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Monday, July 31, 2006

Muy malo mami

My mother-in-law has told me on many an occasion that Motherhood's middle name is Guilt.

In the past 18 months, I have struggled with maternal guilt about many things - some big, some small. And it seems that each time I come to a place of peace about the reality of who I am as a mother and manage to chase the guilt monster back out the front door, it sneaks back in through a window I didn't know was left open. . .

In Dacey's early months, I was a wreck over the amount of sleep she was getting - or more accurately NOT getting - each day. Her naps were only 30-45 minutes and I was just sure the lack of napping would eventually lead to lack of learning and she would someday figure out that all of her intellectual struggles found their roots in the fact that her mother couldn't get her to nap enough as an infant. When she turned 6 months old, her naptimes finally evened out and I enjoyed a long, long time of feeling confident in her daytime sleep schedule. In fact, I had begun to relish the fact that even as a toddler, she still took two naps a day. As her peers began to drop that morning nap, I delighted in the fact that "Dacey is a child that just needs a lot of daytime sleep" (as I so blithely told a friend last Friday).

And so in the last few days, as Dacey has clearly shown me that she is ready to transition to one nap a day, I have been inundated with emotions - most of them negative. Sad but true, I have felt a real sense of loss in watching this change in my child. I would love to be able to heroically reflect on how this transition to one nap is symbolic of the bigger transition from baby to toddler, how I am realizing that she really is a big girl these days, and other sweet, loving thoughts.

But the dark truth is the loss I am grieving is not the end of babyhood, but rather the further shrinkage of my Mommy Time.

For months, my days had been ordered by what I could get done during nap time. Dacey's morning naps afforded me time to take long, peaceful showers and spend time in quiet reflection on the Word of God and in prayer. Her afternoon naps were my writing time - a can of diet Coke and a keyboard provided sweet respite from the rest of the day. I loved naptime - not because I don't love spending time with D, but because I treasure spending time with myself.

And so this transition to one nap has brought about a real sense of loss and sadness for me. And for that I feel tremendously guilty. I know that ideally, I would be excited that more awake time for Dace means more interaction, more learning opportunities, more memories to be made. But the reality is that I am really struggling with having to create a new normal in light the light of our new schedule.

I know I will adjust. I know I will find ways to compensate. And in fact, in a few weeks I will look back on this post and shudder at my selfishness. But for now I just needed to confess my guilt . . .

Saturday, July 29, 2006

"A breast is a breast . . ."

There's nothing terribly profound about that statement. A breast is a breast. A nose is a nose. An ear is an ear. It sounds sort of like playing "Let's learn our anatomy" with Dace. And yet I am terribly troubled by that statement because of the words that followed it in a recent article Lactivists: Where is it OK to breastfeed? . A woman - a mother, actually - in Belton, Texas (a few short hours up the road from me, but a universe away when it comes to parenting perspectives) said of the recent Babytalk cover, "A breast is a breast -- it's a sexual thing." (She also said she shredded the magazine cover so her 13 year old son wouldn't see it . . .)

So a breast is a breast -- it's a sexual thing. Ironically, this issue of Babytalk (which sits, as I write, on my dining room table - unshredded) discusses some of the reasons why American women don't breastfeed, or don't breastfeed for the entire twelve months recommened by the American Academy of Pediatrics. The article - tagged as a Babytalk EXCLUSIVE! - summarizes the reasons that most moms are pretty much already aware of: nursing problems, time commitment, too much of a hassle when going back to work. Oh yeah, and negative public attitude. Huh - kind of like Belton Mom's proclamation that a breast is a "sexual thing."

I think Belton Mom's statement (along with other reader comments about the cover shot like "gross" and "inappropriate") tells much more about the dismal rates of long-term breastfeeding success in America than anything the Babytalk article was willing to say. In countries around the world, breastfeeding is not something to be hidden; women are not hassled or cajoled or dismissed to bathrooms to feed their babes. Countries where women have the highest success rate for both initiating and continuing breastfeeding are countries where the culture understands that breasts are not merely "sexual things".

Later, in the article Babytalk's editor references a "Puritanical streak" in which there is a "squeamishness about seeing a body part." Clearly, Babytalk's fearless editor has not perused a magazine stand lately where she would see lots, lots more boobie exposed on the covers of Maxim and Cosmopolitan than she would have dared to reveal on her magazine's cover. Perhaps Ms. Editor also doesn't watch TV, or surely she would see ads for Victoria's Secret that dare to defy America's "squeamish" attitudes about breasts by showing pretty much everything but nipples hanging out of lacy lingerie.

