Monday, June 27, 2011

The Etiquette of Attachment Parenting

Really, I'm not trying to become one of those old ladies who criticizes how everyone is raising their children.  This is one of those posts that you think, "Should I say it or should I not?"  I'm gonna say it.  Don't hate me.

My experience with Attachment Parenting (AP) has been this:  My hairdresser turned me on to Dr. William Sears's Baby Book in 1996.  After a couple of months of searching for a sling and finally finding a tie-dyed one, I started wearing my baby (back when no one did this) and sleeping with my baby.  I tried to establish trust and a healthy relationship simply by meeting my baby's needs, often before he even knew what he needed.  The idea behind Attachment Parenting is that you and your child are, simply, attached.  He respects you because you respect him.

My babies never cried themselves to sleep.  They nursed.  We got better with each baby mostly because we looked at our big kids and realized how fast the time went with the babies.  We held them and enjoyed our time of their being little.  We also had the advantage of seeing that, yes, they do eventually sleep -- even in their own beds -- and do other things that you can't imagine them doing when you are immersed in the craziness of toddlerhood.

We always did time-outs, which may be controversial in the world of Attachment Parenting.  In fact, I'll be real honest.  Our time out chair was an old car seat that no one could get out of.  (Eventually, Daymon figured out he could just stand up and walk around with it attached to him and at that point, we moved on to taking away privileges, etc!)  Time outs lasted however long their age was.  For example, 3 years old = 3 minutes of time out.  It was very effective.  Usually the threat of time out was all that was needed, especially as they got older.  I don't remember using timeouts after the age of 5.

Sometimes I totally yelled -- still do -- at my children.  They will be the first to tell you that.   Often, I was -- and still am -- the one taking the time out!  I am, by no means, the perfect parent.  I can name lots of people that parent better than I do.  I do like to think, however, that I have well-behaved children.  Again, not perfect, but pretty darn good.

I've seen a trend over the last several months, under the umbrella of Attachment Parenting, that I would venture to call  "permissive parenting," stolen from my friend Shannon's quote on someone's wall this weekend.  She summed it up beautifully and I hope she doesn't mind me swiping it off Facebook!

"AP parenting is building a foundation that does last a lifetime. We are teaching our children that we will provide for them in a fundamental and practical way, emotional and practically. This can be done with bottle feeding, but it is not as easily done (it takes a LOT more effort), and the nutritional benefits are lacking.

That being said, it's sad to see the "AP" movement turn into a permissive parenting perspective that undoes much of what attachment parenting practices should do, establishing boundaries in a safe and loving environment."

Yes! This is what I'm talking about!  I have seen parents who claim to practice AP let their children run wild, often in places where it is quite disruptive.  I will refrain from expanding on that statement.  

It is OK to discipline your child and teach them that there are appropriate places to run around and be loud.  There is a time and place for everything.  But it is OK -- and expected by old people like me! -- that parents will also teach their children how to sit still, be quiet, and listen or play quietly with a book, etc.  If parents don't teach them, they will be forced to learn it in school by someone other than their parent.  They will be labeled at that point.  (A lot of AP parents homeschool and think this is a moot point.  It's not.  At some point, people will see your child as disruptive, disrespectful, irreverent, and possibly obnoxious.)  Parents have a responsibility to teach their children how and when to be quiet!

I also see a lot of AP parents doing things for their children that I believe the children should be doing themselves, or at least learning to do.  Picking up after themselves, for example.  Occasionally I  have people at my house with small children who play with the toys Darcy still has out. (Those days are limited for us, now.  Soon they will be gone as she gets older.)  It's interesting to watch how parents respond to the toys and the mess their children have made.  Some parents will have their child pick them all up, while others will insist on their child helping to pick them up, usually explaining why it's important and respectful to do so (this is AP parenting!).  Others will pick up all the toys while their children watch.  Where is the lesson in that?  Every now and then I have parents (and their children) who don't pick up any of the mess their children make.  Don't get me started on that one.

