk.  He recently growth-spurted, bringing him up to 25 lbs.  I think my back’s finally starting to catch up, but it’s taken a while….I need to start working on some exercises to strengthen my core so I can keep up- but I said that several days ago, and it’s still just a thought.  Or there’s the way some activities are becoming difficult (dare I say impossible?) with him on the front….or that some days I feel like just wearing him takes all my energy and combining that with caring for a tired toddler and getting anything done feels like torture.  So I put Timothy on the floor to play while I’m cooking, or in his saucer.  And while the one side of me feels like it’s working for all of us because he knows I’m right there, he’s having a good time, and Vivi’s enjoying either playing with him or being worn….there’s another side of me that knows just how good babywearing is for babies.  I race the research through my mind, recalling how good every extra hour of physical contact is for baby. 

But then I remember….the articles are written to a hands-off culture.  A culture where baby goes from one contraption to the next, and sometimes doesn’t even get held for feedings.  It really isn’t addressing a situation where baby is worn several hours a day and held/played with for a good many more.  And truly- I haven’t felt guilty lately.  Only like maybe I should feel guilty because, well- remember what the research says?!    

And then it all came full circle as I started piecing together my thoughts on AP and I realized- babywearing is a special and helpful tool.  But it isn’t attachment parenting itself.  I use it to meet my baby and toddler’s needs….but if they don’t need it around the clock and I need a break, that’s okay.  Phew.  I’m not a failure on that account, at least.


Or there’s breastfeeding.  And mom’s who don’t breastfeed can still be attachment parents.  I still clearly remember being super excited to meet a new friend with the common ground of babywearing.  She came over and we shared carriers and swapped stories.  And then her son got hungry….so she pulled out a bottle.  And my mind started pursuing a lot of less-than-graceful thoughts.  I mean, really….I thought she was an attachment mom; she’s so into babywearing.  Lucky for me, I didn’t voice my thoughts….and soon, I was repenting them.  And wondering all over again why I can’t just have grace for people.  Because she started to share….her 9 month, hellish journey of trying everything to be able to nurse her little guy….with no success.  The doctor visits, the lactation consultants, the herbs, drugs and oatmeal.  And it still wasn’t working.  She shared her joy in the fact that he still enjoyed comfort nursing at home….and the pain of not being able to do something she’d dreamed of doing.  (if you’re reading this…I’m truly sorry for my initial thoughts.  And I’m beyond grateful for you and our friendship!  I admire you, and the love you give your babies, more than you can imagine!)  And I couldn’t help but think about how much more pain I could’ve heaped on a mom who was just doing what was best for her baby given the circumstances.  A good and beautiful mom, fully attached to her baby.  She’s given me a totally different perspective on breastfeeding….helped me to remember, when I meet a bottle-feeding mom that maybe it wasn’t her choice.  And that even if it was….I don’t know the whole story.  I've learned to wait and listen before assessing.   


The examples and specific scenarios could go on.  You know all the pet attachment parenting stuff….no pacifiers, co-sleeping, etc., etc.  Most (maybe all J) of them we adhere to more or less….we probably “model” AP pretty well, because it works well for us and it’s meeting our babies’ needs …but I’m not touching my babies all day.  They play together and I even enjoy bathroom trips semi-alone on occasion.  We balance it to make it work for us.  Which means at most meals, Timothy sits in his saucer next to us now, because he’s become impossibly grabby….and it’s even kind of fun eating with two hands. 

I’ve learned we can hold too tightly to our pre-conceived ideas on both extremes of the spectrum.  Just as an “Ezzoite” may hold so tightly to what they’ve been taught they can’t see how much harm they’re dishing their baby….I too, could be in danger of holding too tightly to the ideals I’ve built.  If the ideals are the idol- if I’m not carefully weighing what each baby needs, but rather how does this line up with AP?, my perspective isn’t in the right place, and I could be harming my babies just as much as I would via Ezzo.  I want to be an extreme mom….but rather than being the perfect AP mom, I want to be extreme in the realm of seeking our kids’ needs, each individually, taking into account what’s best for each individual.  It’ll mean different newborn parenting, different training, different discipline for each child.  Because my kids are more important than being able to be a perfect APer. 

As Ben compared it so well….it’s the same way Christianity isn’t about going to church.  And if it is- we have a big problem.  If attachment parenting is about the methods….we have a problem.  AP should give us the freedom to abundantly meet our children’s needs.  The freedom to be attached and engaged with our children.  It’ll look different with each baby/child.  I love this line from the above mentioned article: “Attachment parenting grows up. And that doesn't mean nursing while standing on a stool. It means that mother and child grow together. It means that when it's not so simple anymore and all their needs can't be met by stopping to nurse, we still listen. And listen. And listen. We watch over three hundred dances because somewhere in there, our teenager is in three of them and she cares about the other 297.”

The thing is, my babies and I and Ben are very attached to and in tune with each other.  As Vivi’s grown older and more exploratory, I’m still the home base she comes to when the world’s just too much for her.  We love and understand each other.  Ben plays a key role in all our lives.  And while it is, in large part, attachment parenting and its tools that’s brought us here, the fact we love, understand and are attached to each other is what counts.  It’s who I am and how I’m defined….much as I love babywearing and all the other works.