The last line of this article really irked me, too. A mom from Montana stated that breastfeeding is a moment that should "just stay between a mother and her child." Now, I am all about celebrating the beauty that is breastfeeding. It has been and continues to be a very magical, mystical, wonderful part of mothering my child. And yet it also serves the very practical purpose of FEEDING HER. And that was particularly the case when she was an infant and relied soley on my breasts for food. Montana Mom's statement that these moments should be kept private is ridiculous! Well, unless we are going to ask bottle feeding moms to also keep the moments they spend providing nourishment for their babies private as well.

A like-minded mama friend of mine recently made a statement that it's going to take time - maybe another generation or two - before American culture isn't so freaked out about seeing a mother nursing her babe. I know I personally didn't see a lot of breastfeeding going on in public when I was growing up. Our parents certainly didn't. I think the BEST thing we can do in this generation is to allow our children to grow up knowing that breastfeeding is a wonderful, natural, practical experience, that breasts are indeed more than sexual things, that a nursing mother is not deriving any sexual pleasure from the act of breastfeeding, and that there is nothing to feel embarrassed about when a mom chooses to feed her child this way.
I don't know. I'd like to think so. We'll see.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Well, so here's one thing . . .

Just went and checked the mail and was delighted to find my order from Cottonbabies! Woo hoo! We have been working our way back to using cloth diapers at night . . . Dacey is an amazingly heavy wetter, so we have had to use disposables at night for several months now. But finally the massive amounts of night pee seem to be tapering off and so I have turned to the most truly reliable cloth diaper I have come across . . . Cotton Babies bumGenius! diapers. I love these diapers so much because they are so trim, so bullet-proof, and so easy to use. I ordered two more and got colors this time - one Grasshopper and one Butternut. The Butternut is not nearly as yellow in real life. It really is the color of butternut squash - sort of an orangey yellow. Anyway, few things bring such a thrill to my soul as getting brand new diapers in the mail. I had to share my excitement!

This is just a post to say

I can't think of anything to say today. Dacey was up a LOT last night with teething. Bleh. So I am all brain-dead and bleary-eyed. I need coffee and lots of it. Maybe I will think of something profound to share after some caffeine intervention, but if not, you know why. *yawn*

Thursday, July 27, 2006

So, I have a confession to make . . .

Dacey turns 18 months tomorrow. How that is even possible is beyond me. But anyway, my confession is that today I went to my very first ever meeting of La Leche League . What on earth would posess me, you might ask, to go to an LLL meeting when I have already been breastfeeding for 18 months? Well, as much as I love, love, love my online community of mamas in varying degrees of crunchy-hood, I find myself yearning to hang with some real-life, reach out and touchable like-minded mamas. And boy did I find some today!

There were seven mamas there total, including the LLL leader. The leader is a cute, smart woman with a cute, smart name (Megan - hee hee). Of the seven, three were pregnant - very pregnant, like due any day now pregnant, and the other mamas had babes younger than Dace. So it felt kind of strange, but strange in a good way. Mostly because when I was pregnant, I would have never even dreamed I would be breastfeeding a toddler. Confession #2 for today - I used to think that breastfeeding past infancy was creepy. I felt quite sure that once teeth started to come in, it was time to get the babe off the boob. But then I HAD a babe who responded so enthusiastically to breastfeeding that, well, the creep-out factor has long since disappeared. And interestingly, the discussion topic today had to do with weaning! :) So there we were, living proof that just because your friends and neighbors all think that 12 months is the upper limit for nursing doesn't mean you HAVE to get put away (or burn) that nursing bra just yet.

I gotta tell ya, friends, these three women who were there who are pregnant are cuhhhhhhhhhhhrrrrrrrrrruuuuuunchy! They were a great reminder why I titled my blog "sorta crunchy." While I do try to incorporate natural living and parenting into our lives as much as possible, there are some areas I just can't give myself over to complete and utter crunch. Air conditioning, for example. One of the moms-to-be lives here - in sweaty south Texas - with no air conditioning. By choice. And she is great with child. Wow! I totally admire her for allegiance to natural living! But I can tell you right now that I would be loathe to spend a day with no a/c, let alone be preparing to give birth in such circumstances. And yeah, all three women are planning home births attended by the local midwife. And this is another area where I failed the test of granola-ific-ness. Confession #3 - I didn't even entertain the thought of a natural childbirth. Seriously. My suspicion that I have a tremendously low pain threshold was decidedly confirmed for me by the time I hit 4 cm of dialation and had labored for 8 hours. I formed a strong emotional bond with the man who got me my epidural. Really, I did - he was a great help and support to me through the c-section process. And so I applaud with reckless abandon the women who are able to deliver babies into this world without any medicinal relief. You should probably just know I am not one of them.

