Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Oh Baby! Attachment Parenting

Lola is eight. This means I'm circling round again with Ever, the long way, back to the primal basics of mothering, back to birth, breast, body- the care of a baby. My Aunt Elizabeth was a big granola mommy, taking the teenage me to sloppy health food stores downtown and changing her cloth diapered babies on my lap in the car. My red headed cousin Simon was my first experience with cloth diapers, and somehow it seemed as natural as hanging clothes on my Grandma's line in the Mississippi backyard. I watched Elizabeth nurse her babies past the point of true babyhood, sleep with their sweaty sweet bodies next to hers at night, carry them in slings against her abdomen. I was a teenager. It was a shrug. OK- this is what mothering is. I just took on good faith.

Elizabeth had her second son, Aaron ( who changed Aaron, officially his middle name, to David, officially his first name, as a pre-teen ) at home in her small apartment, with Simon in the next room. My sister Lura was there. I asked her how it was. She shrugged. Brutal, her reply. OK- this is what birthing is. You lay down on your bed and scream and push a baby out. I just took it on good faith.

And then I was pregnant at nineteen, before the world had a chance to chip away at all that. I had Dakota Wolf in a hospital, what my insurance provided, and it was not what I wanted ( induced with Pitocin but refused drugs ( OUCH ) episiotomy and then a plunger on Dakota's head leaving two devil lumps for weeks afterward ), until the moment he was born when it was more than I had dreamed I deserved. I nursed him and partial clothed his tiny butt and slept with his latched mouth on my breast. I carried him and slung him and came close to eating him up, my devotion and my heart having until that time, no place to hone it's skills. Dakota came along and I had some kind of hippie love orgasm avalanche...love! I loved EVERYONE! I loved this world! Most of all, I loved my baby boy. I was gobsmacked head over heels in love, and the nursing and sleeping and all of it seemed again as natural as breathing and as a clear representation of love in action as I knew to do. I had no idea there was a name for it.
Attachment Parenting. I stumbled across Mothering online, and months later became part of the newly formed APU= Attachment Parenting Utopia, we called it. It was my first experience bonding with other mothers, and my first understanding that what I was doing was considered weird by some, even offensively wrong. I was living with my mom in suburbia, and shortly after venturing out into the suburban world with my baby and meeting other mothers, I realized how lucky I was to have found this sanctuary, a place where women didn't look at me aghast when I talked about the way I lived with my baby. APU became my most essential and trusted resource for information outside of my beloved books and my mother. I brought every question there, and soon was bringing my heart and soul too. A hundred or so of us bonded on a level I would have thought impossible through pixel. I had women lawyers at my fingertips to discuss the fact that I partially vaccinated, expert nutritionist moms to discuss Dakota's allergies, new moms, old moms, conservative and decidedly NOT so moms- moms of all kinds who remain to this day the most intelligent, passionate and fiercely devoted group of women I had ever had the privilege to love and be loved by. The picture I posted here is of one of those women.

We went through life and death together. For nine months one of us carried her baby boy, and I will never forget the post announcing that he had been born still, the day before. Just like I will never forget the post announcing that one of our mothers, an incredibly gentle, sweet souled mother of five, had lost her oldest son Jordan as he slept. Or when Ashley, the newest APU baby, was diagnosed with leukemia after her Momma posted a picture of the weird lump on her head wondering what she should do. I will never forget the threads that went on for pages of laughter. The Christmas exchanges! I will never forget the outpouring of love and card and gift every time one of us was in pain. I will never forget the other babies born during the same year as Lola, and still see updates on many on Facebook. One of the APU women came down from LA and was the doula at Lola's birth in the Best Start Birthing Center here in downtown San Diego.

The arguments, the passions running high, the daily updates.. all with the connective thread of Attachment Parenting.
I learned that in general, AP Parenting consists of Dr. Sears list: co-sleeping, gentle discipline, nursing and baby wearing. Other behaviors regularly ran with these, like organic eating and serious enviromental awareness and action, but aren't part of the 'definition'. I also learned how limiting a definition is, because in a pack of women this size there were many ways of representing for AP. So when Ever's born, I will be again long term nursing, co-sleeping, baby carrying, partial vaccinating, the whole shebang.

Feeling her miniature muscles moving and testing against my body as she is held against my chest while I walk, wash dishes, talk. Watching her watch me as she nurses. The trust built between someone helpless and tiny as you bury your needs and meet theirs.
Her tiny tiny face blinking up at Mr. Curry and I between our bodies in the deep pouring darkness of midnight, when she wakes to nurse. Mr. Curry half waking, smiling at me, at Ever, kissing her face, rolling over to fall back asleep. This, to me, is intimacy. This is falling in love, making a family.
I can't wait. It's as natural as breathing.
Still Life With Coffee said...

I LOVE LOVE LOVE this post more than I can even tell you. xoxoxo

maura said...

Oh Maggie May that made my heart lurch. We have so much history. I am so thrilled for you that you are embarking on this journey. And maybe, just maybe, you'll make your way back to us again.