I have to use another comment from a former student of mine that I read on Facebook this week.  Again, I hope she doesn't mind me lifting her comment:

"...People may think I'm strict or unreasonable in training my kids to sit at the table and eat, but the reward comes when I can have a lovely dinner date with just my boy and girl.  We talk, laugh, and eat, and it's usually quite nice.  When he uses the manners we've taught him in dealing with the servers it makes me quite proud.  He's such a sweet and grateful boy."

And that about sums it up.  I might add that her children are very small.  Yes, it is often more effort to correctly practice Attachment Parenting, but the payoff is tremendous.  

I've thought a lot lately, as Daymon is approaching his 15th birthday, about Attachment Parenting and its significance it's played in my life as well as my childrens' lives.  They do not remember being little -- breastfeeding, cosleeping, or constantly being carried in their sling.  Their memories are scattered from when they were little.  But, like Shannon said, AP parenting provides a foundation from which to build.  A foundation of trust, of boundaries, respect, and growth.  We want our children to grow into responsible, independent, trusting, and capable adults.  

I look at each of my children, and while they all have different strengths and weaknesses, they have a good foundation.  They are civilized and respectful and caring.  The foundation is there, even if the memories (of things that were so important and significant to me) are not.  When they are driving me crazy, I just reach back into my file and pull out a sweet memory of when they were little.  I expect to do that a lot during these teenage years!

Monday, June 20, 2011

No Ingles? C-Section for You!

This might raise more of a ruckus than anything I've ever said here.  I believe -- with good reason -- that English being your second language puts you at risk for a c-section in America.  Think about your friends or acquaintances for a minute.  Maybe you are from another country and gave birth in America.  Did you have a vaginal birth?

I have a couple of friends that work at a local hospital in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area with a c-section rate of 60%.  They have both told be they think the statistic is higher than that, however.  They have said there are days (and nights) where they don't see a single woman that has had a vaginal birth.  When I asked them why they think the numbers are so high, one of them said it's because that particular hospital has such an influx of Mexican women.  What?!  She went on to explain that when they don't speak the language (English), things just happen to them, the labor "spirals out of control," ending in surgery.

Surely in the United States of America they are getting the best health care in the world, right?  Frankly, I believe they are taken advantage of by a system -- doctors, nurses, hospitals -- that don't want to deal with them.  They know that these women and families are often scared, and frankly, trust the doctors to take care of them to do what is best for them.  I think they are being scammed.

It is not just Mexican women.  I know people from several other countries that have had the same experience in the DFW area.  I believe it is happening all over the United States.  One of the women I know who had a cesarean at the mentioned hospital said that in her Discharge Class, only 2 of the 15 women had had a vaginal birth.  She is Italian and will be VBACing this September at a different hospital with a VBAC-friendly doctor and she has hired a doula.  She will not be a victim this time around.

Very few women -- American or otherwise -- are truly aware of their choices when it comes to childbirth.  We place our faith and trust in the doctor's hands and become good little patients.  Less than 1/3 of women take a childbirth class when they are pregnant.  We make it unbelievably easy for the system to take advantage of us.  Plenty of American-born women have been a victim of the system and don't even realize it.  They just didn't take the time to educate themselves about labor and birth and were not active participants in their labors.  Birth was something that happened to them.

Women from other countries and cultures bring their own ideas of birth to the table which may or may not mirror our own.  The third step of the Mother-Friendly Childbirth Initiative is:  "A mother-friendly hospital, birth center, or home birth service provides culturally competent care -- that is, care that is sensitive and responsive to the specific beliefs, values, and customs of the mother's ethnicity and religion."  That is rarely happening in this country!

Thoughtfully consider your place of birth regardless of where you are from.  Is your care provider respectful on all levels?  If English is your second language and you are having a baby in America, I hope that you will follow your intuition.  If you feel like your hospital or doctor is not respectful, don't ignore those red flags.  There are people who want to help you have a wonderful birth.  Seek out a midwife, a Bradley (TM) teacher, or a doula, for recommendations in your area.  It's only too late after the baby is here.

The diversity of this country is one of the many things that make is so interesting.  All women deserve to have a wonderful birth-day and not be a victim of a broken maternity system.  If you know someone in this situation, don't be afraid to speak out.  Help put her in touch with your midwife or doula. Language should never be a barrier to compassion or the beginning of motherhood.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Father's Day Gifts You'll BOTH Love!