And all of this ties back into the article I posted earlier. Attachment Parenting, natural living, crunchiness . . . whatever label you want to put on parenting choices, does not (in my humble opinion) have to be a 100% sold-out lifestyle. As I discuss with you the natural parenting choices we make, I will be sure to point out the ones we have chosen not to and why. But like the article I posted reminds us, it really comes down to a state of mind. It is much more important to be authentic to who you are as a parent and as a family rather than to make parenting decisions based on that which is expected of you by your community.

Okay, one LAST thing -- I shamelessly put Dace in a sundress that I knew would show off her cute little lavender Happy Heiny in hopes of sparking some cloth diapering conversation. And it worked! One of the mamas stopped me afterwards to talk cloth! She is thinking of making the switch because it pains her to see all the disposables that go out in the trash when they so meticulously recycle most everything else. I had a hot pink Fuzzi Bunzin the diaper bag to let her touch and experience. :) So maybe a seed was planted . . . we'll see.

What is Attachment Parenting?

First of all - YAY to comments! I am so excited someone is actually reading! hee hee! Meghan - you sweet mama. I stalk your blog relentlessly so I can relive all those wonderful newborn moments vicariously through you and Xan. *sigh* Treasure those days, woman!

Okay, that's probably enough exclamation points for one day.

So yesterday I shared my thoughts on my own introduction to Attachment Parenting and why it was the best choice for myself, for my husband, and for our daughter. I know not everyone is familiar with the concepts behind Attachment Parenting, so I wanted to share this article by Diane West that I think sums up the philosophy wonderfully.

AP State of Mind

It seems to me that in a lot of AP communities, both on and offline, there is a lot of emphasis on the parenting choices that often go hand-in-hand with APing . . . things like cloth diapering, babywearing, choosing not to vaccinate or circumcize, etc. But as the article so wonderfully explains, Attachment Parenting is a state of mind that governs all parenting decisions, not just parenting practices.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

So, let's start at the beginning . . .

I have been thinking about what to share and when a lot in the past few days. I think Maria/Julie Andrews had the right idea when she sang that the beginning is a "very good place to start . . ." So let's start there.

I know I would not have chosen many of the natural parenting practices in our life if it weren't for the fact that I sort of stumbled into Attachment Parenting. I didn't choose Attachment Parenting - it chose me. I want to share on this blog some thoughts about this idea that I posted on a private mommy board I belong to. It's fairly long, but gives some perspective on how I came to find that for me and my household, we need to be AP:

September 18, 2005

Several years ago, when Kyle and I first started thinking about starting a family, his sister gave me her copy of Babywise. I read it several times because something in it seemed to make sense to me. (gasp! I know -- but keep reading!) On the surface, (and this is my opinion ONLY) Babywise appealed to the part of me that desperately wanted to do things the “right” way when it came to starting a family. My relationship with Kyle is extremely important to me, and BW made it sound like if you follow his plan, you can introduce a baby to the family without rocking the marital boat at all. PLUS, your baby will sleep through the night at 6 weeks! Or no later than 8 weeks! And, hey, what’s not to love about that? So I jumped on the BW wagon long before Dacey first danced for us on the ultrasound screen.

So, Dacey Allyse came into this world via emergency c/s at 5:43 am on Jan 28th. It was very scary at the end, and we could have lost her. Since I had no delusions of natural childbirth (I will be the first to admit I don’t do well with pain!), I wasn’t the least disappointed to have delivered through c/s. I was amazingly grateful that she was alive. So that first night, I asked everyone to leave to go get sleep -- really, I just ached to have some alone time with my daughter. By the end of the first night, I had pulled Dacey into bed with me, and already I felt guilty for breaking one of the “rules.” But I already felt powerfully attached to her. My bonding with her was instant and fierce beyond what I had dreamed possible. In those moments as she slept peacefully beside me in that hospital bed, I knew there was no way I could ever leave her alone to cry. . .

After we got home, I found I wanted to hold her all the time. I was struggling to make breastfeeding work, but thankfully my mother-in-law came for two weeks to take care of everything else so I could focus on Dacey. Sometimes she would suggest I might be holding Dace too much, and I sank deeper into guilt, because I so badly wanted to do the “right” thing and not spoil Dacey, but I was compelled to have her near me at all times! And so began the internal battles that mark so much of Dacey’s first months of life -- I desperately wanted to do the right things, but so much of what I read was “right” felt so WRONG to do!

I could go on and on about how miserable I was those first months -- constantly questioning my every decision -- should I have not rocked her to sleep? Did I let her cry too long? What’s going to happen if I keep rocking her to sleep? Why won’t she be content to stay in her bucket carrier while I grocery shop? I have her on a good feeding schedule -- WHY isn’t she sleeping through the night?? WHAT AM I DOING WRONG? Worse still, I felt I couldn't be honest with my BW-following friends. Yes, of course she sleeps in her crib at night (at 6 weeks . . . . yeah right!). Mmmm hmmmm, I let her cry to sleep if she needs to (not even for FIVE MINUTES!!). But on the inside, I was torn. I felt like a fraud and a failure everyday.

