Category Archives: Attachment Parenting

First Day-Trip with the Twins

We went to the 4th annual Seagrove Pottery Festival this weekend. This was our first all-day trip out with the twins and I was scared to death. They are 7 months old and we’d never taken a day trip! It was a two-hour drive each way. We thought we’d drive out, spend a couple of hours there and then drive back. Instead, we left the house at 9:30 a.m. and didn’t return until 6:30 p.m. They boys did so much better than I thought they would, but I attribute that almost entirely to the fact that we wore them the entire time. No stroller whatsoever. After wearing them at the State Fair last month, I think OW realized what a good idea it really is.

This was at the Farmers Market a couple of months ago.

We took them off only a couple of times to change diapers and nurse. On every aisle we were stopped over and over by people expressing astonishment at the fact that we had twins and were wearing them. Ha! It is such a strange thing to me that it is strange. I pitied the folks trying to navigate a stroller through the maze of very expensive, very fragile pottery.

We ended up spending way more than we’d planned on, but isn’t that the way it is? These are pieces that will appreciate in value and things we love. We even won a gorgeous piece in a silent auction. There is a very well-known potter named Boyd Owens who was so friendly and kind to us. He gave us two Noah’s Ark themed mugs for the boys and it made my heart flutter!

Some of the pieces we bought.

The boys started crying when we were about 15 minutes from the house, which was difficult, but they were calm the rest of the evening. We were triumphant in our victory, but we celebrated too soon. Peanut Butter and Jelly did not sleep well at all that night, and we thought we’d lose our minds before sunrise. Was it a coincidence or punishment for our gall?

The success of this trip is making me think that maybe we’re starting to turn a corner. I’m finding a bit easier to have a predictable routine, I can plan little errands out of the house without it causing a meltdown for all of us, and the boys can play and entertain themselves for a little while at a time. I’m afraid to be too optimistic but I don’t want to have a negative attitude that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy either.

Now if we could just get this sleep thing worked out…

Funky piggy banks for the boys. Check out the teeth on the blue one and the tusks on the green one!

When did you attempt your first day trip out with your newborn? I’m especially interested in hearing from you if you have twins.

That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it.

Just Write, #1

Some of the bloggers I admire (like Steph from Adventures in Babywearing) participate in a writing exercise called Just Write. I thought I’d try my hand at it, though I can’t live up to most of these incredible writers.

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I wake earlier than usual; it’s still dark outside. There is a baby on either side of me and I’m afraid to move, fearing I might wake one or both of them. OW is shaving, showering, dressing in a rush because he has to be to court early. The boys are sweating through their footie pajamas, having soaked up the heat of my body. Their faces are relaxed in a way that only a baby’s can be; the tips of their pink tongues sticking out, their mouths dream-sucking.

I’m still in a groggy half-asleep half-awake state and I feel oddly content. It’s odd because I usually wake up dreading the 12 to 13 hours ahead of me that I will be alone with the babies. This morning I feel a little trickle of happiness about this impromptu family of mine.

The Today show is on and OW watches the weather report as he brushes his teeth. Sunny and 75 degrees today, perhaps a few showers tomorrow. Peanut Butter stirs and opens one eye. He gives me an open-mouthed grin and then nuzzles against me. I twist around a bit to give him a little morning susu and he idly pats my breast while he nurses.

OW brings me my coffee, my pills, and the boys’ vitamins as he does every morning, rushed or not. He kisses the babies, kisses me, and reminds me to feed the dogs, who are circling his feet in anticipation of a goodbye treat.

Jelly is now awake and flapping his arms and legs excitedly and I make funny faces at him while Ann Curry talks about a missing child. I try not to listen because it makes my heart ache and I don’t want to spoil this moment. I know we have a just a short window during which everyone is happy and relaxed. I want to relish it, to make it last as long as possible, to be completely present.