Have you ever known someone who is always pulling a prank?  Always funny, hardly ever serious?  When something serious actually comes out of their mouth, you laugh because you thought it was another joke?  Joe Gumm is that guy.  Let me back up...

Last spring, I met a woman who was becoming a doula.  I liked her immediately, and I liked her reasons for wanting to be a doula.  I send lots of clients her way, she sat through my class so she knows what I teach, helped make BOLD Fort Worth a huge success, became a Chapter Leader for the Tarrant County Birth Network, but most importantly, became my friend.

Repeatedly, she told me that I was the female version of her husband.  I'm not quite the prankster Joe is, and I'm still trying to figure out exactly what she meant by that.  She is madly in love with him, so it must be a compliment, right? Ha! 

Joe is a sportscaster-media-guy.  In fact, my husband knew Alexa for months before he found out who her husband was.  Joe had called me -- in a pranking mood -- and was trying to convince me to go to to check out the book he wrote about birth.  I thought this was another joke.  I told David a couple hours later to remind me to check out and he said, "I know Joe Gumm.  How do you know Joe Gumm?"  I explained the conversation that had taken place and he freaked out!  Talk about star-struck!  Joe Gumm the sports guy?  David was more nervous on our first "date" with them than he was on our first date!  What is it with guys and sports?!  And, yes, he really did write a book about birth written for the dad-to-be, titled From Humor to Hormones.  As a teacher of Husband-Coached Childbirth (AKA The Bradley Method (TM)), I approve.  It was great.  They birthed all 4 babies at home so homebirth is represented nicely.

Where the heck am I going with this?  What does this have to do with Father's Day?  Joe just finished up another book called "150 Secrets to a Happy Wife."  I'd like to tell you it's all funny, but some of it is quite serious.  Joe has a soft side!  It is a very entertaining read, and the man in your life will get a kick out of it.  I was also thinking this is a great gift for a young man just getting married!  Seriously.  Grab your copy right now!  I've linked to it for your shopping convenience.  Maybe you can tell me, after you've read it, how the heck I am the female version of Joe Gumm!

My next little nugget of love for the man in your life, like the first gift, is really a gift for you, the one that loves him.  My husband grew up in an itty-bitty town in New Mexico with some amazing people that have gone on to do some pretty great things.  One of them is a woman now living in Virginia running a company by the name of The Bumble Bee Studio.  David saw her company on Facebook and was intrigued.  She has lots of really cool products, but the one he was interested in was the "Doggy Spray" to make Annie not smell so "doggy" and Julie threw in some samples for David to try out.  I'm speechless! The two items we are both loving are the Bee a MAN - Men's Herbal Shave Soap and the The MAN Bar - Shampoo and Body Bar.  Apparently, there is also a Bee a MAN - After-Shave Balm.

I have to say, years ago I found an aftershave called "Cowboy" that David and I both love, but it doesn't stay with him all day.  The MAN Bar does and the scent is similar.  It smells amazing!  (Scentsy needs to copy this one for a man's car freshener!)   It's pricey, but worth every penny if you care about how your man smells.  David is so crazy about it, he ordered it for his dad and I insisted that he order it for my uncle too.  The packaging is lovely, to boot.

Really, your man will love, love, love his Father's Day gifts this year.  Even better, so will you.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Eviction Notice: Get Out!

There are several topics I want to tackle in this post.  As you know, I work with moms who are typically in their last trimester, which, for some, can be a very trying time.  Personally, I always enjoyed being pregnant with my four babies.  With the fourth baby, however, I did have a glimpse of understanding why women get induced. I was 34, which I must admit, was harder than the other pregnancies had been, and I suspect age had something to do with it, although having 3 other babies to look after was probably the majority of it!

I totally understand wanting to meet your new baby and getting your body back, or being able to breathe again and not having to switch sides all night long because your hips are killing you.  Maybe you've had some ailment, like a foot in your ribs for the last 6 weeks, or constant heartburn, or maybe even the worst of all ailments, PUPPS.  Lately, it seems that the "due date" has been referred to by some as the baby's "eviction notice."  I honestly believe that most people use this term jokingly.  Some, on the other hand, have seemed quite serious.

