When I was in college, way back in the day, I stumbled across a teacher who was getting into this ‘new style’ of parenting. I was the only parent in the entire class besides the teacher, even so, by the end of her second class, the majority of the students were like me and totally interested in this ‘natural parenting’.  Our first big assignment was to do a short study of a parent and then make a comparison of their parenting to natural parenting. I chose one of my older sisters as my subject, the fact that she lived around the corner and that my niece would play with my 5-month-old for two hours had no bearing on my choice…really.

Donna was in her late 20s, married and had two children, a daughter and a son, a little over five years apart. Her daughter was Little Miss Happy Pants, always eager to help (and play with babies) and her son was an impish explorer (read: cute troublemaker-he once walked past mama on the phone, smiling as he pulled a loaded-with-dark-paint paintbrush along the newly white wall). She took care of several kids during the day for extra money. We didn’t have the best example of parenting growing up, something that greatly affected all of us, but especially Donna. Our two older sisters were good moms, but Donna just had this connection to kids. This soft-spoken empathy that we all seemed to lack. Where we would nod in a rushed agreement and then move along with a child showing us a prized possession, Donna would get down to their level, ask questions and really listen to their response. In her eyes, children really were people, too.

I wish I could remember all of my observations from that day…find the paper I wrote. Thankfully, I can easily recall most of my conclusions. In class, we had watched segments of an ABC show, ‘The Home Show‘, with a doctor who was talking about this little practiced parenting style, Dr. Jay Gordon. We read articles from a ‘extreme’ parenting magazine called ‘Mothering‘ and listened to our teacher talk about parenting in other parts of the world. In the couple of weeks we had to work on our papers, I started to realize that this stuff wasn’t so foreign to me after all. I saw it in practice nearly everyday, in my sister. I slowly realized that it was pretty obvious what I had personally lived, with my parents, wasn’t ‘right’. It didn’t feel right. It didn’t feel like home should feel. I wanted more for my son and my future kids. I evolved, over time and certainly never to what I thought was ideal. But messy house be dammed, all eight kids knew to their very soul that they could crawl up on mama, anytime, anywhere and be home.

Donna and SeannYears later, Donna’s life changed drastically. She was divorced, had hard times and luckily, ended up marrying her true love. They tried so hard for a baby of their own. She desperately wanted a child with her husband, so much so that she asked me if I would be a surrogate. Soon after asking, she got pregnant with her miracle baby and she couldn’t have been happier.  Oh, how she loved that baby boy!  They went through some tragic times, the demons of her childhood just wouldn’t leave her. She had rough times with her older kids and just her life in general. But that little boy…I would hear family members say things…”Can you believe he still crawls in bed with her and sleeps? He’s 10-years-old!” I would just smile and nod cause my own little ones and teens would ‘still’ crawl into bed with me!

Our parents died, we all moved apart and Donna made her own world with her husband and son, nearly isolating herself from everyone. When we came together for her funeral a few weeks ago, everyone was stunned at the quiet strength of her ‘baby boy’, 17-year-old Seann. He lost his best friend, the person he could confide in, trust and crawl into bed with if things got tough…for him or her. I sat on the ground outside of Burger King with him at 2:00 AM the night before the service and told him the story of why I was ‘just like’ his mom. How I didn’t realize just how important it was to pick up a crying baby, to kneel down and listen, to nurture and respect and to let the people you love more than anything in the world crawl into bed with you. We have all cried a lot since then, about a woman who gave so much of herself while suffering so badly. I was blessed to have thanked her many times, the last time just minutes before we had to let her go. Blessed to tell her that people do learn from your example. In our case, solely because of her, eight lives attached to a mom who almost didn’t know better. Thank you, Donna.

AP Month Blog Event – Featured Posts on Growing into Motherhood

We conclude our AP Month Blog Event with two posts from Anita and Bonnie, who explore the change in mindset that happens when you become a parent.   

