If you don't know already, here's the quick glimpse into babygirl's arrival. My pregnancy super sucked. I started nesting at 2 months. We, of course, registered for everything under the sun. I had no idea I wouldn't be a "normal" parent. Her room was all set for her. At 29 weeks and 4 days, I rolled over in bed to discover a crap ton of blood gushing out. I was rushed to the ER (I *may* have threatened the very young EMT in the ambulance to FIND. THE. BABY'S. HEARTBEAT. which he did).The doctor saw me and said "if it's ok with you, we'd like to take her". all calm like. Me? Not so much. I wasn't even 7 months pregnant yet. I looked at the hubbs, and said "I guess...." And 14 people flew into that room and rushed me out, as I threw my cell phone at the hubbs and yelled "CALL MY MOTHER!!".
God had His hands all over babygirl. The doc had ordered general anesthesia, but in the room they decided to go for an epidural (which is MUCH safer for baby). I did vomit the entire time they were operating but I guess I was able to stay still enough. Unbeknownst to me at the time, she was out for a good minute before she made any sound. Poor hubbs knew what was going on, but he didn't let me worry. I only got to see her little foot before they rushed her to the NICU, and I sent hubbs with her while they put my insides back together. About an hour later, they stuck me in a recovery room. Apparently, I'd had a placental abruption- where the placenta is ripped away from the uterus, usually ending in fatality for both baby and mom. Hubbs passed out on the couch, there was no tv, no nothing, and I was high as a kite and had my phone. So I of course announced her traumatic arrival on Facebook (my mom could cheerfully choke me for that one).
I was not allowed to go to the NICU until I could feel my legs. Not cool. She arrived on early Friday morning, August 26th, at 1:26am. I didn't get to see her until much later in the day on Friday. And I was only allowed to grab her little hand through the incubator for a short period of time. My mom miraculously caught a flight out of Jersey (where the state was under a state of emergency for a hurricane, making leaving almost impossible) and got to meet babygirl Friday night. Back in my hospital room, the nurse came in, threw a breast pump at me and said "get started. she needs you". And I did. I pumped like a crazy woman because if this was the ONE thing I could do for her, I was gonna ROCK at it. I couldn't keep her in- this was the least I could do. Saturday morning at 5 am, the nurse comes in to rip out the catheter (TMI??) and I jump in the shower. Get dressed. And we go downstairs to the NICU, where I camp out for the next 2 months. My docs were a little pissed at me for being MIA, but whatevs, they found me eventually. Something primal came over me. I stopped taking any meds for pain on Saturday morning, and on Sunday, they discharged me because they couldn't find me, again. Every morning, at 10 am, we met with every. single. person. that had something to do with my daughter that day to hear the plan, hear the progress. And everyday, I just cried and asked "But when can I hold her?" Turns out Day 5 was my lucky day. They finally were able to remove the intubation (which she kept trying to remove herself, feisty little thing) and that meant it was safe to hold her. Only for a few hours at a time (the outside was a bit overwhelming), but it was heaven. And I swore to her that as soon as I could, I would hold her every second of every day. And before I even knew what it was called, I had signed on to attachment parenting.
We did kangaroo care (skin to skin) for hours and hours every day- as long as her little body was able to function outside of the incubator. For those periods of time that she had to be back in there, I would pump and research. and sometimes remember to eat. I researched all of the scary things (vaccines, what's in our food supply, NEC- an awful preemie bacteria that when not attended to soon enough, liquifies baby's insides, the pros and cons of formula fortification). Things you can't unread. We made it clear that formula was not an option. I didn't care how much weight they thought she should be gaining, she would have breast milk and I would allow some human milk fortifier. but no formula. I'll tackle the vaccination aspect in another post, as it is long, involved, and gets me raging.
And we had visitors. A friend of mine, Michelle, came bearing some earthy gifts. She gave me a Moby wrap. I had no idea what this was. Turned out, it was the GREATEST GIFT KNOWN TO MAN (more on that gem later). I read a 600 page preemie book, front to back. I should not have. The nurses made it clear to ONLY READ THE SECTIONS THAT APPLY TO YOU. I did not listen. Mistake. I read the entire La Leche League book. I also read a LOT of Dr. Sear's parenting books. Which is when I first heard the attachment parenting terms. And I made some decisions.
