Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Am I an Attachment Parent or just a Slack-Ass?

At the tender age of 17 I learnt that I was going to be a (single) parent. I quickly went about reading everything I could on pregnancy, labor and birth. Just as quickly, I decided that I would have everything but an epidural (I’m just not cool with anything being injected into my spine) when my little bundle of joy decided to come into the world. Despite my Mothers reassurance that she had gone through “Natural Labor” 3 times with no problems, the idea of giving birth without mass amounts of pain killers seemed far from ‘Natural” to me.

In the books I read breastfeeding was mentioned many times, as was bottle-feeding. I decided to give it a go but didn’t have my heart set on it the way so many others have. Again, my Mother advocated for the better choice. Trying to appeal to my teenage vanity, she assured me that I would lose the baby weight faster if I breastfed. I took it under advisement.

My dear friend and flat-mate at the time, Amanda, bought me a baby book at the local used bookstore. This was my first introduction to the idea of “Attachment parenting” I read through it thinking to myself “Seriously? What idiot wouldn’t pick up their baby when it cried? Or feed it when it was hungry?”

I went into labor two weeks early at my best friends house. She was so excited. I was calmly petrified. She drove me to hospital, where I was swept up to the delivery suite on oxygen, as the baby seemed to be in distress. Luckily, this resolved itself quickly and I was allowed to continue on with my labor for the most part unfettered.
I had 10, yes, 10 friends and family members with me through my labor. My parents, brothers (One of whom was wearing every piece of clothing he owned due to a psychotic breakdown), the chosen godparents, the baby’s father, plus a few mates who decided to come along for the show. During my 37 hours of labor I was asked repeatedly if I would like some pain relief (mostly by a friend of mine) and every time I found myself refusing. Not out of concern about what the drugs would do to me or the baby, but more because I knew they would make me throw up, and on top of being in pain and really uncomfortable and sick (I had the flu when I went into labor), I didn’t want to be nauseas as well.

After 36 and a half hours of labor they told me they would break my waters for me, as I was not progressing. They had asked me to do this earlier and I had put them off. Not because I wanted my labor to proceed without intervention, but because I had read the contractions would get even more painful if your waters were broken manually. Eventually I agreed and requested some Gas.

I had one puff before the combination threw me instantly into transition. I leapt up off the bed (managing to elbow Amanda in the stomach as I did so), turned in a panicked little circle on the spot and promptly dropped to all fours in front of the sink. My son was born 40 minutes (and a lot of swearing) later. 7 lbs 14 ounces.

I stayed in hospital with him for 6 days. He was healthy, we just had a host of little problems. He was jaundiced. Not enough for treatment but enough for them to be wary. He had thrush in his mouth (so I had thrush on my nipples). We were both having trouble getting the whole breastfeeding thing sorted, and he wouldn’t settle well (which was the nurses way of saying he wouldn’t sleep without me holding him).

Despite being told by a friend that I should because it was ‘cleaner’, I didn’t get him circumcised. Not because I had done any research into it whatsoever, but because to me the idea of paying someone to carve bits off my newborn seemed a tad strange.

One night I was up rocking him, on the verge of tears out of pure exhaustion, and a midwife came in and told me “Honey, if he’s not settling, pop the sides of your bed up, pad them down with pillows and go to sleep with him in there. You both need the rest”. I took her advice and after an hour of blissful co-sleeping the shifts changed and another midwife came in to check on me. She hurried across the room and scooped my little boy off my chest and into his bassinet. We both woke up, he protesting louder than I. “You must never sleep with your baby in bed with you!” She declared, “It’s very dangerous!”

And so I was set back in my journey as a new parent learning what worked best for My baby and Me. I went back to sitting up all night, rocking him to keep him asleep.

We were finally released and went home to my mothers as I had moved back to her house during the last few months of my pregnancy. I was quite surprised at how supportive the majority of my friends and family were of breastfeeding. I thought at least my brothers would be weird about it but no, they would happily sing-song that it was ‘Boob-Time’ when the baby started crying. My friend, Graham, had come over from Melbourne to help out in the weeks after the birth. He had taken to hovering over my son as he fed, watching the transaction with amazement. I thought this was funny, my son, however, watched him suspiciously.

One of my mother’s friends was a midwife and she came to see the baby and me soon after we came home as we were still having trouble feeding.