Anita writes about her shift from striving in her career to thriving as a mother. http://singaporemotherhood.com/articles/2012/10/finding-my-balance-as-a-mother/


Below, Bonnie Coffa writes about how API changed her approach to motherhood.

API-Induced Rewiring of One Mama’s Brain

by Bonnie Coffa

Although at times we feel alienated when caring for a young child, we do not parent in a vacuum. How we parent is shaped by how we were parented, family, friends, pediatricians, books and prenatal classes, to name a few. I voraciously read every parenting book I could get my hands on. This is how I fortuitously stumbled upon the books and inspirational blog pages that introduced me to the world of natural childbirth and attachment parenting (AP) that would forever change my parenting style. Books such as Birthing from Within, Pushed, Spiritual Midwifery, Raising Your Spirited Child, Last Child in the Woods, Peaceful Parenting, The No Cry Sleep Solution and countless others (recalled from memory, so my apologies for title butchering).

While, helping out Samantha Gray on an API grant application, I started thinking about how my parenting strategies have evolved. Specifically how API and the Nashville attachment parenting group have changed my mindset about how children should behave, and how I react to my son, Michael.  Prior to learning about AP and attending meetings, I often felt resentful of my son’s frequent night waking and always wanting to be held. I kept wondering what I was or had done wrong.  I kept trying to “fix” my son, and in my attempt, I kept a meticulous diary of daily events (what he ate, what I ate (since he was avidly nursing), bathing, sunshine exposure, and other obscure items (and the order which they were performed), and how they had impacted his night-time sleeping, which bordered OCD and makes me chuckle now.  I was convinced that I would find the culprit and solve the frequent night waking, without using cry-it-out (CIO) methodology.

In my attempts to find an answer, I found a group of API mothers in Nashville, TN. API rotated my parenting style 180 degrees. I threw out the daily journal and stopped trying to “fix” Michael. I started to see him in a new light. He didn’t have a problem, he was just acting like a little boy and was only asking to have his basic needs met. It turned out that I was looking for the answer to the wrong question. The answer to my problem (emphasis on my) was acceptance of Michael’s personality and a revamping of my parenting ideals. Some infants adjust better to life outside the womb, than others and I realized Michael was having a tough time.

I remember having conversations with the pediatrician regarding letting him cry himself to sleep in his crib (and other self-soothing techniques) and reducing the night feedings, so he would sleep longer and gain weight (by drinking more cow’s milk and less breast milk, which is so backwards). After learning from the API group that breast milk contains higher fat content during the night, why on earth would I try and limit those feedings, especially when he needed that extra caloric content. I remember one mama’s advice about not counting the night feedings and the moral support “that this too will pass” and “they are only little for such a short time”.  My favorite quote was “no mother has ever regretted hugging and holding her child too much”. I was fortunate to find out about my local API group and have their support and the knowledge that I am not alone, which in itself was very helpful. After a while, I adopted the mindset of “don’t ask, don’t tell” when it came to areas such as sleeping through the night and weaning. Most mom’s feel they are doing something wrong, if their baby isn’t sleeping through the night and needs to be nursed, or rocked to fall asleep.

