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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.