Monday, May 5, 2014

Our Attachment Parenting Journey: A Second Chance and a Second Birth

To read Part I and Part II of this story, click the links. 
     After this discovery of the attachment parenting lifestyle, I began to feel comfortable as a parent. Confident, as if I had come into my own. All of these cliche things. 
     Jeff came home at the end of September that year, late at night one evening after Sam had been sleeping. I remember him peering in our bed astonished at how he had grown. He asked “But... why isn’t he in the crib?” I told him that this was how he slept. And he accepted it and we all got in bed and slept peacefully as a family for the first time in six months. Jeff was an instant father. All of the worries I had about the boys being separated for so long melted away as they became best friends. It was nice that he had no outside influences giving him ‘ideas’ about what parenting looks like, and he fell right in to our lifestyle without leaving me to feel judged. Sam slept in our bed every night. Some nights, he would start off in his crib, stretching and rolling around, waking up to jump around and then fall back asleep. But inevitably he would end up between us at some point in the early morning.
     When we found out we were pregnant with Abigail, we were elated. It had taken a little longer than Samuel, and I was over come with relief that my body was in fact working properly. The trip we took to Vermont when we were trying to conceive left all of us with wonderful family memories, but I was relieved I was finally pregnant. It was just before Sam’s first birthday.
     I immediately knew I wanted this pregnancy to be different. I was seen by a nurse practitioner for the first several weeks, after I was disappointed to find that there were no midwives in my area. I filled my mind with positive birth affirmations and read several books on natural childbirth and breastfeeding. I really liked the Bradley book, and practiced the exercises religiously. I walked with Sam in the stroller, ate healthy, and stayed positive. 
     As I neared my ‘due date’ my doctor began internal exams. He told me at 38 weeks that I still had an ‘unfavorable’ cervix. I thought this was good news, but it would seem I was wrong. He then began the induction talk. At 38 weeks! I still had 2-4 weeks to go! I was amazed. I told him that I absolutely did not want another induction and that I could go into labor on my own. His response was best described as a ‘we’ll see’ and my 39 week check up was the same as before. On my due date he scheduled a non-stress test where you lay semi reclined and very uncomfortable on a very narrow table with external monitors on, looking for contractions. I had none. In the exam room, my doctor told me that my cervix was still very high and unfavorable. I told him that I wasn’t worried, because I knew I was going to go into labor in 3 days; that I just had a feeling. He must have thought I was crazy or in a deep denial because he scheduled an ultrasound after agreeing to “allow” me to go another week without intervention. 
    Just as I had suspected, two days later I was in labor. At first I didn’t know I was. I thought I just had a stomach ache and gave Sam his bath and put him to bed like any normal day. As my belly ache got more intense, I texted Jeff saying that tonight might be the night. He asked if he should start heading home and I wasn’t sure. He works a two hour drive away, so I finally decided that yes, he should start heading home because even if I wasn’t in labor I would have his company. I sat tailor-style on the floor wrapping Christmas presents for my family; pictures of Sam in black frames. By the time Jeff got home at around 9pm I realized I was in full blown labor. I didn’t bother timing contractions because I couldn’t make myself care. The pains were intense and coming frequently, who cares what the numbers are? To deal with the cramps, I got in a hot shower and spent a long time in there letting the water rush over my back. When I got out I called my mom to start heading our way (she was going to sleep over with Sam) so we could go to the hospital. 
    In contrast to my previous scheduled induction, I was so happy to be experiencing labor on my own. I so missed having that “is this it? lets rush to the hospital in the middle of the night!” experience the first time around. I moved to a hands and knees position on the bed. The contractions were intense but I was so afraid to go to the hospital. What if I get there and I’m only 1cm? What if I’m left for hours strapped to those monitors not allowed to move? Then at 11pm my water broke and this rush of panic swept over me. First, it was meconium stained, so my dreams of laboring in the birthing tub or shower were dashed, and I was fearful for what it meant for the baby. Then, I remembered how intense the contractions got after my water broke with Sam. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to handle bringing my stuff to the car, the short ride to the hospital or walking in. I called my mom back and told her to hurry. She called her sister who lives right up the road to come until she got there, but they both came at the same time. 
    The less than 5 minute ride (seriously it was like a mile) to the hospital was torture. I was sitting in the car thinking of how grateful I was that I didn’t decide to deliver in Boston where the midwives are as I knew I wouldn’t have been able to tolerate the ride. We got to the hospital at around 1130 and I calmly walked through the ER waiting room (where I work) and waved to a few coworkers, trying to be the picture of serenity.
    Once on the maternity floor, the nurse gave my a johnny to change into and I remembered that I had wanted to buy a light cotton one from Dear Johnnies or some place to labor in instead. Too late now! I got on the bed and she checked me and I was surprised and to happy to hear that I was 7cm! All my hard work at home really paid off; there would be no pit drips on this girl! She also put external monitors on, but didn’t make a fuss when I wanted to labor sitting straight up sitting Indian style on the end of the bed. This was the only way I felt comfortable. At one point she DID make the comment “you don’t look very comfortable” and attempted to lay me back and put pillows all over me and one under each appendage. I immediately flashed to being stuck in that half reclined position for days on pitocin and jumped back up to my criss-cross stance. 