Unknown said...

so much love to you maggie may. I love remembering all of those times and others. you too touched our lives in such a wonderful way.


* said...

Yes, yes and yes.

We home birthed our first, nursed on demand, and carried her in a sling from day one. We didn't know it had a name, either, until a doula friend told us. "AP." Oh, OK, we thought, that's us, too, then.

And then we did it with our twins, and then with our last child, too.

Yes, there are as many different kinds of AP as there are sands in the sea. But the common threads between us are like a sisterhood, a bond. It's what got me through my parenting years. It's what has gotten me to now.

Blessings to you & your upcoming birth experience, Ever, and the newness again.

Simply Mel {Reverie} said...

This ranks up there with one of my favorite of all your posts! The depth of love is just oozing from your words...the best!

Nothing beats Attachment Parenting ~ it is the ONLY way to go in my world. When my crumb was born, I never picked up a book. Instead, I went with my heart and natural instincts. She breastfed happily until she self-weaned at 23 months, she still sleeps snuggly between me and her papa (and pug), and she is loved fiercely 24/7 and always right by my side.

I'm so thrilled for you Maggie May, and this little EVER is one lucky girl to have you as her mama!

Elizabeth said...

I can't wait for you, either. And I can't wait to hear about it from you, too. I was a big proponent of attachment parenting for all three of my babies -- even Sophie, whose life was so interfered with so young.

I love this post - love your love.

Elisabeth said...

It takes some adjusting, a new baby after several years, almost like starting all over again. My youngest is seven years younger than the one above. Having older daughters helped me with this youngest child but the one whose place was taken was not always so happy. It takes some adjusting. It might be different for Lola with two brothers ahead of her, but I suspect she too will have her moments however much she loves the new arrival. As ever a beautiful post.

Ms. Moon said...

For me, it was the blessing of being surrounded by other hippie mothers and one of the biggest influences in THAT group was the time that one of them had spent with the Maya in the then-tiny village of Tulum in the Yucatan.
We did all those things- had our babies at home, carried them on us, slept with them, nursed them whenever and wherever they wanted and yes, it was just as you describe- like breathing- and it was joy and it was love like no one had ever told me it could be.
Yes, Maggie. Yes.
All love...M

Petit fleur said...

"hippie love orgasm avalanche...love!"

That's the BEST! I can actually FEEL what you mean!

We did that with Harley too. Although, I have to say, I do have trouble with the gentle discipline when the boundaries get really pushed. I"m from a long line of yellers... All the while understanding the idiocy of it. Ah life.

Have a great week Maggie,

Kori said...

I, too, am an attachment parent-at least with the last two, as with the first two I was young and stupid. There is a huge difference even in my children from the first two to the last two, and I know that is why. I wouldn't change a second of it, and now with my daughter getting ready to deliver I hope to help her do the same. The only pregnancy and baby books I have allowed her to read ar by Dr. Sears in the hopes that it would just be natural to her as well.

redsneakz said...

My newest baby will be here, G-d willing, tomorrow morning. I can't wait to show my dear wife how lovely AP is. My first wife and I did it with our 2 kids, and they're lovely, well-adjusted and frighteningly normal kids :-)

Allison the Meep said...

You know, I hadn't really thought of it, but Attachment Parenting is what I do too. I just thought of it as what feels natural and right.

I get lots of criticism from people, usually strangers who have no investment whatsoever in my life, therefore no basis for an opinion, but they still let me know it. It goes like this:
Them:"So you have to hold her all day long?"
Me: "Yeah. She's a real mama's girl and has a hard time if she's away from me."
Them: "Well you've just got to let her cry it out."
Me: "Um, I don't want to. That seems kind of mean to do to a tiny person who isn't being manipulative.

And the same conversation happens pretty much every time someone finds out that we co-sleep, or that I plan to keep breastfeeding her until she's at least 2. "What?! Why is she in your bed? You'll roll over and kill her! She'll never learn how to sleep on her own!! GAHHHH!!!"


I'm so glad to know there are other people out there who don't find anything wrong with doing what comes naturally.

Annje said...

I love your description of your first experience of motherhood. I am so happy that you and Mr. C get to fulfill this desire.

I am not crazy about the term attachment parenting, to be honest, not because of the methods it uses, but because it seems to naturally imply that if you don't do these things because, for instance co-sleeping just doesn't work for you, or breastfeeding wasn't successful or an option, or your baby hated slings, etc, then it is presumably NON-attachment parenting... I guess I don't like how that parenting method has kind of appropriated the term "attachment" -- maybe just my own issues...

Sarcastic Bastard said...

I am so thrilled for you! Ever is a lucky baby. You and your family are so blessed.

Love you, Maggie.


Yuliya said...

Yes, yes, yes...love this! Didn't know how I wanted to mother had a name either until I picked up a book (or two) and even now I wouldn't label it, I call it intuitive parenting. As a criticism my father said "you love her too much"...ok...I can live with that.

Ellen said...

