Stepping outside of the box AKA Talking for a teddy bear

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During the past four years of my attachment parenting journey, I sometimes find myself in situations, especially with regard to discipline, that require me to step outside the box and out of my comfort zone.

A few months ago I was trying to get Ava, almost 4 years old at the time, to sleep. She had had a long day and was simply exhausted, so much so that every little thing was setting her off into a puddle of tears. I was getting frustrated because it seemed nothing I could do was right (in her eyes). Logically, I knew that she was acting this way because she was so tired and had passed the point of no return, but still I felt my frustration growing inside me.

She sat on the bed, slumped over crying and complaining about anything and everything imaginable and I wondered how could I get her to give in to her exhaustion and just lay down. I realized that reasoning with her wouldn’t work at this point. She was too far gone for that. I felt like yelling because my frustration was getting worse and worse – after all, I had things to do too and I didn’t want to spend all of my night trying to get her to sleep – but I knew that wasn’t going to help matters either.

Finally I decided what I really needed to do was take a deep breath, step outside of my comfort zone, grab a stuffed animal and start talking to her as the animal. Talking to Ava via a stuffed animal is a parenting “tool” my husband and I had used with success in the past, though not lately and, given the circumstances, I wasn’t sure how it would fly.

She has a bear named Roger who I always imagine talks with a Southern drawl and is good at cheering her up when she’s down, so Roger was the bear for the job. After a few seconds of talking as Roger, Ava stopped crying and began responding back to him, telling him what was going on with her. Although she couldn’t have done that for me, her mommy, she could do it for an impartial furry third party. 😉

Roger’s silly antics soon had Ava giggling and then he was able to talk her into laying down on her bed, relaxing and getting ready to sleep. As the bear said his good nights to Ava and me, Ava said her good nights in return and was soon calm enough to drift off to sleep.

As I left her room I couldn’t help but feel very proud of myself. I can’t claim to always respond well or the “right” way to every situation, but that night I put my pride and frustration aside and did what Ava needed to help her relax and get to sleep. Had I let my frustration overcome me there’s a good chance it would’ve taken me at least another 30-45 minutes and many more tears (probably on both of our parts) before she was asleep. But by tuning into her needs, letting go of all that I “needed” to get done, stepping outside of my comfort zone, and throwing in a little goofiness, I was able to get her to sleep calmly in much less time. And let’s face it, isn’t goofiness a prerequisite for becoming a parent? No? Well, it should be. The world just might be a happier place.

Amy Gates blogs about green living, attachment parenting, activism and photography at Crunchy Domestic Goddess.

API Speaks is seeking contributors

We are currently growing our API Speaks blogging family and are in search of a few new contributors (both moms AND dads are encouraged to apply). If you want to throw your hat into the ring, please read over our Contributor Guidelines to get a feel for what we’re looking for, then send an email to me (bloggers AT attachmentparenting DOT org) or Julie (apispeaks AT attachmentparenting DOT org) and we’ll add your name to the list for consideration.

Please note that you do not have to have a blog in order to write for API Speaks.

Thank you. 🙂

Amy & Julie

Breastfeeding while pregnant: trying at times, but ultimately worthwhile

Originally posted on May 25, 2008 on Crunchy Domestic Goddess

When I became pregnant with my son, my daughter Ava was about 20 months old and still nursing regularly. While I had friends who’s children had self-weaned when they became pregnant, I had my doubts that my “na-na”-loving kid would consider weaning for a second, even if my milk dried up.

At that age, Ava was still a comfort nurser, and still woke at night to nurse. After finding out I was pregnant I worked towards gently night weaning her by letting her know she could nurse as much as she wanted during the day, but at night the na-na had to sleep and she had to wait until the sun woke up in the morning to have mama milk.

By 22 months, miraculously (or so it felt) she was sleeping through the night. (Can you hear the angels singing? I thought I could. 😉 It was wonderful.) She was still happily in our bed, but no longer waking for na-na, and I was able to get the sleep I needed while growing a baby.

Of course, night weaning her did nothing to reduce her desire to nurse during the day, even when my milk dried up (somewhere around 16 weeks I think). However, as my pregnancy progressed, I decided that I wanted/needed to cut down on the number of nursing sessions per day for a variety of reasons. 1) My nipples were becoming increasingly tender. 2) My hormones were all kinds of crazy and the feeling of her nursing when there was no milk to be had sometimes honestly made my skin crawl. 3) I had my qualms about tandem nursing a newborn and a toddler.

