11.26.2009

Confessions of an Accidental Attachment Parent

‘I’ll breastfeed, but only until I go back to work.’

‘This baby will have her own bed, in her own room.’

‘Of course I’ll leave the baby with other people.’

‘I’m having a midwife, but I'm giving birth in the hospital.’

‘I’m fine with my baby taking a bottle or a soother.’

‘Babies cry. It’s not going to stress me out too much.’

‘My life and my relationship with my husband will always come first.’

‘I’m not going to be one of those mothers.’

It’s true – I said all of those things. Some of them I said while I was pregnant with my first, and some I said long before pregnancy was a hope or dream for Chris and me. And at the time, flush with the bravado of the child-free and sleep-fat, I actually believed those things.

I would state these things with surety, with conviction and with judgment. Of course, I was not (yet) judging myself, but those other mothers; my sister and her friends – and some of my own friends – who spent an hour putting their kids to sleep while I waited for their return downstairs, bored and irritated; who wore their babies like barnacles and never. ever. left them at home; who were always and forever whipping out their boobs for kids who seemed already old enough to undo their mother’s goddam bra themselves.

I didn’t get it.

And for every piece of ‘knowledge’ I offered others about my own impending role as a mother, I was handed some back - for every, ‘I am not sharing my bed with my kid.’ There was a, ‘Never say never.’ handed back.

For every, ‘I am not giving up my life just because I have a baby.’ Lobbed into the air, there was a, ‘Wait until you experience sleep deprivation.’ Sent back.

For every, ‘That will never be me,’ there was a, ‘You’ll see.’

As my belly got bigger, my resolve that I knew everything there was to know about being a parent became shaky. My stubbornness sprang a slow leak, but as it deflated, my courage, my confidence and my excitement grew. I began to think that maybe both the parent and the child would be happier if I tried to stop thinking in terms of I won't, and replaced it with, I can.

And then my sister gave me a copy of Spiritual Midwifery, and I thought, I can do this.

And then Chris and I attended an info night on home births, and I thought I can do this.

And then I was in labour, and I thought, I can do this.

And then my baby was born, and I looked at her, and I said, I can do this.

There was no more thought of organization and compartmentalization and we-wills and we- won’ts. There was no more talk of plans. In fact, I wanted it quiet. I wanted it silent so I could listen to my tiny new baby as she told me everything I needed to know about being her mother.

She slept with us, her first night in our world, and every night after that for almost three years. She drank from my breast for more than two years. I was with her constantly, not leaving her in the care of anyone besides her father until she was over six months old. The first time I ever heard her cry for more than a spec of a moment was at the doctor's at two months old, and I cried with her. I made her baby food from scratch, and got upset when I couldn’t find organic sweet potatoes. Everything made sense.

And when I had my second daughter, the joy of her arrival compounded by the loss of my father mere weeks before, I never even thought twice about having two babies in my bed; I simply moved over to make room. I now had two barnacles.

My need for my children is often as great as their need for me.

I had to give up many things when I became a mother, most significantly, control, followed soon after by guilt, selfishness and a flat stomach. Some days it is easier to accept the (at least temporary) loss of these things than others. But in giving up each of these things, I seem to have made room for something that has served me much better as a parent:

Trust.

Quite by accident, I learned to trust myself, my children, their needs, my desires.

Quite by accident, and with gratitude, I have become one of those mothers.


***

35 comments:

  1. I love this post. LOVE. And I totally understand.

    Oh, the plans I had before I had a baby. I knew JUST what I was going to do. Only, you know, it didn't quite work out that way. My baby (and some part of me, as well) had other plans. And I'm glad, so glad, that I let go of my expectations and followed my instincts.

    ReplyDelete
  2. This is so lovely. I still struggle with the trust sometimes, and the guilt, but I am getting there.
    I really wish I hadn't read any baby books. I really wish I had just read my baby instead. It took me a long time to get to that point.

    ReplyDelete
  3. you? Really?
    well I guess there is nothing like a convert!

    I've stopped dreaming about sleep, I've stopped hoping for less chaos. I try just to be, when you can manage that, it is the best thing in the world.

    lovely post mama. I wistfully wish that my babies could have been born in my bed and slept there peacefully every night. I cannot imagine anything more wonderful.

    ReplyDelete
  4. As a detached parent (guffaw), I just wanted to say this is a really lovely post.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I was saying to hubby yesterday that my feeling about becoming a mother is that it just kind of crushes and obliterates you. And then, after a period of time, you gradually rebuild some semblance of yourself - something that actually looks and sounds a fair bit like the self you used to be, but still - it's a completely new self, rebuilt from the ruins.

    And now my SIL has a baby (born Tuesday) and I can't imagine it being that way for her. She has had a pregnancy that as far as I can tell involved no symptoms or discomfort of any kind. She described her labour by saying, "I've had menstrual cramps worse than that." And I feel convinced that the trend will continue and that having a baby will somehow turn out to be NO BIG DEAL.

    So I find this post really interesting because you're describing an experience of new motherhood totally different from my own and yet the end result is the same: old you - gone. In its place something new.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I am, as you well know, not good at just going with things, and even I have found that parenting makes you give up those "it will be this way" things one by one. It is, as I told my friend, a sort of death by a thousand paper cuts in terms of your plans and standards you think you will hold. Some for better, others for what the hell.

    I wasn't planning on cosleeping with PP, but did for about 6 months before she started getting too mobile for me not to get worried. But I was planning on breastfeeding her. Well, such is life, as you say so well here.

    And can I just say how I love your barnacle analogy?

