Friday, January 27, 2006

Being attached

When I was pregnant, I wasn't sure what my parenting style would be. I read the Sears book and the Ferber book (considered to represent the spectrum of parenting styles from Attached Parenting to Cry-It-Out.) I thought I would fall somewhere in between. I knew I would breastfeed, no matter what, and that commitment has ended up forcing me more to the left (pun intented since I'd generalize that the AP parents tend to be more liberal while the CIO parents are usually quite conservative.)

The breastfeeding has necessitated that Caroline spend time in our bed, sharing sleep, which is a tenet of Attached Parenting and something I said in the past that I wouldn't do. While still pregnant, I joined La Leche League for support and advice, and the friendships I made there have led me to join the Austin Attached Moms group. I'd say we are quite attached, in that we follow the tenets of attached parenting, though not as steadfastly as some. I have embraced this label of AP, but I know of others who shun it, even though they are more AP than I am. When I break it down, I'm probably not all that AP.

The tenets, and our approach to them, are as follows:
1. Preparation for childbirth, which normally translates to natural childbirth without medical interventions. I prepared by reading books and watching videos, but I knew I wanted an epidural, and I didn't argue when my baby's heartrate kept dropping and they prepped me for an emergency c-section. I don't think at this point that I'll attempt the ever-popular VBAC. I'll opt for a scheduled c-section. US = NOT AT ALL AP.

2. Breastfeeding: I'm doing it and will continue doing it as long as Caroline and I want. I breastfed exclusively for more than six months, and am now offering wholesome solids (but Caroline's not taking them.) I do, however, pump daily and have John give Caroline a few bottles of breastmilk per week. Die-hards would shun all bottles. US = SORT OF AP.

3. Shared Sleep: Caroline starts the night in her bed, but I bring her into our bed for feedings. For awhile, that was once or twice per night, and Caroline would go back into her crib between feedings. Now, either because Caroline is waking up more or I'm more tired or the vicious cycle those two have created, Caroline starts the night in her crib but ends up in our bed after the first feeding for the rest of the night. US = SORT OF AP

4. Emotional Responsiveness: In a nutshell, responding to your baby's needs rather than leaving her alone to cry and come to terms with not having her needs met. US = FULLY AP

5. Avoiding Frequent or Prolonged Separations: I stay home with Caroline and take her with me most places. When I can't take her, like to the dentist, John stays with her. When we've gone out for the evening, we have family members watch her. I do, however, leave her for an hour a week in the church nursery and have just started leaving her in the nursery at the Y while I work out. US = SORT OF AP

6. Positive Discipline: I sometimes think this one doesn't apply to us yet since Caroline doesn't need "disciplining." But our discipline, what we are teaching her, comes through how we treat her now. John recently reminded me of a plaque that his grandma has displayed that was John's mom's (a woman who was AP before such a thing existed!)
If a child lives with criticism,
He learns to condemn.
If a child lives with hostility,
He learns to fight.
If a child lives with ridicule,
He learns to be shy.
If a child lives with shame,
He learns to feel guilty.
If a child lives with tolerance,
He learns to be patient.
If a child lives with encouragement,
He learns confidence.
If a child lives with praise,
He learns to appreciate.
If a child lives with fairness,
He learns justice.
If a child lives with security,
He learns faith.
If a child lives with approval,
He learns to like himself.
If a child lives with acceptance and friendship,
He learns to find love in the world.
(Dorothy Law Nolte)

US = VERY AP (I sure hope!)

7. Babywearing: I do often wear Caroline in a sling carrier. I think babywearing, literally having your baby attached to you, is what many see as the epitomy of attached parenting. That is just not so. All babies need time to explore their worlds. AP parents would avoid leaving baby in a swing all day, but I certainly used the swing or exersaucer when I needed a shower or a meal. When Caroline was tiny and less involved in the world around her, I could get her to sleep, when all else failed, by wearing her. Now, I wear her more for my convenience and for the sake of my back (she's heavy!) US = PRETTY AP

8. Balance in your life: It's so easy to loose balance once you have a baby in your home. I used to think that I wouldn't let a baby change my life. That's crazy! Of course a baby is going to change my life. If it didn't, I wouldn't be much of a parent. But balance is important. We're working diligently to keep balanced. John has continued with his karate training. I still read and enjoy my bubble baths. We've been able to get out alone together a few times. US = FULLY AP

So, all in all, we're certainly on the AP side of the spectrum. The idea behind this "attachment" is that dependence or attached leads to independence and security. I have learned not to judge other parents because everyone is different and everyone's family dynamic is different. John and I had many fun years as a couple before we became a family. For us, this is what's right.