Nighttime Parenting

The boys are five months old now and have slept in our room since they came home from the hospital. We have a co-sleeper that used to be attached to the bed, but it was such a nuisance for me to get in and out of bed that we moved it against the wall. Generally, one or the other will wake up around 3:30 or 4:00 a.m. and I just pull him into bed with me to nurse. We both fall back asleep and when/if the next one wakes up I just switch. I always wake up with someone next to me in bed.

And I like it this way.

And OW tolerates it.

He is pushing to get the nursery finished and he thinks that once it’s finished and the cribs are moved in, the babies will move in too. I wouldn’t be completely opposed to that except that we have a first floor master. The nursery is upstairs. I’ve told him repeatedly that I have no intention of trudging upstairs, sitting in a chair to nurse, putting the baby back in the crib once I’m sure he’s asleep, going back downstairs, and repeating this two, three or more times per night. I simply won’t do it. I told him that I may start out the night in our bedroom but that once I go upstairs I stay upstairs. I don’t mind putting them in the crib to start, but after that I’ll just sleep in the guest bedroom with one or both of them next to me.

He wonders how long this arrangement will go on and I’m afraid to tell him that it could be a year or even two (possibly more?). Two year olds don’t always sleep through the night either and do I want my two year olds to come down the stairs alone at night in order to crawl into bed with us? I guess I’ll have to make those judgments as they grow and I can gauge their abilities, but I’m concerned this could go on for two or three years.

My concern isn’t whether they sleep in bed with us. My concern is that OW will not understand why it’s so important to me that I don’t stop parenting just because the sun has gone down. My first husband and I practiced complete bed-sharing with our first two – we never even had a crib – but that was really too much. I’m feeling more in the middle this time. The boys can start out in their own beds and come to us when they need to. I want them to see their room and their beds as a welcoming, comforting place to be and not a prison in which they are locked every night. I won’t leave them in there with a no-matter-what attitude. I don’t think OW wants to do that either. I think he is truly ignorant of how babies and toddlers develop.

My sister has four year old twins (I know that’s odd, but it’s a totally bizarre coincidence, since hers are dizygotic and mine are monozygotic). She had them in their own cribs in their own room right from the beginning. She went back to work full time about three months after they were born. I believe she practiced CIO but I’m not sure because I’m afraid to ask. At some point she changed the door knob on the boys’ room so that she could lock it from the outside. I was beyond horrified when my mother told me that. I swore I would never do that. She scoffed at me and said, “Oh yes you will.” Oh no I won’t. I can imagine putting a gate there. I can imagine putting a pretty tall gate there to keep wandering toddlers from toddling to unsafe places but I cannot imagine locking my children in their room.

What will our nighttime parenting look like as the boys grow? I’m not sure yet, but I hope I’ll always be respectful of both their and OW’s and my needs.

That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it.

Bonding Part 2

I’m not a Christian but OW is a devout Lutheran, son and grandson of Lutheran ministers. We have silently agreed that I will accompany him to church on high holy days and a few other times during the year.

Yesterday was the annual outdoor service and picnic. This is one of the days I agree to go and we managed to get the twins, both dogs, and us out the door and to the church before the service started. This is almost enough of a miracle to make me believe.

The boys were both tired and a bit grumpy, but I knew that they’d probably fall asleep. Grandma took Jelly and I held Peanut Butter because I knew he was hungry. It was a beautiful day and we sat in the shade of a huge tree near the church. I sat near the back and off to the side for a little extra privacy. As I sat there in my folding chair, nursing and listening quietly, I realized that I never take the time to just sit with my babies. I’m almost always in a rush to accomplish the next task. If one is nursing the other is getting fussy. If Peanut Butter falls asleep I hurry to get him to lie down so I can take care of Jelly. If I’m lucky enough to get them both asleep at the same time, I race to get to the washing machine, the kitchen, the toilet scrubber, the vacuum cleaner. If one is awake and complaining, up he goes on my back while I race to get to the washing machine, the kitchen, the toilet scrubber, the vacuum cleaner.