I know it's shocking. SHOCKING. But I'm a leeeetle bit Type A. You could call me a perfectionist. You could call me obsessive. Some might even call me anal retentive. You would be correct. So it shouldn't surprise anyone that when we made the decision to do attachment parenting, I DID attachment parenting. And when we decided to breastfeed? There was no discussion of bottle feed because preemies have a hard time at the breast. I was going to FEED FROM MY BREAST come hell or high water. (some of that may have been a laziness issue...who wants to go warm a bottle in the middle of the night??) So, once the feeding tube was removed, I allowed daddy to give babygirl one bottle of breastmilk. Then I made it clear that this child was not going to have a bottle again until after she was able to take a full feed from me. How do you know it's a full feed? Apparently, since we were dealing with a 3+ lb baby, you weigh her before and after to see how much she got. (and that didn't mean that I was starving my child...it meant that the feeding tube went back in- she started being able to handle 1 feed a day without the tube, and gradually worked up from there).
With the help of the MAGICAL nipple shield, my preemie started BREASTFEEDING. that sentence? makes me sob. SOB. It was the one thing I knew I wanted to do parenting-wise before babygirl arrived. And it was the one thing that I was told by many nurses that she most likely would not be able to do (little jaw muscles weren't strong enough, they said. she'll be in the hospital for a lot longer if you don't just give her a bottle, they said.) But this girl? This girl was all about a boob, from day 1. That's where her head ALWAYS went when I held her. (Btws it wasn't every nurse that said that. Many did. But there were some cheering me on!) Eventually, when daddy tried to feed her with a bottle, she literally slapped it out of his hand! To this day, anything resembling a nipple (sippy cup, bottle, pacifier) she shuns. She'll even pull it out of other kids' mouths and throw it on the ground. This secretly makes my heart happy.
In between all of our little victories (she POOPED!! she's in a CRIB not an incubator!!), there was the apnea. TERRIFYING. Apnea is when babygirl decides to forget to breathe. When her oxygen saturation numbers get too low, cause of the not breathing, machines go off. She turns grayish. goes all limp noodle. sometimes can't wake herself out of it. They told me to pinch her foot if it goes on for too long. Crying means she's breathing. awesome. And it's one of those things that actually gets worse before it gets better. There were 2 times when she needed oxygen blown by her face to get her to breathe again. I can't even handle remembering that. She had apnea fits on me A LOT. Blessing and a curse. She was always monitored, so they obviously would know if it was happening while she was in her crib, but because it was on me, I was able to see the signs without needing the monitors. The one time she did have an episode after we left the NICU, I was putting her into the moby when she went all limp noodle on me. Thank God it didn't last very long and I woke her right up out of it.
And of course, there was the reflux. Oh, the reflux. That kid could puke with the best of them. She couldn't sleep on her back because of how bad it was. So they gave her a crib that could be tilted up. No help. They gave her a wedge.
And finally, the day came where we got to take her home. EXCITEMENT. TERROR. RESPONSIBILITY. No more monitors. If she stopped breathing, it was all on us to notice. And she was still soooooo tiny. She hadn't quite hit 5 pounds when we were discharged. We were told not to have her in the carseat for too long, or in a backpack, or in any seats that weren't reclined enough (her windpipes could easily be kinked shut, like a garden hose, at certain angles). THANK GOD FOR THE MOBY!!! It kept her in the kangaroo position, skin to skin with me, and I had both my hands free to do what I needed and still hold babygirl all the time. For the next 14 months, no one ever got to see my cute outfits- that moby was on 24/7.
We discovered that feeding her was basically all I would be doing for a month or two. It took about 45 minutes for her to finish a full feed, and she needed to eat every hour and a half. So I got to read a lot more books (and catch up on crap reality tv). I read Mayim Bialik's book on attachment parenting. I have loved her since "Beaches" (and "Blossom" of course), and I loved her book even more. It made me feel less crazy about the way we were bringing up babygirl (which earned me lots of questions from family and friends, and which I was feeling a little bit guilty about- was I doing this whole parenting thing right? was I really spoiling her?)
Our life in a nutshell:
Shower with babygirl- highly recommend. She LOVES water, I got to shower every day with her right there with me, and now she tries to wash me!
Hold babygirl while she naps.
Cook and Clean with babygirl in the moby.