When you mentioned "Mothering" I still can remember devouring the magazine page after page back in 1981. I proclaimed after our first daughter's birth (which was not the way I thought it would be) I would only have a midwife. The world opened before me of raising a child not by Dr. Spock but by first in believing in myself and loving and wearing my child. I hate it when I see babies left in infant seats/car seats. To feel the comfort and bond between you and your child, the needs filled...that is mothering as pure as can be Maggie May...pure.
Loved your post today!

Corinne Cunningham said...

Finding your tribe in motherhood is so incredibly important. I wish I had done so when my littles where tiny :)

I'm all teary and heart warmed and excited for you as I think about the cycling, the journey you'll be embarking on all over again. It's beautiful :)

Unknown said...

I love that you are such a sweet and loving mama. I am so looking forward to wearing this new baby as much as possible. I think it will be beneficial for him and for me as well since I will have a toddler running around who will still need both of my hands frequently. I am way too scared to sleep with him in the bed but by no means see anything wrong with it if that is what the parents choose. New babies are the best thing in the entire world!! I am so excited for you!

Rebecca said...

It's so funny you're writing about attachment parenting today because I wrote about various parenting types yesterday. Love this piece.

Maggie May said...

Annje I can see where you are coming from with that. I have had friends who couldn't nurse or didn't co-sleep and still considered themselves ( as did I) attached parents, because the underlying philosophy is one of meeting the child's emotional and physical needs as much as possible- not perfectly. We had discussions on this back at APU!

Elisabeth- I did this exact same age separation with Dakota and Lola so I'm as prepared as can be- he was seven when she was born :)

Unknown said...


krista said...

it was always a struggle for me because i identified with the ideals of attachment parenting but co-sleeping didn't work (because of two reasons: bryan literally did roll onto her once without waking up and i didn't sleep AT ALL when she was in bed with me. like AT ALL.) and breastfeeding was a nightmare and only lasted 8 weeks before i dried up for a myriad of reasons.
i caught some flak for being "selfish" and "lazy" in my parenting and it made me feel so isolated and judged by the very women i saw myself in most.
so, yeah, it was a struggle.

i realized that i had to stop reading so many damn books and blogs that told me i was doing everything wrong.

you, my dear, are an inspiration and your love for your children is one of the reasons i find myself so drawn to you.

beautiful you.

Ida Mae said...

oh my..
i am sitting here with tears on my cheeks. Mothering.com was a light 2 months into my pregnancy, and I am so glad I was shown it, or I hate to think where I/we would be. That sounds dramatic, but really.. ap just rang so true and clear, and i am honesty not sure why, but I know that my son and I , my family and i are home.

Te same was true of my DDC (due date club) I have made one of my best friends to date through it, and we still all keep in touch.

I always recommend Mothering.com to my friends whether they are AP or not, you just never know, I didn't ;-)

ok sorry for being so wordy.. but this really touched me, as you usually do.

I can;t wait for Ever to be born!
~Ida Mae

TheGirl said...

Man oh man, much like Ida above me, tears. I can so relate to this post on so many levels because without Mothering, I would not have gained the confidence I now have in my mothering, my choices and my voice. I also would not have met Ida, who is definitely one of my best friends, I am thankful to Mothering daily for that friendship and all of the support.

Thank you for this beautiful post.

Mama_Bear_Sarah said...

i'd like to think myself somewhere in between. i nursed and slept with my babies until it was no longer necessary. nine months was the longest i went with one of my children. and then he got really squirmy and i wasn't sleeping anymore and he wasn't wanting to nurse anymore and that was that.

the more children i had (i sound like i have a dozen but i just have 3) the smarter, more relaxed i got. by the third i have come to realize that i do agree with vaccinations, just not necessarily when the doctor says she has to have them ...so let's wait a bit and let her little body develop so she can properly handle the injections.

i never wore my babies, though i'm deeply jealous of those that do. i found that sleeping next to my children has made them so very secure and fiercely independent later on so i can only imagine what that added closeness could do for them in life.

anyway, that's my 2 cents. and by the way, the 7-year gap between my first and second nearly did me in. it was like starting from scratch. what a HUGE change! but i got over it and got on with life :)

justmakingourway said...

Ever is a very lucky baby. To be born into such love is a beautiful thing.

Amy said...

I love this post. I call myself the accidental AP parent. Actually, I think Nola is an attachment baby and I just followed her ques because, like you said, it was as natural as breathing.

Annie said...

Hi Maggie,
I read too many books, and wish I had trusted my own instincts more. Nursing was a wonderful, bonding experience. I do feel we were a close Mom and baby and Daddy, but the whole crib thing, I wish I had re-evaluated. Your enthusiasm is beautiful and endearing!

Therese said...

Oh this makes me want to do it all again!!!!!!!!!!!! Exactly. It is like breathing. But better. If you can soak up that child and tap into that bottomless place that allows you to respond to their needs, you find a wisdom you never could have known of otherwise. It is beautiful.

heidi daisybones said...

This is beautiful. It affirms you (& us) as intuitive mamas, and radiates love.

rachel... said...

Yes! I love it! I can't wait to read all about your life with Ever. Just can't wait.

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