Saturday, January 29, 2011

Attached Parenting

Ten weeks to go until the expected arrival of baby number 2. I am so excited to meet this new little one! Realizing that a new baby is coming has made me reflect on my journey into attachment parenting.

When I became pregnant with Aydon (who is now almost three!!), I had no idea how I was going to raise him. I had a lot of church friends who sang the praises of a book entitled Babywise by Gary Ezzo. I quickly bought into the myth that a baby could easily destroy my marriage unless I made it sleep in a room by itself. Crying-it-out made good sense to me (now I shudder at the thought). The way CIO is described by Ezzo makes the whole process of "sleep training" seem so logical, practical, matter of fact.

But God had a different way with babies in mind for my husband and I. First of all, Aydon arrived quite unexpectedly at 32 weeks by emergency c-section. He spent the next six weeks in the hospital. I pumped milk for him, but I yearned to nurse him at my breast. When he came home, I struggled for weeks to move him from bottle (with my expressed milk) to breast feeding. God is good: once Aydon learned to breastfeed he did not stop until he was almost two and a half years old! I remember Aydon's first visit to his pediatrician, who looked at us sternly and said, "Let him nurse whenever he wants, for as long as he wants, as much as he wants." I remember breathing a sigh of relief...how nice it was to follow my instincts and to meet my little guy's needs, without worrying about some sort of legalistic "schedule" that I would have to keep him on!

On top of this, Aydon came home with an apnea monitor. It made sense to have him sleeping near us, in case something happens. I found it so comforting to have him nearby, hearing his breathing throughout the night.

I couldn't shake all of the Babywise ideas, though. I was convinced that if we didn't force our little guy to cry to sleep, he would never sleep on his own. Thankfully, the second time I tried laying Aydon down to fuss and cry to sleep, my husband said, "We are not going to do that. He is too little to understand what is happening." Thank God for my husband.

About this time, some of our friends stopped by, and brought me a gift: The Baby Book, by Dr. Sears. Waves of relief and freedom washed over me as I read the pages of this book. Overall, I gleaned from the pages that moms and dads had natural instincts that, when followed and listened to, would drive them to be good parents (such as, when baby is crying, and you feel the urge to respond, do it!). The main thesis of the book was that if we build a strong foundation of trust with our infants, their bond with us will follow them throughout their growing up years. Now THIS reminded me of how God deals with us, His children: He draws us to trust Him; He builds a foundation of relationship with us; He always answers our cries for help; He is always available to us; He never leaves us or abandons us.

For a long time, Aydon slept in a little bed beside ours. Once, we were on a trip to visit my husband's parents. It was deathly cold at night, and our little man woke every hour, freezing cold. My husband leaned over to me and whispered, "Just let him sleep in bed with us." Once again, I felt immense relief. We all slept so well that night that Aydon hasn't left our bed fully yet!

Our almost three year old is not a spoiled-rotten brat. He has grown from being very attached into having a healthy amount of independence for a two-year-old. While he is somewhat introverted, he knows how to smile and greet others with a "hi." He sleeps the first half of the night on a little mattress by our bed, by himself. When he wakes, he crawls into bed with us, quickly falling back to sleep. Some nights, I do not even remember him waking and crawling into our bed! He is weaned, though I would have nothing against him still nursing. Weaning was a beautiful, natural process. I was four months pregnant, and was producing very little milk. Aydon was only nursing at bedtime and naptime. I gently taught him to fall asleep with cuddles at naptime by telling him he could nurse for a few minutes, and then we would cuddle. At bedtime, I nursed him till he was almost asleep, then lay beside him, snuggling, until he drifted into dreamland. Soon, we moved to mere cuddles to fall asleep.

Has attachment parenting destroyed my marriage? NO! It has turned my husband and I into compassionate parents. When our little guy has trouble sleeping, we meet his needs, and we are a team. One night, I was somewhat frustrated by how long it had taken our son to fall asleep: my husband looked at me and said, "Well, he is just like us. Some nights it is harder to fall asleep than others." We have plenty of time to enjoy our marriage, and knowing that we both believe in being responsive to our son, helps me to relax and have fun during our time together. Enough said, there. :-)

Being an attached parent is wonderful, and I wanted to describe it here so that I will not forget our wonderful journey into attachment parenting.

2 comments:

  1. I happened to run across your blog in my Friday evening exhausted meanderings. I have two adult children, one that should be an adult but is perpetually five, and one that is fourteen. I came onto the mothering scene when there was a transition from "spank for everything" to "grace based parenting". While I still struggle to find the answers, I think I'll try the powerful phrase, "I love you" some more in my requests of both of my kids at home. I haven't been a total screw up, though. Regardless of people's harsh criticism, I nursed my children to sleep when they were little. "You know, you're starting something that you won't be able to stop." It's stopped; I guarantee you, my 24-year-old doesn't need me to cuddle her to sleep. Ludicrous, I know, but really, so was the statement that I heard. I tend to think my daughter will do the same for the baby that's on the way. I must admit, too, that there were some personal benefits. I have been blessed with junior high kids that run up and hug me in front of their friends; adult kids that have turned into my best friends; and soon, a grandbaby that will hopefully know more of grace than my kids did.

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  2. Thank you, thank you! As I felt the frustration of the world and parenting my little guys (1 and 3) I let fear creep into my spirit and questioned myself in every way... Then in prayer merely an hour ago I googled "grace based parenting resources" and found you blog, and the link the Sally Clarkson’s who's books I have just begun to read. Your words and scripture reference have spoken to my heart and re-affirmed all that I believe as I am trusting in the Lord for parenting. We are “AP” parents and neither of us grew up as such, and are often criticized for our “lack” of punitive discipline, it has been wearing on me lately, and now I am feeling refreshed and even more connected to the Lord. His grace is unexplainable and I am so thankful. Thank you!

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