Friday, June 10, 2011

Theory vs. Practice

I know that I've written before about the differences between thinking about how to do something and actually trying to do it. With teaching, it's usually obvious when something that sounded right in theory falls flat in practice. I don't know why I didn't think this was the case with parenting. I suppose some lessons are best learned by doing. Before the boys were born, I knew exactly what kind of parent I wanted to be. I remembered my own childhood as a time when my mother was always available to me; my brother and I spent hours playing on the floor of her studio while she painted. She wore us in a Snugli and breastfed us. Attachment parenting sounded like what I remembered. Babywearing, breastfeeding, bedsharing, etc. all made sense to me. I knew that there were people who wore their twins together in wraps. I figured the rest would come naturally.

Once the boo boos made their appearance, I plunged right in, and though it took ten weeks of pumping 8x a day, five or six visits with the lactation consultant, and a lot of tears (mostly mine) for the three of us to get on the same track, the boys are now exclusively breastfed. There were days when the boys had to have a couple of ounces of formula and I thought (thanks to The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding) that I was the Worst Mother Ever, Poisoning Her Children. Obviously, I wasn't. Those couple of ounces of formula here and there freed me up to get some rest, which is just as important to good lactation as pumping and nursing constantly.

For their first three months, the boys slept almost nowhere but on people--either in a Moby wrap or sling, or (more often) cradled in the arms of a parent or grandparent or generous friend. We wore the babies tons, and they still sleep in bed with us at night. We love snuggling with them and know that they won't always be in bed with us. But when the grandparents all left and the friends stopped coming by, we still had two boys who needed to sleep during the day. They were getting too big for this treatment:

We love wearing our babies, and prefer to do so when we're out for walks as a family. No pushing our babies away from us! (I do like a double stroller for getting out of the house on my own, though. And the babies seem to like it, too!)

When my husband started going back to the office, I had to do something to make the days bearable. Here's how we spent many days:

They'd have a meal, then we'd do a little tummy time or playing, then they'd get cranky and need to sleep. And I didn't know how to put them down, and I couldn't figure out a way for the three of us to all snuggle comfortably in bed. And I'm a terrible napper, so it wasn't restful for me to nap with them anyway. I called my mom. She told me to put them down in their cosleeper and leave the room. mom, my perfect mother, put us down to sleep in another room? And then did other stuff while we slept? And yet we still grew up deeply attached to her?

One of the "B"s that Dr. Sears writes about is balance. It's the one thing I seem to have forgotten. Being a good parent isn't always all about sacrifice. It's about finding what works to keep the whole family sane, possibly even happy.

We hired an awesome postpartum doula to help us. She taught us how to put the babies down in their cribs, and helped me realize that I'm a better parent when I can sneak in a shower, some dishes, and some blog posts while the babies sleep. Linda kept repeating the idea (until I really got it) that the family bed, babywearing, etc. only work if everyone's happy. If mom's exhausted, the babies won't be as happy, and the family can't thrive. So now I am devoted to letting my babies sleep in their cosleepers, and they get a bottle (of mama's milk) every other day or so, so that when I need to leave the house I can do so without worrying too much about my babies' basic needs. Maybe this isn't really attachment parenting anymore. But it feels much more balanced for me.

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