Kyle, bless his heart, felt helpless to help me. He did encourage me to let Dacey sleep with us at night. He actually preferred to have her in bed with us! I kept asking him, “what if she is still sleeping with us when she is TWO?” “I don’t care!” he told me over and over. . . . Finally, he DEMANDED I not pick up another baby book. He could see how miserable I was. I cried almost every day. I was so disappointed. Disappointed in myself for not being strong enough to let her cry. Disappointed in Dacey for not acting the way the books all but promised she would. And I was scared. Was my “indulgence” of her going to turn her into the fussy, miserable, demanding baby that BW used as the example for “what not to do”???

(One bright spot in all of this -- feeding her was never a concern. We got through the first few weeks of breastfeeding and we both were doing great. I demand fed her for the first month, but quickly found that a loosely structured schedule of feedings really did work for both of us. Nursing Dacey was the only thing I felt confident in during those first months!)

OKAY, anyway!! Kyle’s boss’s wife had given me her copy of Sears’ The Baby Book when I was pregnant. Of course, since I was into BW, I just put in on the shelf. There’s no way I was falling for that AP stuff!! I thought, I don’t know much, but I know what AP kids turn into -- spoiled brats! (Yes, that was what I really thought!)

But you know what? I finally allowed myself to read something Dr. Sears wrote in Babytalk a few months ago. It was about high-needs babies. When Kyle and I read that article, we stared at each other. He had described Dacey perfectly. My heart softened toward Dr. Sears because he knew what having a high-needs baby was about, and he offered a peaceful, compassionate alternative to parenting her.

So last night, I finally got out The Baby Book and started reading a little bit. I was actually in tears. If only, IF ONLY!! If only I had read THAT when I was pregnant. If only I had KNOWN about the benefits of baby wearing and shared sleep and that not only is it okay to follow what your heart leads you to do in parenting, it is THE RIGHT THING TO DO. I feel so stupid that the encouragement and direction I desperately needed in those early months was on my bookshelf the whole time!!

So, if you are still reading this (and bless your heart if you are!), I guess I just want to say THANK YOU to all of the AP moms on here. In reading your posts, I saw that it’s okay that Dacey isn’t totally sleeping through the night yet. It’s okay to not let her cry it out or become a self-soother yet if it breaks my heart to do so. (And, again, no judgment implied or intended to those who have found success with CIO -- it just never worked for us.) It’s okay to hold and carry her when she wants to be held and carried. She will not be a monster baby! In fact, the funny thing is, people CONSTANTLY comment on what a laid-back, alert, content baby she is!! (Of course, she wasn’t in those early months, but amazingly, she is now!)

I could still go on and on about how in reading The Baby Book, I have found parenting advice that completely echoes the approach that Kyle and I sort of stumbled into on our own. But, there isn't much support for AP practices in my circle of friends. If it weren’t for the online support and encouragement I have found here, I don’t know how I would have made it. So thank you for consistently and passionately sharing your thoughts on parenting practices on here. Your collective support of AP has made a difference in our family. I still feel bad about how miserable and ignorantly stubborn I was in those first months, but all I can say is, now I know better and will do better in the future!

So yeah, that's how Attachment Parenting found me. What I love about AP is at its core, it encourages parents to really get to know their baby so they can best meet the needs of THAT baby - the one God entrusted them both to be able to parent. And as I will share in the coming days, it's within the world of APing that I discovered so many of the natural parenting practices that have made our lives more rich (and fun!) today.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Just to see if I can . . .

Just messing around with stuff and want to see if I can post a pic . . .

Looks like I can! Presenting . . . Dacey in piggies!

I will write!

Oh wow. As you can see, one un-endearing trait that I just can't seem to shake is my stunning propensity for starting projects and leaving them shockingly unfinished. The only-one-quarter-finished scarf that taunts me from it's dusty little spot on the end table in the living room reminds me that if I can't get a scarf knit (knitted?) in the span of a month, the prospect of all-knit Christmas presents looks rather dim.

Anyway, I have been reading up on some really great blogs lately, and that has rekindled within in me a desire to really get this show on the road.

In this blog, I am hoping to be able to share some information on natural parenting practices that I have taken up in the past 18 months. Some of the NP stuff I am into include cloth diapering, babywearing, and extended breastfeeding. I hope to also share information on circumcision, vaccinations, homeschooling (and unschooling) and other topics relevant to NP.

I am hope, hope, hoping to carve out some chunks of time a couple of times a week to get a few words down here and there. Have mercy on me! I have a toddler!