Having been a part of the Nashville AP group was especially important for me, since I had been lacking support and encouraging in my attempts at peaceful parenting. Going to the pediatrician’s office was like preparing for war. I needed to make sure I was armed with data and information; to rebuttal the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations (more like restrictions). I don’t want to condemn all pediatricians that are simply trying to care for our children as they were taught in medical school and from textbooks. But, I wish more pediatricians would question information and research their stance, prior to adopting the American Association of Pediatricians stance. For example, the recent article claiming no long term damage associated with letting infants cry it out. This article was taken at face value, instead of weighing the strength of the scientific evidence prior to AAP running with it.  Just because this publication provided data indicating that CIO appears to produce no long-term damage to children, did they perform a true scientific assessment of the study? Did they conduct the study appropriately, were the endpoints appropriate for their conclusions, what were the limitations and did they interpret the study findings appropriately. Moral of the story, we tend to get caught up in what pediatricians and people around us tell us regarding babies. That they will be spoiled if we do this and that. That they need to fall on a growth chart in terms of height and weight (aren’t those growth chart data points from formula fed infants). That infants should cry it out, or they’ll never learn to sleep on their own.  It’s infuriating that the wellbeing of our children is being compromised. What price are we paying by forcing and molding a child into adapting to our needs, especially in the cases where the mothers are uneasy about doing such things, but everyone around them is reinforcing the concepts that your child needs to sleep through the night, eat more solids, and yada-yada. I won’t say that I don’t get stressed out, but on average, I try to see his point of view. He’s only acting like a child, and it is me that is being a baby. The closeness and warmth children receive is important for proper brain development and maturation into emotionally and psychologically balanced individuals. This is where AP groups are invaluable. They can be a resource, particularly for parents that are surrounded by anti-AP philosophies.  Many parents aren’t familiar with attachment parenting and tend to parent their children similarly to how they grew up or take for fact statements made by pediatricians. I think it is critical that API gains greater exposure.

Despite having moved from Nashville, TN to Richmond, VA, I am grateful to still remain a part of the Nashville Attachment Parenting group via the yahoo group.

I cannot emphasize enough how important support groups like API are in providing a support system that helps fill this void many families encounter when raising a child. As the Canadian psychologist, Bruce Alexander stated, we live in a dislocated society (free market economies promote the dislocation from family and community). After all, it does take a village to raise a child, and in today’s society, those villages are scant and this puts a strain on the parents. I often wonder how the lack of support systems contributes to the rise in the number of bullies and drug and non-substance addictions, but that is a separate blog.

I hope that many other families too will be privileged to learn and reap the benefits of attachment parenting, and dispel the myths that negatively tinge AP.

Happy parenting!

AP Month Blog Event – Featured Posts by Sandra and Kim

The 2012 AP Month Blog Event is here! Every Tuesday, we will select blogs to feature that best demonstrate this month’s theme, “Relax, Relate, Rejuvenate: Renewed with Parent Support.” Make sure to leave a comment and let us know what you do to Relax, Relate and Rejuvenate


Sandra from Baby Love Wraps shares her thoughts on what support has meant for her and her family. http://babylovewraps.com/attachment-parenting/sharing-and-relating-openly-in-an-effort-to-find-support-give-support-and-connect/

Kim from Rites for Girls shows the importance of being able to lean on others when you’re not feeling your best. http://ritesforgirls.com/blessed-illness/

Many thanks to the bloggers for this week’s submissions!


AP Month Blog Event Features API of Jacksonville

The 2012 AP Month Blog Event is here! Every Tuesday, we will select a blog to feature that best demonstrates this month’s theme, “Relax, Relate, Rejuvenate: Renewed with Parent Support.” This week, three members of  API of Jacksonville share their support stories. Make sure to leave a comment and let us know what you do to Relax, Relate and Rejuvenate

Motherhood: The New Frontier

I kept detailed journal entries in graduate school for an independent study course on motherhood I designed while my son was a baby. It was called, Motherhood: The New Frontier.  I picked five books to read, and basically had free reign to write whatever I wanted to about motherhood.  Well, to say the least, these journal entries are raw, edgy, hopeful, honest, vulnerable, and loving (and about a dozen more adjectives).  These books on my reading list helped me realize I was not alone with my struggles.

My journal entries eventually turned into a book of my own. One of the themes of my motherhood memoir is the fact that I was practicing Attachment Parenting without even knowing it.  AP is flexible and you can adapt the 8 principles to fit your family’s needs.  People are up in arms about AP and the recent Time magazine cover.  I really don’t understand all the hoopla and outrage, but the Mommy Wars are a real thing. I’m a lover, not a fighter.