So as I listened to the hymns and nursed Peanut butter, I was free to do nothing but stare at him. I wasn’t playing with my cell phone, I wasn’t thinking about folding a load of laundry, and I wasn’t making mental lists. Because he was nursing and sleeping I didn’t even have to participate in the up and down of the service. I had an entire hour to just sit and look at him. To look at each hair in his golden eyebrows; the folds of his ears; the blue vein that curves around his right temple; the particular way his hair swirls at the edge of his hairline; the buttery smoothness of his skin; the scratch on his cheek; the length of each fingernail; the shape of his lips; the pads on his feet; the weight of his tiny body in my arms.

And it was beautiful but sad for me at the same time. I’m sad that I am so anxious to prove my worth as a new stay at home mom that I don’t feel I have the luxury of just sitting and staring at my babies. Who will wash the clothes? Who will cook dinner? Who will sweep up the pounds of sand the dogs track in every day? These things have to be done. It’s not an option for us to have no clothes to wear, or to eat take out every night. Beyond that, the house devolves quickly into chaos if I don’t constantly work on keeping the hotspot surfaces from being overtaken by clutter. It’s amazing how quickly that happens. As I write this, I’m looking around at the stuff – the STUFF – threatening to devour us because I’ve been too down to take care of things for the past few days.

In the meantime, the boys have become just a part of my household routine. I’ve mentioned before that I’m worried that I’m not bonding appropriately with the twins. The affection I noticed felt while taking that hour to look at my little Peanut Butter must be part of what the bonding feels like. I was more at peace during that hour than I have been in a long, long time.

How do I continue to develop this with both of my boys while dealing with the practical realities of feeding my family and maintaining our home?

That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it.

A Tale of Two Parenting Styles

Last week I spoke at a childbirth education class for parents expecting multiples. I was excited about it because I love to speak in front of a group and I felt I genuinely had something of value to share. The only guideline I was given was to talk about my experience being a mom of twins. I had no idea whether there was a time limit (in retrospect, I really wished I’d asked for guidance on that). I knew I would be sharing the time with another couple, who have 11-month-old fraternal twins.

I arrived just after the first couple did and my adrenaline started pumping right away. I LOVE this shit! I couldn’t wait to get started. The other couple went first. I was mortified the instant the woman opened her mouth. She seemed completely devoid of personality and spoke in a monotone. I noticed she had the book Babywise on her lap and felt my heart sink. She was going to tell these poor, unsuspecting parents how great their lives were after they let the babies scream for hours several nights in a row beginning at about 7 weeks of age. Babywise is in almost every way the exact opposite of the attachment parenting style I believe in. It advocates “parent directed feeding” (scheduled feeding), crying it out beginning at 6 weeks, forced playtime alone, and punitive discipline starting at 6 months of age (including corporal punishment and isolation). The whole thing makes me completely sick to my stomach.

I understand that not everyone has the same parenting philosophy I do and I try to be respectful of others’ choices, as I hope they are of mine. Some things cross a line even I can’t ignore though. Most of this couple’s talk was not about Babywise methods, although they did cite it specifically for sleep training. Still, their experience reflected the consequences of following this advice. For example, The mom said that her milk started to “dry up” and she was finished breastfeeding by three and a half months. She said she felt sort of conflicted about it but figured they’d gotten “all the good out of it they were going to get anyway.” Following a feeding schedule and refusing to feed at night beginning by only 8 weeks of age is a sure way to diminish your supply, and don’t even get me started on the advantages of breastfeeding through the first year.

I tried not to screw up my face while she was talking. I tried to sit calmly, knowing that I would soon be able to present a different view of parenting, but I could feel myself becoming wild with fear that these parents would go home excited about the prospect of wising up their babies.

I have an issue with obsessive-compulsive disorder and this is one of the areas in which I suffer. In my non-OCD moments I do realize that neither I nor this other couple is likely to sway someone so much to one side that it defines their parenting. Each parent must research parenting styles and do what they believe is best for their family. At that moment though, I suddenly felt an intense need to “save” my audience. The thoughts started swirling around my head so quickly and so forcefully that I don’t remember much of what the other couple said after the first ten minutes or so.

