Monday, October 19, 2009

Hello My Name Is: Attachment (ish) Parent

Before I became a parent, I had all kinds of opinions on how other people should be raising their children. Oh, yes I was one of THOSE people. I had all the answers for your parenting problems, and they usually involved giving that unruly toddler a spanking. Kid throwing a tantrum at the store? Spank em. Kid won't finish his supper? Spank em. Kid talks back? Spank. His. Hiney. And so on and so forth. Why? Well, because that's pretty much how I was raised. And just like a Timex, I could take a lickin and keep on tickin. So I figured if I turned out to be so kick ass, then that MUST be the proper way to raise children.

And then I had children. I had a child who has both a will of steel and a spectrum of thought and emotion that amaze me. I realized in raising this child that there is no One Size Fits All solution for parenting. Just like their parents, each child is unique and comes with his or her own set of strengths and weaknesses. It is our job as the Parents, to figure out how to best guide them through the tempest of emotions and struggles and hopefully arrive safely on the other side of adolescence. But really, that's just a tangent. What brought me to this subject was the pondering I've done lately on how each of my girls is so intrinsically different from the other.

As I've mentioned before, Ellie was a good sleeper from the get go. Even now, after she has her daily tantrum, she usually still takes a three hour nap. Can you say Awesome? And then there's Ari. Maybe it's because she was forced into the World before she was ready, maybe it was a side effect of the crazy medication I was on for my eye, maybe it's just Who She IS. But Ari, has NEVER yet been a good sleeper.

At three days old when I couldn't take the sound of her whimpering in the cradle next to my bed any longer; I said, The Hell with it, and did what I thought up until that point was a big no no and put her tiny body in bed with me. She slept for almost six hours and it just felt RIGHT. Shortly thereafter, I realized that I had been trying to force my child and myself into the box of what I thought a good parent child relationship was. And while it worked for Ellie and I, it wasn't a fit for me and Ari. You see, that's the crazy thing about parenting. You have the be the parent that each child needs you to be. Ari's specific needs as a child caused me to slip comfortably and fully aware into the shoes of an Attachment Parent. Or my version of that anyway.

So, that's what we've been doing for the past almost six months. Co-sleeping, baby-wearing, and the whole she-bang. And up until recently, the shoes fit real nicely. Recently though, she has been nursing ALL. NIGHT. LONG. Basically using me as a comfort and a pacifier, and while up until this point I didn't mind it; my neck and back have been causing me pain and my quality of sleep had gone down tremendously. Not to mention the fact that there just isn't room for the three of us in our bed anymore. This situation caused me to realize that in order to be the best parent I can be; I sometimes have to do what's right for me. And right now, what's right for me is getting my sleep and my bed back. I am no good to anyone hobbling around in a sleep deprived daze all day.

So, I consulted with older women that I trust who have had many children and could offer advice on just how to go about kicking her out of my bed. And, I might just add that she was simply going to a pack and play right NEXT to my bed. You know what all of them said in one way or another? Let her cry. To someone who embraces Attachment Parenting, those are very dirty words. So, I tried my own way first, which involved just about anything I could think of to get her to sleep in her pack and play without crying short of climbing in there with her and nursing her to sleep. I must admit though, I did go as far as to lean over and contort my body in such a way so that she could use me as a pacifier while in there. And while I was twisted and pulled, I thought to myself, This is so stupid. Let her cry for a minute. And so I did. DUN DUN DUN

And you know what. As much as I hate to admit it, THEY. WERE. RIGHT. After five minutes, she was asleep. I still fed her twice that night and put her in bed with me at six the next morning. HEY, baby steps OK? But the next night she only whined for maybe 30 seconds and fell asleep. And just now, for her nap. JUST NOW guess what happened? I laid her down half awake and she went to sleep without EVEN WHINING OR CRYING IN HER OWN BED. YES, I AM YELLING! I want to run through the halls of my building in my underwear testifying of this glorious hurdle we've just overcome.

There is no label for her as a Child. There is no label for me as a Mother. It is just give and take and we are both learning what works best for us. But, a little secret? I wouldn't give back those six precious months of her in my bed for anything.


Amanda said...

Jill - I am right there with you (sort of). I NEVER would have imagined that I would let my baby sleep in the bed with me or let her use me as a human pacifier night after night after night, but I have AND dammit, I'm not ashamed of it. I am sore a lot of the times - those nights where I foolishly think it will be more comfortable for us in the bed instead of the recliner - and it makes me feel like I am so much older than I really am. I have tried the CIO and it just doesn't work for Olivia. I tried it today, in fact, while reading your post. Two different occasions of 30 minute crying spells for her nap and I just couldn't do it. Plus, we are still swaddling her at night and after letting her cry for about 10 minutes the other night, I went in to find her face down. I'm not ready for that and it looks like neither is Olivia. I'm glad for you that Ari is. You got spoiled with Ellie and her sleep habits - I'm hoping my second or third is like that. I'm gladly taking the "tough" one first!

Keep me posted on how she does.

ATTACHMENT PARENTING ROCKS, says the Mama with her baby currently strapped to her!

Amanda said...

Oh, all that being said, Olivia DOES start out in her own crib and I do my best to put her back in it after her nightime's just that sometimes (most times) sheer exhaustion takes over and we just end up snuggling together.

Maggie May said...

Yup! Things keep changing too, with every child. We have three now and it's amazing how different it is with the third