Preparing for Birth

Before I had heard this buzzword “attachment parenting” I have always known that birth matters. I’m a bit of a birth junkie myself.

Before we conceived our daughter, I started checking into the legalities of home birth in our state and if our insurance would assist in the cost. For prevention, we also looked at birth defect law in case something went wrong during delivery. I was so delighted to find that our insurance would cover my midwife that we immediately set to work on making a baby.

We quickly conceived and I moved down to my husband’s duty station in North Carolina. When I arrived and started making arrangements for prenatal care, I was really shocked at how few options I had available. There was only one homebirth midwife who could legally practice in my area and she wouldn’t accept my insurance.

Brick wall. Long story short, we planned a homebirth using alternative practices but we ended up transferring to the hospital about 18 hours into my labor because I just wasn’t making any progress. I honestly wasn’t prepared to transfer. We had taken The Bradley Method and made a birth plan but there was no way I would be the mom to transfer. Not me!

Arbor’s birth experience was extremely traumatic for all of us. There’s no way to candy coat it. I’ve heard it said before that the definition of insanity is repeating the same actions and expecting different outcomes. So when we discovered I was expecting our second child, a lot sooner than we had counted on, our first plan of action was finding a better way.

We were 100% certain we wanted to attempt another home birth but we would need to prepare for the possibility of a transfer if this labor was as long as my last 38 hour labor. While we loved the Bradley Method, we are looking at other childbirth preparation classes to gain different perspective.

We started talking about hiring a doula to have just in the event of a transfer. Most importantly, we came to the decision that we did not feel comfortable having me give birth in North Carolina again. So as much as it pains us to split up the family, Arbor and I will be moving home to Virginia where we have multiple home birth midwives to choose from, at least two free standing birth centers we could use and at least one hospital that has the kind of statistics and reputation that would make me feel more comfortable in the event of a transfer.

This wasn’t an easy decision to come to and I am completely terrified to be moving away from my husband for any length of time. I’m the wife of a marine and have been blessed to not have to deal with a deployment yet. Because of the nature of his work, he isn’t able to just switch jobs to come to be with us. It’s a sacrifice we are all willing to make because we believe birth matters.

It is crucial to give yourself and your baby a fighting chance for a healthy start. I had to fight so hard for my breastfeeding relationship because of our birth experience. I’m grateful I had the sheer determination to make it work but I don’t want to have to fight this time. This baby deserves to have a birth team who respects the process and honestly has our best interests at heart. I feel it is of utmost importance to learn from where we made mistakes in my last pregnancy and try to make this experience healthier for all of us.

Respectful Discipline

As the mother of a very curious and interactive seven-month-old, I’m constantly having to redirect her correct some of her less-than-desirable behaviors. She’s so interested in her world and eager to interact with anyone and everyone who will give her the time of day. At our last pediatrician’s appointment, we were told that socially, she’s way ahead of their expectations. I’m not really surprised, considering she has highly social parents; she comes by it honestly. She loves talking to people and even gets her feelings hurt when someone enters the room without acknowledging her presence.

Arbor socializing with her new friend, Shelby.

We recently went out of town to visit friends and family and introduce her to a few people who still hadn’t had the chance to meet her. Her social nature really shined through while she met all of these new people. She gladly demonstrated her new “tricks” like giving hugs and singing. As she became more comfortable in her temporary environment, she would explore and find things that she could get into. Her favorite things, whether at home or a home away from home, are wires and cords. This means I’m always having to get up, redirect her, and find replacements. I’ve been told time and time again that she’ll stop it if I just swat her hand. While I can appreciate how that would work, I don’t want to start punitive discipline with my child and get in the habit of it all now. I’d much rather physically move her and tell her why she can’t do what it is she’s trying to do. It’s definitely more work than just a quick swat but I’m already seeing the benefits of it.

There’s the obvious benefit of not starting the bad habit of using physical force as a means of discipline. I’m getting myself in the habit of using my words to help teach her what is okay and what is not. This in turn is teaching her to understand words and respond appropriately. Arbor has been great about understanding the good “trigger words” that I’ve been using to help teach her. She doesn’t talk much yet but she really seems to have a great understanding of a lot of these words. Some of the ones I’ve been effectively using are

  • danger
  • unh-unh
  • gentle touch
  • owie

I’ve been finding that repetitive use of these trigger words usually work a lot better than when I get irritated and begin to raise my voice or simply move her from whatever it is that she’s into. It’s taken consistency, repetition and having my husband on board. It requires regular communication between the two of us about what it is I’m working on teaching her and with his support, we are gently disciplining our infant.