When my turn came I was practically jumping out of my skin with anticipation. I may even have begun babbling. There was so much I HAD to tell these parents-to-be! I was a tent revival evangelist and my flock needed salvation. I demonstrated both a front and back carry with the mei tai. I recited the Gospel of Breastfeeding. I extolled the virtues of natural childbirth and co-sleeping and cast out the demons of crying it out and scheduled feedings.

Truthfully, I did not assail them with attachment parenting doctrine, though I would have loved to. I did try to focus on life with twins from my attachment parenting point of view. I told them about redefining success in various areas, including childbirth and breastfeeding.

I told them that the hardest part about having twins, for me, is having one cry while I’m caring for the other and not being able to do anything about it. The Babywise mom must not have been paying close attention because she piped up with, “oh you’ll get used to it.” I replied that I didn’t think I ever could. She responded that it was harder for her husband than for her but that after a few nights they stopped crying. I was horrified. I started to stammer and tried to make it clear that I was most certainly not talking about crying it out, rather that I couldn’t always comfort both at once. I reiterated that I would NEVER get used to that.

After that I continued to go on and on and on about what items I couldn’t live without and so forth. The poor instructor kept giving me cues to let me know that my time was up but I was too caught up in my spiel to notice. Thinking back, I do remember her saying “Well thank you SO MUCH Jenny!” at least a couple of times.

I just felt so passionate about sharing my “wisdom” (bwahahahaha!) that I couldn’t stop! I wish I’d worked up something more resembling a speech so that I could cover the points in a logical order, keep from rambling and seem sane. I have a lot of trouble editing myself. That’s true in my everyday life as well as here on this blog. How do I learn to moderate myself? I feel like I’m going to pop like a cork out of a champagne bottle when I try to hold things in. I love to write, I love to speak to an audience, and I love to chat with people.

Are you like that? Have you learned to edit yourself? Share your wisdom with me!

Bonding, or a Lack Thereof

This is a blog post for which I would really, really like feedback from other moms.

When I was falling in love with my husband, I would look at him and feel pure love washing over me. This wasn’t lust (although there was plenty of that), it was a sense of being lost inside of him, and he in me. I was expecting to feel this with my boys and I didn’t.

Peanut Butter & Jelly (I picked my code names!) are four months old now. I am concerned that I haven’t properly bonded with them. At the beginning, when they were in the NICU, my main emotion was fear. It was overwhelming and I got very little sleep. I felt something toward them, but I’m not sure what to call it. I spent all day, every day at the hospital, and I held them, but for all but 2 days of the 3 weeks they were there, I couldn’t do much with them. I couldn’t feed them (they were fed through a tube), I couldn’t go anywhere with them (they were attached to multiple monitors/IVs etc), and for the first week I was limited in the amount of time I could hold them because they had to be under jaundice lights and Jelly had to stay in an isolette. I spent my days pumping and looking at them, trying to will myself to feel a surge of love for them. I felt affection. I felt a desire to protect them. I cried when Jelly had bradycardia episodes, but I didn’t feel what I thought I should feel.

I’ve read that it can be normal. If it is, why do I feel so much shame about it? I believe in attachment parenting, yet I feel sort of detached from my little babies. It makes me feel like a fraud.

Breastfeeding was and is something incredibly important to me. I stuck it out when I think most people would have given up. I began truly breastfeeding (rather than bottle-feeding pumped milk) around 11 weeks. I thought for sure that would be the thing that would truly meld my heart with theirs. It worked that way with my first two children, so why hasn’t it this time?

People told me that it would come after we got home from the hospital, but it didn’t.

People told me that it would come once they could keep their eyes open and look around, but it didn’t.

People told me that it would come when they could smile and coo, but it hasn’t.

When does it come? Have I missed some window of opportunity? What’s wrong with me that I don’t feel it?

Moreover, what does it feel like? I imagine it’s this gushing sort of emotion, or maybe just a sense of peace when you look at your child. Is this right? How would you describe it?

 

That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it.

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Am I Attached?

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?