 When someone gets an eviction notice, they are being kicked out of their home for doing something wrong -- most likely for not paying the money they owe for rent.  They no longer have the right to live there.  Your baby, on the other hand, has not done anything to warrant getting "kicked out" of his/her home.  Maybe their "due date" has come and gone.  You know it, but your baby does not.  He doesn't have a little calendar in the womb with the date circled in red to tell him "today is the day to move out!"  While 40 weeks is the average gestation, some babies need longer than that.  Be kind to your little tenant.  He is much easier to deal with in his current home than when he actually does "move out." 

I've had many moms over the years who have sat on my couch in tears after their baby is here because they can't believe how hard this little one is to deal with.  They always comment on how if they had really known, they wouldn't have been so anxious to get him out!  Once that baby is here, he's here.  Pregnancy is over.  It can be an emotional thing with the attention shifting off of mom and onto the baby.  Many women will experience a sense of loss once the pregnancy is over, which can surprise many women who were so anxious to get the baby here.  

And who doesn't miss feeling the baby move?  I can't even remember what that felt like now.  I would give anything to feel that again, to remember.  I always tell my moms, at 40 weeks, even if they go the full 2 weeks "over," they will be mamas in less than 14 days.  Somehow that makes it more tangible.  The pregnancy will end.  You will hold your baby. 

Treasure the end of pregnancy.  Do something really fun and creative to pass the time.  Feel free to add to this list in the comments.  The possibilities are endless.

*Do a belly cast.  
*Do pregnancy photos one more time.  
*Rent some good sappy movies with your husband.  (We saw "Little Women" and "Mr. Holland's Opus" when I was due with Daymon.  David cried more than I did!)
*Or some really great comedies.  
*Stay in a hotel and enjoy these last days together as a "single" couple.  

Don't just sit around watching the clock or the calendar.  Make the most of this time. 

Once the baby is here, spend as much time holding your baby as humanly possible, despite your mother-in-law telling you that you shouldn't.  Your baby will be easier to deal with and bond with if you can recreate the womb for him. 

Recreating the womb involves making his new home as close to his last home as possible:

*He never experienced hunger before.  This is a new sensation in his belly.  He might want to nurse all the time to keep that funny feeling away.  That is OK.  Let him nurse. 
*He never felt wide open space around him.  He was curled up.  Cozy. Warm.  Put him in a sling and wear him.  He'll think he's in the womb again.  (Yes, I can sell you a sling, but that's not why I'm telling you this!)
 *He listened to your heart beat all day long.  He heard your voice, knows your walk, your laugh, even the noises of your stomach.  Those sounds are comforting to him.  Keep him nearby and he will be comforted.

I'm tempted to make co-sleeping it's own post.  I've written about it on the blog quite a bit, but I just want to mention it here briefly.  I'm not sure why Americans think their baby needs their own separate room and bed.  To quote lactation consultant, Mellanie Sheppard, again, "You are your baby's environment."  Seriously.  You want to sleep?  You want your baby to sleep?  Then you need to be co-sleeping.  It's not strange.  Your baby will not be in your bed forever.  You will still have sex with your husband, although maybe not in the bed!  Again, this phase of your life will not last terribly long.  Enjoy it!  We miss that time of having a little baby sleeping between us. 

It took David and I four kids to figure out the best way to parent a newborn.  We didn't set up a crib.  Our bed was her bed from day one, even for naps.  She was continuously is the sling.  She nursed around the clock.  She hardly made a peep.  I remember David even commented one time that she didn't seem to have much personality.  You should see her now!  Wow!  My point is simply that when I see parents meeting their baby's needs before the baby even knows what they need, baby is totally content. And so is mom and dad!

One more bit of advice:  Don't compare your baby to other babies.  That will make you insane.  Also, at some point, as much as I love for you to read my blog and my recommended reading list, you need to just put all of that aside and get to know your baby.  Some things sound great in a book (or a blog!), but the reality is sometimes completely different. 

Your baby is unique and you are the perfect parent for him or her.  YOU are the one he wants.  So just be there.  If you are a good landlord, he'll likely be a great tenant.