Motherhood is beautiful, ugly, difficult, easy, complicated, simple, textured, smooth, heart-breaking, heart-pounding, and one of the most complex relationships.

Mama and baby moose in Yellowstone, Wyoming

My road to motherhood was not easy; I struggled with infertility, postpartum OCD and intrusive thoughts, postpartum depression, breastfeeding, co-sleeping, and anxiety.  As they say in the South, I was a hot mess.  The thing is, nobody really talks about how hard motherhood is.  In fact, it is a taboo subject.  I guess it is easier to talk about the joys and blissful moments instead of talking about nipple scabs, cracked nipples, sleep deprivation, and all the other dirty little secrets mothers live through.

My little miracle. Hard to believe something as wonderful as being a mom can be so downright terrifying at times. —  Photo by Sara Turner

I remember calling my friend, Debra Elramey in tears saying, “Debi, my boobs hurt.”  My milk had just come in.  I was not told it would feel like the lower falls of Yellowstone were dammed in my breasts.

Yellowstone Falls, Yellowstone, Wyoming

I was hunched over the passenger seat of our green Jeep  in the parking lot near the super strip mall and my husband was getting me a Subway sandwich.  I was trying to be strong, and the baby blues were coming on something fierce.  Ben was sleeping peacefully in the car seat, probably a week old.  Debi said, in a voice only a good friend can emulate, “Honey, you’re engorged,” she paused while I cried, then said, “You need to get a pump.”  I was like, “What is engorged?”

Debi explained the situation and what I needed to do. I got a free hand pump from the city’s lactation consultant that spent ten minutes with me the next day.  She said, “Yep, you got this, you’re doing it right,” as if I were some tick mark to check off on a list.  I wanted to call her out and say, “Lady, I think you are mistaken — I have no f-ing idea what I am doing! Please sit your a– back down on my couch and please don’t leave.”  Instead, I just kept a stiff upper lip until she left and then I cried.  My next call was to the La Leche League.

Breastfeeding was hard.  My nipples were scabbed, bloody and every time my son latched on, it felt like, well, I can’t remember what it felt like because I was so sleep deprived.  I did not prepare for this. In fact, I winged it.  I was not aware of attachment parenting and the first principle, Prepare for Pregnancy, Birth, and Parenting.  I guess I was like a deer in headlights while I was pregnant.  It never really sank in that I was going to be a mother until I was a mother.

I eventually got the hang of breastfeeding.  In fact, I am still nursing my two and half year old.   My support came from women in a nursing mothers’ group that the lactation specialist from the hospital organized. It was great to be around women who were struggling with the challenges of breastfeeding and motherhood.

My friend, Debra, also came over to my house and sat with me as I nursed my son.  I kept asking, “Am I doing it right?”  She responded, “You’re doing it, so therefore you are doing it right.”

It wasn’t until I allowed myself to follow my instincts and relax that I realized there is no manual to being a mother.  I just followed my heart.

I carry him in my heart. Photo by my wonderful husband.

[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in]

By E. E. Cummings

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
                                                      i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you
here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)
My son and I in a recent photo

AP Month Featured Blog Event – Finding the Support You Need

The 2012 AP Month Blog Event is here! Every Tuesday, we will select a blog to feature that best demonstrates this month’s theme: “Relax, Relate, Rejuvenate:  Renewed with Parent Support.” This week, Lara Kretler of lara-mom.com tells us how she built her parenting support network from scratch, starting soon after she learned she was was expecting.

Finding the Support You Need

by Lara Kretler

lara-mom pregnant friendsBecoming a first-time parent is so life-changing that you can find yourself needing support in ways you are not used to. Whether that’s education during pregnancy to learn more about the kind of birth you want to have, breastfeeding support immediately after your baby comes, family and friends who can help give you a much-needed break from time to time, or parenting advice and counsel as your baby transitions into toddlerhood – it’s good to have a network of fellow parents you can count on. Read more to find out where Lara found the support she needs…