“Don’t worry about not getting it straightaway.” She told me kindly “Breastfeeding is a new skill you’re both learning. You’re meant to be exposed to it from the moment you’re born. You’re meant to watch your mother, aunts and sisters breastfeed but in our society it’s all secreted away. So don’t feel bad.”

Soon after I began to relax. The words of one midwife were erased, to be replaced by another. When my son awoke in the night for a feed, I would tuck him in next to me on the breast and go back to sleep. Not because I knew that co-sleeping actually encouraged young babies to continue breathing during the night, or that it was fabulous for mother-child bonding, but because it was a lot easier than sitting up to feed him than re-settling him in his crib. I was soon wondering why everyone had warned me about ‘Night Feeds’. It all seemed like an urban baby myth to me.

There were, of course, times when my baby would just cry and cry and cry. My best friend would sit with me and try to problem solve. Inevitably, she always came back to the idea that I should give him a bottle. “He’s hungry. Feed him.” She’d say, looking at me reproachfully. But stubbornly, and it was stubbornness, I would refuse. “I breastfeed.” I’d retort “EXCLUSIVLY”.

I’d watch other mothers at Young Mums group preparing bottles for their baby’s. The idea seemed silly to me. Not because I was a major ‘Lactivist’ at the time, but because breastfeeding was SO much easier. True, it had taken my son and I awhile to learn the ropes, but by the time he was 3 weeks old we’d gotten into a nice rhythm with each other. I’d listen to them complain about how tired they were and wonder to myself, Why? The thought of waking up at night to prepare and heat a bottle was ludicrous to me when I would awake, attach and go back to sleep. How simple was that?

The other mums would talk about ‘Controlled Crying’ and how that was working for them. Again, I couldn’t wrap my head around it. Letting your baby scream it’s lungs out when you were perfectly capable of attending to them seemed wrong. My son screamed every time I put him down and to me, it seemed the much easier option to just carry him with me everywhere. Not because I had read about all the benefits of ‘Baby wearing’ but because that was what seemed to make him happy and making him happy seemed a lot easier than listening to him cry. I didn’t have a sling when he was a baby, so I literally carried him everywhere with me. I learnt very quickly how to do everything I needed to do with one hand. I also developed very well muscled arms.

My friends at the time told me that I shouldn’t hold him all the time. I was making him ‘Co-Dependent’, a ‘Rod for my own back’, a real ’Mamas Boy’. I ignored them all, not because I knew that allowing your child to be as close to you as they need for as long as they need actually promotes independence and security, but because it was what worked for Me and My baby and I didn’t see them coming up with any better alternatives.

I had several friends who had had babies around the same time as me. We all breastfed. But once we hit the six-month mark, one by one they began weaning their babies off. In the end, it was just me and my son who continued on past one year and then past two.

I have breastfed pretty much everywhere. At supermarkets, restaurants, parks, cinemas, in Target, Big W and K-Mart, in taxis, planes and even in a courtroom on one occasion. Whenever my son was hungry, I would feed him. I have been asked once to cover myself up. I was with a friend who was also breastfeeding at the time. We pointedly ignored the store assistant who approached us and both switched our baby to the other breast. I have also been called ‘Brave’ and ‘Beautiful’ by perfect strangers who noticed me breastfeeding.

I breastfed and Co-slept with my son for 2+ years. Not because I had heard about the World Health Organizations recommendations but because my son had incredible difficulty surrounding sleep and breastfeeding was the quickest, easiest way to get him to go to sleep and Co-sleeping was the easiest way to get him to sleep through the night.

When my son was 2 he was diagnosed with Obstructive Sleep Apnea. This is a condition that caused him to stop breathing in his sleep for 30 second periods. His Pulmonary specialist assured me that he would have had the condition since birth and that, in his opinion, it is one of the causes of ‘SIDS’.

I am convinced that Co-sleeping saved my sons life.

So there you have it. It would be easy for me to say that I was a devoted Attachment Parent because I knew how beneficial breastfeeding, co-sleeping and baby wearing were for my child right from the start. But in reality, I’m just a Slack-Ass Parent who took the easier route whilst caring for my child every time. And if you’re like me, I’d like to congratulate you for being a Slack-Ass too!

About the Author:  I'm a pretty placid kinda person. I stay home with my kids most days, quite happy to have my biggest adventure be going to the park. I was a single mum with my son but am now part of a baby making team, it's a whole other ball game!

Check her blog out here:


Becks said...

Awesome post :)

Jasmine said...

