It’s pretty easy to feel like the only natural mama sometimes- or at least, one of the very few. To feel like you’re fighting an endless battle because you choose to wear your baby or nurse on demand or simply meet their needs. To feel like the pool of those to share with is overwhelmingly huge- not to mention generally on the hostile side.
But I had a perspective check this week that made me think- maybe we really are a growing movement- bigger than we realize. My mom’s been natural parenting for the past 2 decades. She’s dealt with a lot of harassment and unwelcome comments- from doctors, strangers, friends, and so forth. And, she’s dealt with a complete lack of information being available to her, especially in the first decade or so. An over-the-shoulder sling was about the only natural baby carrier available…and she wore it constantly till she discovered the world of maya wraps in 2003. When she had to have me via c-section due to my breech position, she was told she couldn’t breastfeed me- that it just wasn’t possible to breastfeed flat on your back. Lucky for me, Mom had found La Leche League’s book on breastfeeding while pregnant, and hence was fully aware of her ability to nurse in any position. Not so lucky for her, she received zero personal help or encouragement from the medical staff, friends, or family, which meant cracked and bleeding nipples, and a rough start. But somewhere inside her, she knew what was best- and so, she persevered. She’s parented during some of the heights of Ezzoism…with doctors and others who insist that it’s normal for a baby to cry, that you’ll spoil a baby by holding them, and so on.
This week, she’s been researching to invest in a new sling, and discovering the wealth of websites out there dedicated to babywearing and other forms of natural parenting. Companies that support and promote one another. People that are more concerned about spreading the babywearing love than making a buck. She was really excited, and mentioned to me how exciting it is that this is such a huge thing- there’s so many people who do it- there’s so much information for anyone who wants it- there’s support groups all across America and in other countries. My first thought was “Uh…we’ve got a long ways to go….” And then I realized- over the course of 2 decades, Mom’s seen us come a long ways- probably longer than I realize. So I take energy in her enthusiasm, excitement in the idea that this exists in stronger numbers than I thought- or at least, that it is growing.
Doctors and hospitals, overall, promote breastfeeding now. Most have lactation consultants available for any mom who has problems or questions. Some hospitals are even waking up to the research promoting kangaroo care for preemie babies, and allowing moms to spend hours holding their preemie baby skin to skin. A friend’s nurse was recently telling her that if a baby under 12 months is crying it’s for a reason and needs to be taken care of immediately. And until I meet the next rigid and unnatural doctor, I feel a glimmer of hope.
It’s not easy to see- because when I go shopping, all I see are plastic carseats attached to the carts. When I’m at a gathering, I see and hear babies crying unattended. When I visit homes, I see every latest contraption. When I talk to people, they tell me about how vital this piece of equipment or that is, to the survival of motherhood. And if I ever saw someone else wearing their baby in the store- it would completely merit striking a friendship on the spot. I still know very few people who’d fit the “natural parent” profile…and very, very few who share my same ideals to the same extent. We’re still the minority….but, a larger minority than we were a decade ago.
Because, hey- I do know people who parent naturally. I even know a group of babywearing moms who get together just to play with each other’s “toys”. Ladies that breastfeed while chasing a toddler and helping someone else try a carrier, like a totally natural part of life. I know people in scattered parts of the country who are committed to parenting their children naturally. And even if I don’t know very many natural locals, I know people who are receptive….people who are curious…people who feel there might be a better way…people who dip their toes in…
And all that is far more than my mom ever had. So maybe in a couple decades- when my daughter’s a mother- we’ll see as much change as my mom has. And even if there’s a long ways to go yet, maybe we older moms will be able to smile and say, “Oh, but we’ve come such a very, very long ways.” Maybe by then, the medical community and people of America will be listening to the current research in strong numbers. Maybe it won’t be such a rare thing to meet someone else wearing their baby in Walmart. Just maybe…we won’t be the minority.