    As the contractions got more intense, I remember hugging Jeff around the neck with each one. At one point I wanted to bite him, and I think I actually tried. Between contractions though, no matter what anyone else says about birth, are lovely little pain free breaks, where you’re just a girl sitting on a bed. At one point I felt like my body was pushing. I wasn’t doing it, it was as if my body knew exactly what to do (funny huh?) The nurse checked me and yes, I was ready. It was about 1am I think. I had to wait for my doctor of course, so I sat in the same position on the edge of the bed not really trying to not push until he came. What I really wanted to do was just stand and push the baby out, or push kneeling on the bed. I knew it was coming, but when he came in it was immediately lay flat in lithotomy, feet up! I panicked. PANICKED! I started yelling “What? I don’t know that to do! What am I supposed to do?!” I was completely thrown off my flow. I don’t remember anyone really telling me, but I just started pushing the baby out. It hurt. It burned like no other. All I had heard was how contractions were bad and pushing felt great. I felt the opposite. I think I only pushed three or four times. I do remember reaching down and feeling the top of her head coming out because no one was telling me progress and I wanted to know. At one point I said “I never wanted a natural birth!” Which every one in the room knew was not true. 
    I saw the pediatrician come on the room (because of the meconium stained fluid). The one I disliked and still do. I will say that it is awkward giving birth in front of people you will continue to work with. But before I knew it, our precious girl was here. At 131am on December 7th, 3 days after my due date just as I had said. She went directly into the arms of the nasty pediatrician, and I feared another long exam. But he checked her over, gave a small ‘congrats’ half-wave and after I was sutured for a small tear, the nurse put her right back in my arms. 
     She was so wide awake and soft and sweet. I tried to nurse her and took to it right away (and hasn’t stopped for 18 months yet). Like it was easy, as if we had done it a million times before. I knew all of my reading had paid off. Then something magical happened. The nurse had me get up to go to the bathroom to get cleaned up, and when we were through, she put Abby back in my arms, shut off the nights and said “have a good cuddle!” Just like that!
No fights, no damning looks over ‘endangering’ the baby, no hiding our “alternate lifestyle” from strict staff. It was wonderful. And we did have a good cuddle AND a good sleep. We were both quite tired. 
    We woke up early the next morning and the first thing on my mind was getting home so that our little family was together. The nurses and OB didn’t seem to have much of an issue with it and by that evening around supper we were home.
     Adjusting to home life with Abby was so much easier than with Sam, even with a little guy under 2 running around. I think as a second time parent you are able to adjust your expectations to what works better for your family and your baby. This time I knew that she was going to sleep with me and be worn in a Moby Wrap during the day. I didn’t have those old anxieties about “spoiling” her or not being able to put her in a crib as she got older. I didn’t even try to put her in a baby seat until she was much older and when I did, she actually liked being in her little swing. We left the house plenty of times and wherever we went, whether it was the aquarium, Natural History Museum or the beach, or even just the grocery store, she was in the carrier, quiet, happy and looking around. I believe in the Attachment Parenting Book its referred to as ‘peaceful observation.’ This phrase describes Abby to a T. 
     I love these sweet memories of baby wearing at the beach, breastfeeding and baby wearing at the EcoTarium. Having a breastfed sling baby has made having a toddler so much easier. I have one arm free for him at all times. I don’t have to juggle bottles or a stroller, I can follow him around with Abby in the sling at his pace, holding his hand. 
    Another perk of AP is the amount of compassion that this style of parenting instills in children. In The Attachment Parenting Book, Dr. Sears says that when children know their needs are viewed as important and will be met with compassion, they then view other’s needs as important and pass that compassion on. I would say this is absolutely true and is one of my favorite qualities of Sam’s personality. His is the most loving little boy. He is so concerned about the happiness of others, especially his sister. He brings her snacks, blankets, when she (or anyone) cries or seems upset, he runs to her and asks “Whats wrong Abby? It’s ok!” and rubs her hair. He says “please” and “thank you,” “you’re welcome” and “excuse me.” He kisses her and shares his toys. He is generally a happy little sweet boy. I love that and I’m so glad that I listened to my instincts and ‘discovered’ this style of parenting, as I can now see the same qualities starting to emerge in Abby. She also at just one year old says “please” and “thank you.” She shares with Sam and gives out plenty of kisses and hugs. 
     I was worried as they got older, that I would 'run out' of ideas of how to parent this way; neither child sleeps with us anymore, Abby has been shunning the wrap and prefers to walk around solo. But I realize now that AP is so much more than when they're infants. Its gentile parenting, its a mind set. It's about holding a child through a temper tantrum, understanding that they are frustrated, not defiant or manipulative. Its about maintaining open lines of communication in ALL the ways they communicate. If anything, AP only expands as children grow older. 

     If you think the attachment parenting style would work for your family, or you just want to learn more, see the AP Resources links below:

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