Throughout my pregnancy I have been amazed by one thing...how much parenting an infant has changed in the last eight years or so. When my youngest daughter was born (as well as my children before her), what was traditional and what all the experts said was different. Things like what is safe to put in the crib, whether or not circumcision is a violation of a male's control over his own body, whether to vaccinate or not, and how long a car seat should be rear facing.
So was what was considered "out there" parenting. What was once "out there" has a lot more acceptance now. And I want to try some of it. I'm sure it was there somewhere when I had my other kids, but maybe I wasn't aware of it because the internet didn't exist yet.
I also was younger and less secure about myself. I was concerned about how my image appeared to others i.e. was I parenting the "right" way. And I was married to a very traditional man who quite honestly wasn't all that into what I would call a bohemian, hippie lifestyle.
I loved my late husband dearly, but we were as opposite as opposite could be. I always felt myself to be a free spirit who felt closer to God in a forest than I did in a church. Living green wasn't even a household term yet but I wanted to start recycling. I was curious about being a vegetarian. But about the closest I came to "out there" parenting was considering exclusively breastfeeding and using cloth diapers. Yes, I said considering. I was too chicken shit to do it.
Why do I call breastfeeding and cloth diapers "out there?" Because in my circle of friends, bottle feeding and disposable diapers were the norm. While I felt I was more free spirited and hippie than my friends, I still wasn't brave enough to try a different style of parenting that wasn't mainstream.
Although I had a family member who was. My sister-in-law left me in awe. She used cloth diapers and exclusively breast fed. You could be sitting right in front of her having a conversation and she would start to breastfeed her baby without you noticing. The one time I did notice, she laughed and said "Actually I've been breastfeeding for about 15 minutes now."
I don't know if she considers how she parents to be attachment parenting, but in an indirect way I have her to thank for sparking my interest in this style of parenting. And why do I finally have the guts to explore these different parenting techniques?
Well, I'm already a single mother of four who is pregnant with a fifth child. The last 36 weeks has taught me to get over the fact that people are judgmental. Oh sure they are nice and congratulate me on the baby but when they ask if I've remarried and I say no, I see the look on their faces. I can see the thought bubble above their head that says, "How on earth does a 37 year old single woman accidently get pregnant? That's what stupid teenagers do." I used to admit that I made a dumb mistake. God knows I didn't get pregnant on purpose. But now I just look at it as an expression of my hippie feminist nature and I THANK GOD every day for this opportunity to have another child.
It's also an opportunity to do the things with this baby that I didn't do with my other children. I didn't breastfeed my other four. I didn't even attempt it. I let my kids "cry it out" so they would learn to sleep through the night. I kept them in diapers far too long. I let them get attached to pacifiers. I let a swing loll them to sleep instead of me rocking them to sleep. I didn't hold them as much as I wanted for fear of spoiling them.
I was exactly the kind of parent that Mayim Bialik writes about in her book Beyond the Sling. In fact the first book I bought on baby care during this pregnancy was Secrets of the Baby Whisperer which is partly about helping your baby have a schedule. My initial goal about becoming a parent again was how I can I most efficiently take care of my baby. I'm a single mother with other kids so what would be the easiest to do? I didn't always ask myself what would be the best to do.
The section in Mayim Bialik's book about priorities really woke me up. This past week I have been more concerned about getting my "personal projects" done in this last month of pregnancy than resting, than for preparing for childbirth (when I plan to go completely natural), and deciding how I'm going to parent this new baby. Is getting the novels read in my TBR pile really more important than learning breathing techniques for labor? Is using these last weeks to work on scrapbooking projects more important than researching how to breastfeed? Up until recently I had decided that I would just parent my baby like I did the others. My kids turned out just fine, right?
Yes they are fine, but would my 11 year old get as sick as often as he does if I had breastfed him and given him that immune system boost? If I was brave enough to take away the pacifier (heck not use one at all), would my daughter have learned to better self sooth? Did making my oldest "cry it out" at 6 months old lead to his need to constantly be around people later in life? Was it really healthy to let my 4 week old daughter sleep 5 hours straight every night?
And most of all, did I miss out on connecting with my babies and properly nurturing them because I did what was easiest not what was best?
Things I know I will do this time:
1. I'm going to have as natural a birth as I can. For the past several months I have been telling people that I was going to "try to go natural." Like Yoda, Mayim Bialik says "Do or do not. There is no try." If you go into childbirth with the mindset that you'll do your best to go without drugs but if it gets too bad you'll get an epidural, you will most likely give in and get the drugs.
4. I am going to do baby wearing. It's much safer than putting your car seat on top of a grocery cart (and I'll still have somewhere to put my purse and diaper bag). I always hated carrying the heavy car seat/carriers around so I won't have to do that. And I love the idea that my baby can be nestled up against my chest while I'm doing laundry or other chores! I can hold her and be hands free? Why didn't I do this with my other four kids!?
5. I will research the pros and cons regarding cloth diapers vs. disposable diapers. I'm not quite brave enough to try Mayim Bialik's method of no diapers. I think the idea that my baby could go anywhere in the house is just gross. However the idea that a baby doesn't want to go in his diaper and then sit in his own poop and pee makes sense to me. Also because I always had such a hard time potty training my kids, I am going to research what elimination communication (EC) has to say about learning your babies signals when they have the need to go to the bathroom. Even if it helps me keep my baby drier and more comfortable, it would be worth it.
6. I'm going to use baby signs with Skylar. I think if she could sign, it would make communication so much easier.
And that's where I'm at so far. I still haven't finished reading all of Beyond the Sling and I plan on researching attachment parenting techniques for my older children. I also have a book that is considered a far out style of parenting but has generated a lot of buzz called Free Range Kids. I still plan on reading The Baby Whisperer books too.
Of course, I will blog about it all. When I started this blog, it was supposed to be about being a widow, the craziness of dating while being a parent, and I figured the four I had would be the only ones I'd be blogging about. It's still about those things, but having another baby has really taken my life and this blog in a direction I had never expected. I'm very excited to be able to write about my parenting journey. It doesn't even matter if no one else reads it.