Am I Attached?
Posted by JLK
I believe 100% in attachment parenting.
I practice attachment parenting.
I try to practice attachment parenting.
I try to practice parenting when I’m not too touched out.
I breastfeed, cloth diaper and carry the babies around in a mei tai when I’m not too tired.
Yeh, so I’m not nearly as attached as I thought I was. When I had the First Set, I was way into attachment parenting. I was 19, unexpectedly pregnant, scared to death and knew nothing about babies or parenting. I happened upon The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding by chance when I was pregnant and just devoured it. It became my bible. From that, I was introduced to The Sears family and learned all about attachment parenting. I am not someone who does things halfway. When I dedicate myself to a philosophy, I throw myself in head first. That was especially true of me twenty plus years ago.
Until each of my boys was a year old, I was not apart from them for more than two hours. I was a stay-at-home mom, even though by most people’s standards we couldn’t afford for me to stay home. We made do. We had one car and lived very, very simply. The fact that we had no money and no family nearby made it easier to be attached – I had nowhere to go and no one to watch them!
I became a La Leche League leader and attended classes on positive parenting, gentle discipline and the like. I had a pair of Birkenstocks for god’s sake! (they must have been a gift because I never would have paid for a pair of those!)
As they got older things happened that forced me to mostly abandon the concept of attachment parenting (which is a big story for another day. Maybe.) as I conceived of it. When I discovered I was pregnant again after all of these years, I assumed I would parent the same way I had before. The thing is, I’m not who I was 20 years ago. I’ve changed and matured and my outlook on life has mellowed. I’m not as extreme as I used to be.
I still intended to have a natural, unmedicated birth. I had my second child at home with a midwife and I knew I wouldn’t be able to do that this time, but I did rather naively believe I could have the same general experience this time. That turned out to be so wrong. I was fortunate in that I was able to give birth vaginally, but the unmedicated birth, immediate breastfeeding, bonding, delayed cutting of the cord and that sort of thing just wasn’t possible. After four hours I was permitted to see and hold my sweet boys for just a few minutes and then was told I could come back in three hours for another few minutes.
I don’t want to tell my birth story and NICU story just yet, but not having your children with you is not a good way to start the bonding process. I was at the hospital every single day from morning shift change to evening shift change, but it is not the same thing at all. My babies had all sorts of wires, tubes and monitors attached to their bodies, one of mine was in an isolette for a good part of the time, they were neurologically incapable of breastfeeding and someone was literally always watching me.
When we got home I still had to pump every couple of hours and bottle feed because they still couldn’t nurse (and couldn’t do it well for the first 10 or 11 weeks of their lives). They were too tiny for me to put them in a sling or other carrier, and I was mentally, physically and emotionally exhausted. I think I was doing everything I could but I’m not sure. I’m still carrying guilt about not “attaching” myself as well as I wanted to during that time.
As they got bigger, I felt more comfortable carrying them in a sling, but most of the time I just didn’t want to. I couldn’t carry one in the sling and hold or carry the other. It seemed (and still seems a lot of the time) that someone was always crying. I was incredibly sleep deprived. In the moments when both of them were sleeping at once, all I wanted to do was stop being touched or needed.
So how much of an attachment parent am I? Let’s see what they say. According to Attachment Parenting International, the eight concepts of attachment parenting are:
* Prepare for Pregnancy, Birth, and Parenting
– Well I did prepare for pregnancy, birth and parenting as well as I could. I was not able to live up to my internal ideal, but by their definition, I have met this requirement. It seems that going into it with thought and intention is what’s important here.
* Feed with Love and Respect
– I was absolutely heartbroken not to be able to exclusively breastfeed. I have persevered way beyond what I ever imagined I was capable of and am now only giving formula for about 25% of their daily intake. This is a huge accomplishment for me and I’m very proud of it. Still, there is that lingering guilt about not being able to say that I exclusively breastfeed.
* Respond with Sensitivity
– This is one I’m trying to do but is so, so hard with twins. The desire is there, but the reality is that one of the boys has to cry for a while before I can get to him. This happens every single day and it’s horrible. One is crying and wants to be fed. I start nursing and after a couple of minutes the other begins to cry. If I put the first one down to attend to the second, the first one begins to wail. There is no way around it that I can see and it breaks my heart.
*Use Nurturing Touch
– I did quite a bit of kangaroo care when the boys were in the hospital. Once we got home it became a lot more difficult. It was virtually impossible for me to safely get both up onto my chest at once. I feel pretty guilty (a recurring theme here) about not spending more time skin-to-skin with them during the first three months. I should probably take off my shirt and their clothes for nursing when we’re at home now, but this becomes logistically difficult too. Our thermostat is set to 74 degrees. OW cannot tolerate it any warmer than this, and even 74 is a compromise for us. The boys’ little hands and feet are like icicles if they don’t have pants and socks on and I wear a sweater inside all the time too. I can’t imagine stripping and then re-dressing them and me every time we nurse. Egads!
* Ensure Safe Sleep, Physically and Emotionally
– I think I’m doing OK with this. They sleep in a co-sleeper right now. We ended up moving it away from the bed because it became so awkward to get in and out of bed with it there. When they wake up at night I just pull them in bed with me and then put them back if I wake up later or if the other one needs my attention. I think this fits perfectly. BUT – we’re preparing the nursery, which is on a different floor than the master bedroom. OW is definitely planning for them to move to their cribs at some point but I’m afraid it will be before I am (or they are) ready. I imagine I’ll end up sleeping in the guest bedroom next to the nursery. My ex-husband and I practiced full bed-sharing with the First Set which was great at first. It became not-so-great after they turned about two. At that point I couldn’t wait for them to get the hell out of my bed. They did transition of course, but I wish I’d had a better game plan. Is it better for me to gently transition them now, before they turn one? Does this go against the philosophy of attachment parenting? I have no intention of putting them in a crib, shutting the door and leaving them there come hell or high water, but I want OW and I to have our own space too.
* Provide Consistent and Loving Care
– Well, I am a SAHM and I am the primary care-giver. OW is a consistent care giver at night and in the morning. We have close family members who come over to help while we’re there and babysit for us for a few hours at a time when we go somewhere. I feel confident about this one. I don’t always feel like I’m being loving (I made up a song to sing to them while carrying both at once, trying to calm them, in which the only lyrics were “Shut up. Shut up. Shut up. Shut up.” It was a pleasant song. I’m just glad they don’t understand me yet.)
* Practice Positive Discipline
– We’re not at that point yet, but my hope is that OW and I will be able to agree on what appropriate discipline is.
* Strive for Balance in Personal and Family Life
– I completely failed at this with my first husband and children. There was no balance at all and my marriage suffered, I suffered, and because of that the children ended up suffering. I am working on finding better balance this time but worry that “balance” means “Mommy is selfish”. That’s a difficult stone to dislodge from my gut but I’m working on it.
How do you think I measure up?