Daddy holds babygirl while mamma pees by herself for the first time that day.
Sleep with babygirl on me, while I'm propped up with a husband pillow.
We did leave the house. A lot actually. She was easily portable. She slept on me anyway, so it didn't matter where we were. As long as I had the moby on, we were good to go. I eventually figured out how to nurse her in the moby too.
And during this time, and still, I hear "Just put her down." "She'll never figure out how to self-soothe if you don't put her down." "She'll never leave your bed if you don't move her to her crib now." "You're spoiling her." "We just let ours cry, and they finally figured it out." "Does she sleep through the night yet (at 3 months, 6 months, 1 year, now...)?"
Yes, the questions were said in love, by people who genuinely love us and care about our well being (although there were some random strangers who also gave me their opinion, as if I gave a crap). Did that make it any less crazy making for us? Nope. Did I cringe when I heard the start of one of these? Every time. Did I sometimes want to punch people in the throat when they wouldn't just leave it alone? Abso-freakin-lutely. I wasn't mad about it all the time. We get it. People were genuinely curious- they had never seen a baby raised this way. And that was fine. It got less fine when it was said with the "knowledge" that we were ruining our child (thanks random lady in the store. I'll spoil her? Is she produce? Will she bruise if handled too much??).
So here's my take. Babygirl is only a baby once. For a short period of time in her life. She had a traumatic beginning. If she needs some cuddles, or to be nursed, or to be held I'm gonna do it. She's smart....but she's not tricking me into holding her. Trust me, girlfriend likes to run around on her own. If she's asking, she genuinely needs me. Do I believe that she is capable of self-soothing? Meh. Maybe a little bit. Her panicked cries beg to differ. There are times at 34 years old I just want my mom.
So, I did some more research, cause hey why not. And I've been finding some really interesting things. Again, this is not an indictment on other parenting methods. This just happens to support the one I'm using.
Dangers of Crying It Out Article- Honestly, I've been going back and forth on whether or not I should include this here. There is some really really interesting information here. But she's a tad harsh. I should appreciate that, as I have that same tendancy. Ah well. Let the chips fall where they may. Please don't hate on me.
Dr. Sears- basically I read all of his books. I appreciate his style. Not judgey, just lays out the facts. His vaccine book was a life saver. And now that we're approaching 2, his discipline book has also been a HUGE help with a certain stubborn someone I know.
The Other Baby Book- love this book too. I just recently read this one, and it just helped re-affirm all that we've been doing.
So why do I need to re-affirm, you ask? Well you people just keep asking "questions". You know, things like "Isn't it about time she sleeps on her own?" "Don't you think when she can ask for it, she's too old to nurse?" Perhaps veiled comments is the more appropriate term.
Let's now answer all the questions that you know you wanted to ask but (maybe) didn't:
Do you ever have date nights?
We've had 2 since she's been born. And we're good with that. She comes out with us all the time. We waited 5 years of marriage (9 years of being together total) to have kids. We knew it was going to change our dynamic. Now that she's older and not nursing as much, we'll probably have more.
Do you ever have sex if she's in your bed?
It's funny. A bed is actually NOT required for sex! She falls asleep, we go off and do our thang.
But your husband hates it, right?
Actually, the hubbs loves it. He works. A LOT. and travels for work. A LOT. He loves having nighttime cuddles with babygirl. There have been many a night where I wake to find she has sprawled herself across his throat. I have no idea how it doesn't choke him, but it is adorbs.
Aren't you afraid you'll roll onto the baby?
Nope. Not once. Hubbs maybe was a bit fearful of that at first, but after the first night, it was all good. I was more afraid of her stopping breathing and me not being close enough to hear it. And I cannot say enough how much easier it is to soothe a baby in the middle of the night by simply turning your body to let her nurse and fall right back to sleep. I was not a sleep deprived new mom, and that was awesome.
Aren't you afraid that if you always hold her, she'll never learn to sit up/crawl/walk?
Nope. when she was ready, she would do those things. I was told that Hindu women (I think...my memory is not as good as it used to be) carry their babies for the first 6 months of their lives, never letting their feet touch the ground because they believe that babies are sacred. I thought that was really cool- and it was a nice departure from the usual "why don't you just use a stroller" comment. oh, and babygirl has consistently scored not only above her adjusted age, but also above her actual age in her gross motor skills evals, so clearly carrying her had zero effect on her movement.
