My Twitter bio says:
Opinionated & outspoken. Writer of The Blessed Barrenness. Mom wannabe of 1 naturally born, non-breast fed child not of my loins! Founder of trinityheart.co.za
Of course, that is all written tongue in cheek and full of bravado, but peel away the layers and you’ll find heaps of guilt behind those words. Every one of the words used in my bio are as a direct result from my feelings of guilt because I don’t fit societies norms of what a mother is or how one becomes a mother. It doesn’t help that I’m an infertile mother parenting in a infertile world, constantly being bombarded by messages of what a “good” mother does, constantly feeding into my insecurities and my guilt. Trust me people, as a woman who has miscarried 7 pregnancies, I’m easily wounded and full of self loathing for my body and it’s inability to do what most of you take fore-granted.
I’ve written previously about why I’ll never really feel part of the mommy club and today was yet another reminder for me and it all started with feeling the sting of these words:
Attachment parenting or parenting gently is not about permissive parenting, I don’t advocate allowing your child to run riot and walk all over you. Its about showing your child that you respect them as a person. Its about teaching them to be confident and kind in the hope that they grow up to be adults who can empathize and connect with people, but most importantly it creates a strong, nurturing bond between parent and child. What’s extreme about that?
In order to understand why this statement hurt me, you need to know what attachment parenting stands for and where I stand on this style of parenting, the extracts below are from Your Parenting.
This first ‘B’ looks at two things: preparing for birth physically, practically and emotionally, and the ‘golden hour’ for bonding immediately after birth. Pregnancy is a time of preparation – preparing a nursery, getting the baby’s layette and preparing for the birth of your child.
It is also a time to prepare mentally for parenthood. The Sears’ advise that you as parents should alsoeducate yourself about birth, breastfeeding and parenting. Thinking about your childhood experiences, finding out about parenting philosophies and recommitting to your partner are all part of educating yourself to become a parent and allows you to focus fully on your child and building a bond with him or her.
At birth a cocktail of bonding hormones is released in both you and your baby, which create a physical desire to be together. So the Sears’ (and other doctors) say that the prime time for bonding is immediately after birth.
These hormones kick-start a number of physical changes, such as the warming of a mother’s chest, the ability of a newborn to crawl to the mother ’s nipple, which if allowed to naturally occur, they say, decreases infant crying, promotes bonding and ensures successful breastfeeding. The key is skin–to–skin contact on the mother ’s chest seconds after birth.
See, I couldn’t do any of that. I couldn’t fall pregnant or stay pregnant so I most certainly could not offer my most cherished child that, a bonding experience at birth.
The second basic ‘B’ of attachment parenting is breastfeeding. Not only do the Sears’ agree that breastmilk is the best food for your baby, they also emphasise the emotional bond that occurs during breastfeeding and that breastfeeding should continue well into toddlerhood, on demand.
“Feeding a child involves more than providing nutrients; it is an act of love,” they say. The hormoneprolactin, released during breastfeeding, relaxes the mother and promotes caregiving behaviours. It also creates a need for baby and mother to be physically close.
When a baby breastfeeds he can smell his mother’s scent, hear her heartbeat, feel the warmth of her body, and gaze into her eyes – promoting a comforting bond. Attachment parenting explains that you need to feed on cue, before the stage of crying; breastfeeding as a means of comfort to the baby and that breastfeeding for nutritional, immunological and emotional reasons beyond one year of age is important.
Again, I couldn’t do that either. I couldn’t bond with my baby the way most “normal” mom’s do and I couldn’t give her the supposed best source of nutrition in the process – do you see how I feel I have failed, even though these were circumstances beyond my control, I still feel like a failure.
This B promotes carrying, or ‘wearing’ your baby in a sling or pouch. In fact this ‘B’ is one of thehallmarks of attachment parenting, as Dave Taylor on his Attatchment Parenting blog writes, “it is about carrying or otherwise being with babies (especially newborns) every hour of the day. You can tell us attachment parenting types, actually, by the slings we use to tote our babies”.
Wearing your baby in a sling or pouch means you are able to meet his needs quickly before anxiety, fussiness and crying set in. The closeness achieved when wearing your baby promotessecurity and familiarity. Babies also spend more time in a quiet–alert state, which is proven to promote brain development.
Ok, I did that! I had an awesome baby wrap and I literally wore Ava for as long as she allowed me to!
As AP dad Dave Taylor, explains, “Rather than push newborns into a cot and separate room as fast as possible, we believe that newborns and babies need to be as close to their parents as possible. We believe that newborns learn healthy sleeping and breathing patterns from sleeping close to their parents at night.”
AP advocates that babies and children desire the warmth and protection of another person sleeping near them and that sharing sleep also makes night–time breastfeeding much more convenient.
For a thousand different reasons, that I still stand by today, we chose not to do this.
This final ‘B’ is really the backbone of AP. Quite simply, it is about listening to your child and learning to respond, with love and respect, to your child’s cues and not following rules and schedules.
So instead of feeding according to a schedule, AP says feed on demand, instead of letting your child ‘cry it out’ at night, give them comfort. By doing this, they say, it builds trust between parent and child. Babies learn to trust that their needs will be met, and that they have an ability to communicate. For the parent it creates a confidence in their ability.
Don’t all parents do this? We followed Ava’s lead in the early days and let her find her own routine. We did sleep train her, but despite what the nay sayers would have you believe, it did not involve cry it out.
So, two points I want to make here are:
1. Aren’t we ALL, in varying degree’s attachment parents? Is there any other way to parent? What would the opposite of attachment parenting be? Detachment parenting? Is there even such a thing? And if there is, exactly what would that be? Ignoring your baby and her needs? I don’t think any parent would do that.
2. The comment about gentle parenting, aren’t we all gentle parents? Just because I don’t follow every step of AP, am I not gentle, loving, kind to my child? And aren’t we all trying to raise confident, kind children who are able to empathize with others?
As a mother who is wracked with guilt at not being able to give her child the best or kindest or whatever you’d like to call it, by normal standards, how do you think it makes me and other mom’s like me feel? And believe me when I say this, I was not the only one hurt/offended, feeling judged by the article in question, I was just the only one brave enough to say it and then sit back at watch all the subtweet’s and messages fly back and fourth.
But the whole point of The Blessed Barrenness and other blogs like mine is to try and educate other parents, that while you may be a family in a traditional sense and come to be a family by traditional means, not all of us have followed the same path. And while I certainly don’t expect anyone to pussy foot around me, it would be nice once in a while when I do react to parenting related articles, advice and opinion negatively that those who “know” me try to remember where I’m coming from and why certain parenting subjects will always leave me feeling, left out, not normal, less of a mother, not part of the mommy club.