The negative and skin crawling feelings were very much a surprise to me and I admit I felt guilty about it. I felt fortunate that I had a group of friends to bounce these feelings off of and was happy to learn that while all pregnant women don’t feel this way, my feelings were certainly not out of the ordinary and others had experienced similar feelings as well.

I used distraction to help reduce the number of times Ava nursed and my husband Jody helped out a lot too. We would ask Ava, “What else could we do to make you feel better instead of having na-na?” and often sang silly or happy songs together rather than nursing. It wasn’t always easy and sometimes I let her nurse even though I didn’t want to, but eventually (about a month or two before Julian was born), she was down to nursing only 1 time per day – before bedtime.

Before Julian was born we talked a lot with Ava about how he would be a little baby and need a lot of mama milk to grow up big and strong like his big sister. We really wanted to get the point across that he would be nursing all the time. And we talked up how she was a big girl and got to do lots of things that Julian was too little to do. I was also sure to let her know that we’d still have our “special na-na time” every night before bed. It honestly worked pretty well.

There were a few weeks towards the end of my pregnancy that I seriously considered weaning her all together. Like I mentioned earlier, my hormones were wreaking havoc on me and nursing her, even only once per day was hard because I had some seriously strong negative feelings that were hard to control. There were a few times that I had to tell her that I was feeling frustrated and needed a break and I would have to take a minute to calm and center myself before letting her latch back on. I think keeping the lines of communication open like that and being honest with her was helpful.

Part of the reason I didn’t wean her completely then was because I felt like it’d be harder to try to do that, than it would be for me to just suck it up and muscle through the last few weeks. I know that sounds horrible, but I knew that when my milk came back in and my hormones weren’t so crazy, nursing her would not affect me so. And I was right. It got easier, much much easier once Julian was born and the milk started flowing freely again.

At the end of my pregnancy, I remember every night I would lay down for some quiet, cuddle time to nurse Ava before bed, she would hold onto baby (put her hand on my belly), and I would wonder if it would be our last night together just the two of us before her baby brother would join us.

In retrospect, I’m glad that I didn’t wean her, despite my strong feelings because I think tandem nursing has been a nice bonding experience for the two kids. On the somewhat rare occasion that Jody is traveling for work and I’ve had to get both kids to bed by myself, we’ve shared some pretty special (though definitely awkward) times together with both of them at the breast, holding hands or giggling at each other, and it’s moments like that that I wouldn’t trade for the world. 🙂

I want to add that this is my experience only. Just because it was trying at times for me, does not mean it will be for everyone. It’s impossible to know how pregnancy and breastfeeding will go for each woman until she experiences it for herself and then can decide what is best for her and her family.

Amy @ Crunchy Domestic Goddess

Maintaining our right to choose

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the American Medical Association’s decision to try to outlaw home birth over at my blog Crunchy Domestic Goddess. This announcement really hit close to home (no pun intended) since I had a home birth with my son Julian and, should my husband Jody and I want to try to have more children, I would choose a home birth again.

The first principle of Attachment Parenting is Prepare for Pregnancy, Birth, and Parenting. One of the ways I prepared for birth when I was pregnant with my son was to try out different health care providers until I found the one that was right for us.

Due to my history of having HELLP syndrome with my daughter, I thought I was considered high risk and started out my pregnancy with an OB practice. It took just two appointments for me to realize that I was only a number there and it was not the kind of care I wanted for myself or my baby.

At the recommendation of a friend, I tried another OB practice and really liked the doctor that practiced there. She seemed much more interested in me as a person and I didn’t feel like I was rushed in and out of the door. Yet, I still wasn’t 100% comfortable with the idea of another hospital birth.

After another friend of mine experienced an amazing home birth, I began talking to her more and more about it and she encouraged me to meet with a midwife just to discuss my options. She had checked with her midwife (who ultimately became my midwife and assisted with my son’s birth) and found out that my past history did not make me high risk or risk me out of being a home birth candidate. So my husband and I made an appointment to talk to her. We came armed with all of our questions and she answered them to our satisfaction and then some. It became clear to me that in order to have the kind of birth I wanted, I needed to plan for a home birth.

We felt extremely confident in this midwife’s experience, history and abilities and didn’t see any reason to interview another one. At around 20 weeks, I switched from the OB practice to my midwife, and the rest, as they say, is history. When my son was born a surprise footling breech, with the cord wrapped around his neck three times, and his arm behind his head, I was so glad we made the choice that we did. My midwife was amazing.