Why don't you just use a stroller?
1. I can't figure out how to open it.
2. Why on earth would I lug around a lot of extra weight and crap with me when I could just have her snuggle on me and do what I need to? I do this thing, a lot, where I imagine worse case scenerios happening and what I might do in those instances. And of course I've pictured taking babygirl for a walk in a stroller, and having someone come and snatch the stroller, and her from me. Yup. Ridiculous. But you'd have to work awfully hard to get her out of the moby before I beat the ever-loving snot out of you. She's been in a stroller 3 times. None of those times worked well when I was there.
3. Watch this. Anna, this one's for you. Cracks me right up.
Why are you still nursing? Isn't a year enough?
Enough for who? She loves it, I love it, she's getting all the nutrition and more that she needs, the World Health Organization recommends bf'ing for AT LEAST 2 YEARS! It's the best way to keep her healthy, it clears up EVERYTHING- I had an eye infection and it cleared it up in 1 day. The doc was amazed....and then a little weirded out when I told him how I healed it. And no. I did not squirt it directly into my eye. That would take some serious skill.
Isn't she gonna be too dependent on you?
Yes, for a little while. Cause she's a baby, and that's how they work. People think it's so strange to attend to their needs, but how on earth can we expect a tiny person without the capability to even hold up their own heads for very long to soothe themselves to sleep, to occupy and pacify themselves, to only be hungry every 3 hours cause that's when the book said they should be hungry, to sleep through the night for 8 to 12 hours (I know many adults who still can't do that). I just can't imagine hearing that teeny voice call out for me, and not immediately finding out what it is she needs. She's 21 months old now, and there are times that she'll play by herself for hour long stretches. Then she'll run up and give me a hug, or want to be held or nursed for a minute, then runs back to terrorizing the cats. She makes solid eye contact with everyone she sees (and sometimes follows with a very enthusiastic "HIIIIEEEEEE"). She loves playing with other kids. She recognizes and loves Nana, even though she lives 3,000 miles away. Girlfriend has a knack for spotting nurses. I'm telling you, SHE JUST KNOWS. She LOVES them! Sure, she has her clingy phases. Like every other toddler. But she is not hurting for social skills.
Danica McKellar (Winnie Cooper from "The Wonder Years") was recently interviewed because, GASP, she breastfed her child until he was 2 1/2. When asked about attachment parenting, and if she was afraid her child would be spoiled she said cuddling and closeness is one thing. “Doing everything your child wants you to do right when they want you to do it is another thing.” Perfectly stated. For the record I should state that I wanted to make sure I got the quote right after watching the interview. The website I found it on? "Oh No They Didn't!" I. just. sigh.
Which leads me to: WHY SO MUCH CRITICISM? There are a million and one ways to do everything in this world. Why on earth do people have SUCH a hard time dealing with attachment parenting styles? There is some straight up HATE out there for the women who dare to raise their children this way. From the celebrities who take heat for it, to the daytime talk shows that pit extreme parenting styles against each other, to the cover of Time magazine taking a beautiful moment between mother and son and throwing a chair and some camo pants in there for shock value- see here.
Maybe if we all just accepted and moved on, we could take the best parts from each different style and use them as we see fit. Maybe we can just congratulate each other on making it through another crazy day (whether that day is spent at home or at work or both) instead of cutting each other down for the choices being made. Wouldn't that be nice?
And here's my little bonus. It may have something to do with how close we were to losing her (if we had gone to the hospital where I was supposed to deliver, there's a good chance she would not have made it). But I find that attachment parenting has made me a million times more patient- which, if you know me, is a miracle. I'm more thoughtful about my words and actions around her, and more thoughtful than I thought I would be when it comes to meeting her needs, even when they seem completely ridiculous. And honestly? I never want to be away from her. Call it obsessive, but I cannot bear to be without her. So this attachment thing? It works for us in a big way. FOR US.
So that's our story. Yes we still co-sleep. Yes I still wear her and never use a stroller. Yes I still breastfeed and plan to until she's good and ready to stop. No I don't think it's weird. No I don't think I'm ruining her. Yes we will use this same method if we have another. Yes you are more than welcome to ask me questions about it, as long as you are not silently judging me and/or telling me about this friend you know who used this method and now her son is a serial killer. That is all.