    ReplyDelete
  7. This post just rings true for me.

    Will is over 2.5 now, and I still end up in her bed at some point in the night (and I usually don't mind).

    But when I was pregnant, I used to say my worst fear would be that I would realize I didn't want to go back to work. Wanting to stay at home, that was the horror.

    Um, yeah. See 2 years, 8 months and counting. Nothing like I expected at all.

    ReplyDelete
  8. My need for my children is often as great as their need for me.

    Oh, yes. Yes.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I remembered the one thing I was set on was that I was not going to kill myself breastfeeding. Guess whose kid refused a bottle until she was NINE MONTHS

    ReplyDelete
  10. 'Never say never' - hard to believe that the friends who said that at the time knew what they were talking about.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I loved this post very much.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Oh sis, this is why you have a blog, your writing is beautiful.I love this subject- attachment parenting. a wonderful resource (besides our instincts) are the books by Gordon Newfeld, which I didn't read untill Maya was 9, but are wonderful for children at any age. I have always found it interesting that some people will travel or find a new job just because they want to 'change their life', but resent the idea that a child they chose to bring into the world may do just that. Anyway, Me and My barnacle think you are a fantastic mama. I am so glad I gave you that copy of Spiritual Midwifery.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Beautiful Post K-girl...

    Though maybe you should save this one for your book.
    Oh and I hope you at least have a king sized bed ;

    ReplyDelete
  14. Great post. It's funny, I'm becoming an accidental attachment parent with this one.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I think I have the best sister in the world.

    And PG - we share the shelter of our queen sized bed.

    MM - so, so glad.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Love it. Get it. Live it.

    ReplyDelete
  17. BEAUTIFUL.
    I have a long post someplace about my pregnancy expectations with my first about how I WAS going to be a total attachment parent and how her early medical problems ended that - but even now, her early days make me too sad.

    My next kid nursed till he was 2. Ha!

    ReplyDelete
  18. This is one of the most beautiful posts on attachment parenting that I have ever read. Wonderful! Thank you for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  19. This made me all teary eyed, and I'm still in the middle of it with my (just turned) 2 yr old. Great post!

    ReplyDelete
  20. This is lovely! I'm an accidental attachment parent myself... My third baby (almost 5 months) has been labeled "spoiled," "indulged<" and more because I wear him all the time, nurse on demand, and let him snuggle next to me at night.

    It works for me. It works for him. And I'm still trying to work through trusting myself with it all, but I can say without a doubt that I'm happier.

    Thank you for your wonderful post.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Agreed, totally and completely. But it all happens so subtly that it's almost invisible until you look back and can't figure out how you got here but hope you can get here again with other babies.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Beautiful post.

    I wouldn't say I'm an attachment parent but now on baby no. 3 I'm much closer to one than I was with no. 1. It's funny how kids change your expectations and your perspective on "normal."

    ReplyDelete
  23. This is what I love about reading other people's blogs -- it's a window into another way of experiencing the world, completely different from anything I've felt or thought myself.

    ReplyDelete
  24. I really love this post. This is beautiful and rife with the spirit our world so benefits from when we birth it and keep it close as an act of love, as something we get to do rather than have to do.

    I found your blog just today, but I already feel an attachment.

    Namaste

    ReplyDelete
  25. This post is beautiful. Simply, wonderfully, poignantly, beautiful. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  26. What a beautiful post!

    My baby girl turned 1 yesterday and she is still sleeping in my bed and nursing on demand. I totally understand where you are coming from and love it.

    ReplyDelete
  27. This post is BEAUTIFUL. I only wish I'd learned as quickly as you. It took me 3 kids to gain this perspective. Thanks for this post. :-)

    ReplyDelete
  28. Absolutely beautiful! I love that you were humble enough to "eat your words" and do what made sense for your family.

    I made very similar parenting statements pre-kids when I was "flush with the bravado of the child-free and sleep-fat." ;)

    In fact, I remember saying, "Oh, I'll probably breastfeed for about 6 months." That turned into almost 2 years. I'll likely do the same with my younger daughter (who is currently 9M old)...

    I, too, am now one of "those mothers."

    stephanie@metropolitanmama.net

    ReplyDelete
  29. Love this post! I can totally relate to feeling like "I know it all" before I had kids and then everything crashing down around you after the fact! I feel you have captured the essence of what I know believe mothering is : INSTINCT!! If we can trust ourselves, and maybe more importantly, trust our babies, everything will be ok. Thank you for this.

    ReplyDelete
  30. My SIL often joke that saying the word NEVER when it comes to parenting is pretty much a guarantee you will do that exact thing!

    Motherhood is about the most humbling experience in the world. And being humbled is a blessing.

    ReplyDelete
  31. I love this post. There were so many things I was sure I would never do as a parent. And, I've now done many of them. (Co-sleeping was high on the list -- and this last week is the first time in five years we've been alone in our bed LOL.)

    ReplyDelete
  32. This is great! I know that motherhood had taught me so much more than I ever expected it would. I figured I'd just have kids and simultaneously go about my daily life. I have since become so much more of a conscious parent than I ever thought I would be. My focus is our earth and the health of my baby. I want to give him the option to thrive and have a healthy planet. Since then I have become an advocate for breastfeeding, natural childbirth, co-sleeping, organic foods, local foods/goods and all other steps that I can take to teach my children what is good in this world!

    ReplyDelete
  33. Oh! Beautiful! You've said just what I've been feeling these past few months and couldn't put into words. all of a sudden those things just... make sense.

    ReplyDelete

Talk to me.