Sunday, May 3, 2009

Crunchy

I recently took a quiz on Facebook about my parenting style. After answering a few questions, this virtual game was prepared to diagnose my mothering methods. Always a little skeptical of Facebook quizzes, since they seem to mostly be authored by grammatically challenged teenagers, I was a little leery. Once the result was generated, however, I was surprised just how accurate it was. I was a Crunchy Mama.

I would have to say that compared to many moms I know, I am pretty crunchy. I'm not quite a total granola mom, not fully immersed in the wonder that is attachment parenting, and would never in a million years homeschool my kids unless I felt that there was truly no other good choice. But I am pretty crunchy.

I am a huge proponent of natural childbirth, but not for the reasons that many people might think. Yes, I am a doula, but that didn't come until after Ashley was born. I got an epidural with Aidan, at over 9cm by the way, mostly because I thought it was what I was supposed to do. Having never been through it before, I thought for sure it was going to hurt a lot more than it was. None of the nurses told me otherwise, even though I was walking and talking fine, clearly managing the pain well. By the time it started working, Aidan was already born. Weeks of back pain later, I realized it was a stupid, uneducated choice on my part, made out of fear. And that I wouldn't do that again.

I've seen what all the interventions and unnecessary procedures can do to interfere with labor. I've seen women so drugged and out of it that they seemed to miss out on the experience. I've seen women convinced by other people that their bodies would inevitably fail. Are there reasons for c-sections? Of course. And there is a wholly appropriate time and place for an epidural. But the vast majority of women don't need either, if they have the proper support in place. And if they believe that they can do it.

I didn't set out to be a doula, and I certainly didn't ever think I would be a nursing mom for as long as I have. No one in my family had ever nursed, and I didn't really have any strong opinions about it either way when I was pregnant with Aidan. Sure, it seemed like the better choice, but life gets in the way sometimes. Then Aidan was born, and everything changed. He was in the NICU, connected to all kinds of machines that breathed for him, fed him, hydrated him and monitored him. I was helpless as a mother, there was nothing that I could do. I made a decision to breastfeed sitting in that NICU. I knew that with him being premature and sick, really the only thing I could do to help him was to start pumping. And I did.

As Aidan started to grow, I joined a breastfeeding support group. Not only did that group bless me with friends that I still have today, it kept me nursing through colic, teething, nursing strikes and more. It is the perfect food for a baby, changes with them as they grow, is always available and gives them immunities that help keep them healthy. I set a goal to nurse Aidan until a year. We made it to almost 14 months before he self-weaned. With Ashley, my goal was 18 months, she made it 21. With Ally, I aimed for 2 years, and let's just say we overshot that one too. I figured out not too long ago that I have been nursing, pregnant or both for the last 8 1/2 years straight, minus about a month in 2007. I haven't been the only person in my body for a long time.

I wouldn't consider myself an attachment parent, even though I probably am. Considering I have been away from him for more than a couple hours only once in his life, to help another mama birth her baby, I guess I am. I don't wear AJ all the time in the sling, though I probably should since I am always carrying him. It would probably be easier on my back! We don't technically co-sleep, though for all intents and purposes we do. He starts the night out in his bed, but never wakes up there in the morning. Once he gets up to nurse, he just gets to stay. I've never understood the cry-it-out method. I couldn't do it. It seems cruel to me, and babies don't cry without a reason. He won't be in my bed forever, and I know that. All the other kids co-slept to some degree, and they all sleep in their own beds now.

Having had as much education as I have, some of it in the field of teaching, I have never once contemplated homeschooling. Having worked in the field myself, I know that one of the most important facets of school has nothing to do with learning. It is the social aspect, and it just cannot be duplicated in a homeschool setting. Kids need to develop their own relationships away from their parents, and school is a pretty good place to do it. If I ever felt like my children weren't being challenged enough at school, I'd supplement their education. But I wouldn't for one second think that I could do it better. That I could create a better experience for them. I can't. So, in that respect, I could be considered pretty mainstream.

I've tried using cloth diapers. I really wanted to do it, but Tom had to draw the line there. He just wasn't into it. And I couldn't do that by myself. Something like that has to be a team effort. I've also made some of my own baby food. But I buy it too. I try to get as much organic food as I can, but sometimes I am priced out of it. We try to squeeze as much life as possible out of clothes and shoes, happily accepting hand-me-downs and passing what we can down to others. But most of the clothes and shoes the kids wear are new. We borrow from the library rather than buy new books all the time.

Before I had kids, I never could have imagined being labeled as a crunchy mom. I didn't have strong opinions about labor and nursing. I swore never to co-sleep and I thought slings were for hippie moms. Then I had kids, and I changed. If I have to be labeled as a type of mom now, I guess crunchy is a pretty accurate description.

I always did like granola anyway.

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