Amy and Julian after breech home birth - 11/23/06I feel so fortunate that I was able to make the choice that was right for me, my baby and my family. I had the kind of birth that empowered me and made me feel like I could take on the world mostly because I had the right to choose.

I can’t imagine what taking away the right to choose would do to so many women throughout the United States. If you feel similarly, please consider signing the Keep Home Birth Legal petition and/or spread the word about this. Home birth is a choice. Let’s keep it that way.

Written by Amy from Crunchy Domestic Goddess

On Nursing a Preschooler

When I was preparing for my daughter Ava’s birth, there were a lot of uncertainties about what motherhood would have in store for me, but there was one thing I knew for certain – I would breastfeed. I didn’t have a time limit set on how long I would breastfeed, I just knew I would do it, as my mom had done with me and my siblings.

My daughter Ava is now just three weeks away from her fourth birthday and she is still nursing. I am sometimes conflicted about how I feel about it. After all, it’s not like I began my nursing journey saying, “I want to nurse my child until she’s at least four.” I did, however, believe I wanted my child to wean when she was ready, but I didn’t anticipate how I might feel or what I might do if her idea/time frame of weaning readiness differed from my idea of when I thought she should be ready.

Ava nursed pretty much on demand, or, a phrase I rather prefer, on cue until she was around 2 years old. It was then that I was pregnant with her brother Julian and decided I need to cut back her nursing frequency a bit for my own peace of mind. A few months before Julian’s birth, she was down to nursing once per day (before bed) and that’s pretty much what she’s been doing ever since (for the last year and a half).

A few months ago, I toyed with the idea of weaning her by her fourth birthday, so I threw the suggestion out there to her. At first she seemed amenable to the idea, but has since changed her tune, citing, “But I love mama milk,” which made me smile. And then she also added, “I’m going to nurse until I’m 8!,” which made me shift a little uncomfortably in my seat.

I feel like overall (with the exception of a few difficult months during my pregnancy) we’ve had a great nursing relationship and she’s received so many wonderful benefits – great health, emotional security, bonding with her brother at the breast, etc. – over the past four years. I know it would be bittersweet if she weaned now, but I would feel very good about what I’ve been able to give her, as well as what she’s been able to give me. However, I don’t think she’s ready yet and, as much as I’d like to just be nursing one child again, I don’t think I am going to insist that she wean. I may still make suggestions and talk up the very rare occasions that she goes to sleep without having “na-na” by telling her how proud I am and what a big girl she is, but, for now, I think that’s as far as I’m going to take it. When all is said and done, I really do want her to be able to decide when she is done.

Ava, almost 4 yrs oldI didn’t set out to nurse a preschooler, but somehow along the way, my sweet little baby grew from an infant to a toddler and eventually blossomed into a preschooler in what now seems like the blink of an eye. I am confident this won’t go on forever and when I look back on this time when she’s 10 or 20 or 30, and I look at the young woman she’s become, I am hopeful that I will feel good about the choices I made and have no regrets.

Amy @ Crunchy Domestic Goddess

Planning for a home birth

Originally posted on July 27, 2006 – Four months before my son Julian was born at home.

By now you may have gathered that instead of choosing to have an OB-attended hospital birth this time around, we are planning to have a midwife-attended home birth. There are a number of varied factors that have led me down such a different path with this baby and I’d like to share some of them.

home birthFirst of all, I believe that, in the majority of cases, birth is a normal, natural and healthy process. I believe in a woman’s (and my own) ability to give birth naturally, normally and without intervention, as women have been doing for thousands of years.

I am drawn to the midwifery model of care because it feels normal and natural. I like that a typical midwife prenatal visit lasts 60 minutes (as opposed to the typical 6 minute OB prenatal visit) and does not feel rushed. I like that I am getting to know the woman who will be there for my labor and birth and that she will gain my trust so that I feel comfortable with her while laboring and birthing. I like that my midwife is interested in my nutrition and in suggesting preventative measures (such as acupuncture) to help ensure that I have a healthy pregnancy and birth.

My midwife in particular has a 15-year background as an EMT (emergency medical technician). I feel her experience in that capacity has helped her develop critical thinking skills and the ability to think quickly on her feet. After all, how can you be an EMT without that ability? I feel very comfortable that if a situation should arise that is beyond her comfort level, she will know what steps to take (i.e. a hospital transfer). Because of my history of complications with my daughter Ava, this was very important for us. My husband Jody and I both feel very confident in her experience and abilities.

