To look at me, my house, my lifestyle… You would never suspect. It’s cliche to say – appearances can be deceiving. You just don’t know what goes on behind closed doors. It was normal suburbia, in shaky Christchurch. A new baby is bought home and placed in the living room. The new parents looked at the baby, and exchanged glances. The look is unmistakable – fear. “Now what do we do with it?” “Wait for it to cry I suppose? Or get hungry. Or poop.”
Parenthood – it all started like my research said it would. I was one of those women that researched pregnancy, birth and those early newborn days like a homework assignment. I was proud I had looked beyond pregnancy and the birth to the reality of bringing my baby home. I had Youtubed; Googled; read blogs; devoured books, pamphlets, videos, webinars; Facebook – you name
it, I’d read it. I felt fairly confident and prepared.
Then the baby came home. I felt… odd. Yes I was pleased with the knowledge I had. Gosh imagine how terrifying it would have been if I didn’t study up! I just felt like something was missing though. My YouTube clip said breastfeed x amount of time on each breast. The book said sleep-feed-play. The video said to wind this way. The website said breastfeeding wouldn’t hurt. Everyone said you feel better after six weeks, less manic. Then they said three months. Oh and then six months. Nothing prepares you for the
craziness of those first daunting weeks.
So from the outside, as I mentioned earlier, things looked like any normal household battling with their first baby. Note the terminology – battling. Sleep training. Control. Teaching. Manipulation. Pain. Sleeplessness. Arsenic hour(s). It really does sound like a battle! Sure, I didn’t expect birds tweeting and The Sound of Music in the background – and I knew parenting was always going to be the hardest thing I’d ever done. But. A niggly but… That odd feeling.
I got to six weeks I think and something clicked. Maybe a lightbulb went on or a penny dropped – whatever it was… It made sense. I tried that sleep feed play but what DS really liked was sleep poo play feed. Really really liked it. It felt right.
So, I researched. That’s what I do. I wanted, nay, needed to find out the damage I was doing to my bub by not following the rules. I knew I was missing something, and I found it – maternal instinct. The whole world wide web was opened up to me and I discovered Pinky McKay. That odd feeling? It was me over-riding my maternal instinct. Pinky assured me I was not dooming myself or my child to a life of being booby dependant. Nursing to sleep (wow there’s terminology for that stuff I was doing!) was completely natural. Oh. Alright. So I google nursing to sleep and find the Analytical Armadillo and her famous article ‘he’s just using you as a pacifier’ – where she assures me it’s perfectly normal too! AA introduces me to ‘non-nutritive sucking’, that tickly comfort sucking at the end of a feed. That’s natural and normal too.
I feel like Nancy Drew or Scooby-Doo’s gang on the trail of a mystery… If this is all so normal and natural how come I hadn’t heard of it? Why isn’t every mother told this stuff?! Why did I feel guilty? I rapidly learn about co-sleeping, safe bed-sharing, baby wearing and not CC-ing or doing CIO. Here I was thinking I was the next earth mama by just breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding got me to bed-sharing. I would feed DS in bed, and we would both fall asleep. Together. Snug. In the morning DH would ask how many times I got up and I would fib and say ‘gosh three or four times I think, I just kept him in here at the end’. DH got smart. If we were going to bed-share he said, let’s do it safely.
Searching for safe bed-sharing Led me to Kellymom, The Natural Child Project and Dr Sears. Dr Sears introduces me to the term Attachment Parenting. Oh. So there’s terminology for all this stuff! Being the research buff I am, I find AP is backed by science. Research. Facts and statistics. Hurrah! So what’s all this other rubbish based on?! (rhetorical question – that’s for another day) My confidence grows. My maternal instinct is switched on. I feel way more content. That odd feeling? Gone. That something missing
feeling? Replaced with knowledge.
It’s all a bit hush hush though. So I search for Kiwi AP stuff. I find the holy grail (in my opinion!) – The Natural Parent Magazine website. Then the forums! We are blessed to live in this modern age with Facebook, forums, blogs and websites. I find other salmon fishing upstream! They look their babies in the eyes; feed or rock to sleep; bed-share; pick their babies up - wear them even! These crazy mamas let their children eat real food and don’t force tummy time on them – they’re rebels! Some are out and proud. Others
are quiet and content. Some are sheepish, others inquisitive. There’s a continuum. It’s a lovely continuum too – being AP you can be anywhere on it and feel good about yourself and your choices. So here I am, somewhere on this lovely rainbow of a continuum – but you’d never guess by looking at me, my house my lifestyle. We don’t wear flashing neon signs or a cape, we’re just doing our mama thing, listening to our maternal instinct.