That was a fabulous post! I think if more people were able to tune out all of the "you are supposed to...with your baby" static that bombards us daily, there would be a lot more unintentional attachment parents b/c all of these things just make sense!

Anonymous said...

I love it!
I too have told people that I choose to do all the attachment parenting stuff cause it was easier and I was too lazy to do it any other way. lol!


Confessions of a Girl said...

I absolutely LOVE this post!! I am also an unintentional "Attachment Parent", more so with my Daughter than my son (work and school made it harder). But this is what i do too, and people try to say the exact same things to me!

~Happily Breastfeeding my 14 month old daughter and partial Co-sleeper!

Abby said...

I could have written a lot of this myself, as a "lazy" 17 yo mom. Once I found co-sleeping, I never went back!

Michelle said...

Wow, I felt the same way when I became a mom at 18! I didn't even hear the term "attachment parenting" until my baby was 6 weeks old. I thought, "Hey, that's what we do!" when I heard it described.

I really don't understand why anyone would parent differently. It's kinder, instinctive, and easier!

Tiny Footprints said...

That was great... and for the record I am also a slack-ass parent... I have found that attachment parenting makes my life a whole ton easier... and that works for me. I LOVE LOVE LOVE that it also is a really great way to parent and that it does wonders for my girls too!

rosiewiklund said...

I loved this post.

Rebekah C said...

Fabulous post!

Shana.from.Canada said...

Wonderful post! Common sense and listening to your mothering instincts: sounds great to me! :)

Stitch Sista said...

Awesome! I am absolutely of the slack ass parent variety.

There's was no way I was going to be making bottles and getting up in the night if I didn't have to!

Leslie said...

What a beautiful post. Thank you for sharing your story. I too am an accidental attachment parent. I am thankful for having the balls to follow my baby's cues every day. What an amazing, loving, secure, gentle 5 year old spirit she is today.

newincs said...

One of the mother's above posted that she didn't know until her baby was 6 weeks old that she was doing attachment parenting. Ummm, I have six kids and I just found out LOL! I have never looking into what what we were doing was actually called. I do admit that we have done things that just seemed to make sense and be easier!
I am VERY relieved to see that I am not the only mother who wakes up, attaches the baby to the breast and went back to sleep! I have been bashed for this on so many occasions! To see that I am not the only one is comforting! :)
Thank you for this post! I finally have a name for what I do! :)
:) Thank you so very very very much! :)

Anonymous said...

Love this!! I too am a slack-ass mom :)

Anonymous said...

Reading this filled me with both admiration and sadness. My son is now over 7 months old and I very much felt that attachment parenting was what came naturally to me but I'm afraid I felt very unsupported in this (to the point of being made to feel like a 'bad' or 'weak' mother), so I felt pressured to drop a lot of it. I think I could've been stronger if I didn't have so much joint and back pain, which made co-sleeping and baby-wearing very difficult for me even though I loved it. I applaud anyone who has to courage and conviction to parent in the way they feel is right and natural to them.

Carrie said...

I am a firm believer in doing what you think is best for you and your baby. Do the research, learn what you can, and then do what feels right. That's why women have the mommy instinct. We know when something is or isn't right. We need to stop listening to other peoples opinions!

I love this post. Thanks for posting it. I loved the part about the woman saying that you breastfeeding in public was beautiful. We all need to be more encouraging to other moms.

Carrie said...

I am a firm believer in doing what you think is best for you and your baby. Do the research, learn what you can, and then do what feels right. That's why women have the mommy instinct. We know when something is or isn't right. We need to stop listening to other peoples opinions!

I love this post. Thanks for posting it. I loved the part about the woman saying that you breastfeeding in public was beautiful. We all need to be more encouraging to other moms.

Amelia said...

Awesome post! I had heard of attachment parenting, but wasn't too sure what it was when my daughter was born. I too thought it was the obvious thing to breastfeed, carry your baby, not let her cry alone, etc. A well meaning friend gave me a sleep training book....the techniques sounded like child abuse or neglect to me. My reason when someone asked me why I was breastfeeding? I'm too damn lazy to go upstairs in the night and make a bottle. Why I cosleep? Again, too lazy to get out of my cozy warm bed and pick her up, then put her back in her own bed, and she woke up way more often.

The best (worst) thing a heard recently from a friend regarding her 3 week old son "I can't carry him all the time. I don't want to baby him" WTF! He is a baby!!! I have since given her The Baby Book be Dr. Sears.

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