I love the idea of birthing at my own home, where I am comfortable and able to relax without worrying about who’s going to be walking in the door next (nurse shift changes, etc.), where Ava can play or sleep or do whatever she needs to (in a safe environment) and still be in close proximity to me and Jody. My sister will be her primary caregiver while I am in labor. And when the baby is born, Ava can chose whether or not she wants to be present. Yes, we will be preparing her with regard to what to expect when mommy is in labor, etc. We actually watched a birth video – “Giving Birth: Challenges and Choices” by Suzanne Arms – together this week and will be reading Welcome with Love with her, a wonderful children’s book about a family having a home birth. I’d like her to be there, but I’m not going to force her. If she is meant to be there, she will be. After seeing her interest in watching the birth video though, I am pretty certain she’ll want to see baby brother join us.

I also love the idea of being able to sleep in my own bed after the birth. That was one of the hardest things for me in the hospital, not being able to sleep. I eventually had to ask for sleeping pills because it’d been something like three days since I’d slept for more than a few minutes at a time, and trust me when I say having hallucinations while trying to care for a newborn is no fun. Being in my own bed will be heavenly. And I’m sure Jody would agree as well after sleeping on a flimsy mattress on the cold, hard hospital floor for five days after Ava’s birth.

Another compelling reason for me to have a home birth is I’d like to labor and possibly birth in water and my midwife has a birthing pool that we can set up right in our house. There are no hospitals around here that I’m aware of that allow water births.

Because of all of this and more, I feel planning for a home birth makes perfect sense for us and I look forward to the experience.
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The following information was taken from The Homebirth Choice by Jill Cohen and Marti Dorsey and further illustrates why I’ve decided a homebirth is the right choice for me and my family. I cut and pasted some things that are particularly important to me.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF MIDWIFERY:
“Midwife means “with woman.” Traditionally, women have attended and assisted other women during labor and birth. As modern medicine emerged in the West, birth fell into the realm of the medical. Since women were barred from attending medical schools, men became the birth practitioners. Having never had a baby themselves, they were unable to approach women and childbirth with the inner knowledge and experience of a woman. Childbirth became viewed as pathological rather than natural; unnecessary, and often dangerous or unproven, medical techniques and interventions became commonplace.

During the 1960s and 1970s, along with the women’s movement and renewed interest in home birth, the midwifery movement rekindled. It has been growing steadily ever since. Midwives are becoming more and more involved with birthing families and have been instrumental in redefining birth as a natural event in women’s lives.

Midwifery empowers women and their families with the experience of birth.”

PRENATAL CARE:

“Prenatal visits may take place at the midwife’s home or clinic or at the family’s home. Prenatal visits are a time for the midwife to get to know the family and friends, neighbors, or other children who plan to be present at the birth.

Prenatal care for the pregnant woman includes discussion of nutrition, exercise and overall physical and emotional well-being, as well as overseeing the healthy development of the fetus.

Midwives include the family during prenatal care, inviting them to ask questions and to listen to the baby’s heartbeat. Intimate involvement of the family throughout the pregnancy allows for early bonding of the newly emerging family unit.

The midwife and family will often discuss the mechanics of birth. The more people know what’s going to happen, the more comfortable they may be while awaiting the birth.”

LABOR:
“In the safety and security of her own home, the mom is likely to be less inhibited about trying different labor positions and locations. She can sit on the toilet or go for a walk outside. She can eat or drink whatever she wants. She writes her own script. When it’s time to deliver, she can often try whatever position she wants: on her side, squatting, sitting or kneeling.”

BIRTH:
“Home birth allows for full participation of family members. Under the guidance and assistance of the midwife, the opportunity is available for husbands or partners to “catch” their child as it is born. These moments can be very powerful and transformational in the lives of the new parents.

At home births, babies are usually immediately placed on the mom’s stomach or breast, providing security, warmth and immediate bonding between mom and baby. This contact provides security for both mom and baby.

In the rare case when the baby has difficulty breathing on its own, midwives are fully trained in infant CPR. Usually, putting the baby right to the breast and having mom talk to her baby will encourage it to take those first breaths.

Putting the baby immediately to the breast helps reduce any bleeding the mom may have. The sucking action stimulates the uterus and causes it to contract. This closes off blood vessels and reduces bleeding.

Some members of the medical community have recently acknowledged that having a home birth decreases the mother’s and baby’s chances of contracting an infection. The mother is used to the bacteria in her own environment and has built up immunities to it. This is passed on to the baby through the colostrum. Even when women are segregated in maternity wards, infections are much more commonplace after hospital births than home births.”

— Amy @ Crunchy Domestic Goddess

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