It’s really encouraging as a parent to see that even at this really young age, before she has become verbal, she’s responding well to verbal direction. I don’t have to resort to violent behavior. I don’t have to hit to teach. As a first time mom who has chosen to use AP principles and peaceful parenting techniques, I’ve been a bit skeptical of this whole non-violent parenting technique. Either I won’t be able to stick with it or I’ll have an unruly child who doesn’t listen to me. She’s only seven months old and is already proving me wrong. We’re learning together how to communicate with each other. She’s learned that I will respond to her when she shows me she wants or needs something and it has set the foundation for a trusting relationship between the two of us. Because I listen to her, she also listens to me. I am loving that we have a relationship built on mutual respect. If I didn’t believe it before, I definitely believe you can respect and be respected by an infant.  We are establishing the framework for a loving relationship. It won’t be without its struggles but it is definitely reaffirming of the principles I have been learning about developing a healthy attachment with my daughter.

Feeding Solids With Love

Vegetable stand

Feeding with love is an incredibly challenging yet important part of our parenting adventure. My husband has a ridiculous number of food allergies, as a toddler I had tons of allergies and my daughter is at risk for allergies. Early in my pregnancy, I came to the decision I would delay solids for our daughter, Arbor, to give her a better chance at avoiding the allergy issue. To me, this was feeding with love. Arbor is exclusively breastfed, which is a great victory to me because she spent her first ten days of life in the NICU. We had some challenges getting started with our breastfeeding relationship so our success has meant the world to me. I had great support and managed to avoid formula, thanks to the great ICN staff and lactation team at Duke. This was also feeding with love.

Now I have a happy and healthy five-month-old who nurses like a champ. Our nursing relationship is one of the single most important parts of our family dynamic. However, we’re getting to the age where most babies start solids. I was really hoping to avoid this until she was a year old. Some people have told me that’s utterly ridiculous while other moms have shared their experience with delaying. Arbor is at the age and developmental phase where she is gaining an interest in food. She’s started grabbing at our plates, has attempted to snatch food from our bowls and follows our every motion as food is moved from fork to mouth. She can now sit independently, has lost the tongue-thrust reflex when her lips are touched and can grab her toys, bring them to her mouth and chew like there’s no tomorrow. Developmentally she’s exactly where she should be in order to begin experiencing solid foods. I’ve been sticking to my guns about waiting until a year though. If you want to learn more about bay food nutrition facts, check this out.

This weekend we had a total game-changer. While my husband was snacking on a bowl of oatmeal, Arbor began her usual visual analysis of this whole “eating” thing Daddy was doing. Then she started chewing her mouth along with him and imitated his motions. She began grunting and leaning in towards him, all but begging for a bite. She grew increasingly frustrated that Daddy was not sharing that marvelous goop with her and I felt like we were being mean for upsetting her. I asked him to go eat in another room so she wouldn’t be as mad, so he hid behind a giant pillow where she wouldn’t see hIs food. I offered her the breast in case she was just hungry… she had no interest. She wanted Daddy’s oatmeal. Fortunately, out of sight, out of mind works for little babies. This frustration didn’t last long but it did open up the weaning discussion for Izzy and me.

We weighed out the pros and cons of both options… but it’s definitely not an easy decision to make. I almost went to the store that instant to pick up some avocados for her to try but Izzy reminded me that it’s only another three weeks until she hits the six-month mark. She might really need those three weeks to let her gut finish closing. After that date, we will keep good wholesome foods on hand that can be her starter foods when she is expressing a deep interest in starting solid food. We believe in baby-led weaning, so it’s important to us to allow Arbor to initiate the process, within reason. This too is feeding with love.

It’s my job as her mother to protect her and I take this role very seriously. It’s equally important that I not get so hung up on my individual goals for her that I’m preventing her from a normal, healthy and even fun part of her growth and development. I’m incredibly excited to see how she reacts to her first taste of flavorful food and am allowing that excitement to be greater than my fear of allergies. So we are preparing to lovingly usher in the next era of our parenting journey. Time to stock up on drop cloths and fresh veggies!