Welcome to the February Carnival of Natural Parenting: Love and partners!
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month we’re writing about how a co-parent has or has not supported us in our dedication to natural parenting. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.
When Riley was born, my relationship with my husband changed. Because all of a sudden instead of one relationship, we were dealing with three. Our relationship as life partners, our relationship with our daughter, and our relationship with one another as parents.Another interesting thing happened as well. We stopped arguing, sort of. We disagree, alot. But we stopped needing to be right. I would say what I felt, he would say what he felt. And if we still disagreed, we just let it be. This is in stark contrast to previously where we would both continue to beat a dead horse until one of us admitted that the other one was right. I don’t know why, but following the birth of our daughter, both of us stopped needing to be right, we just needed to be heard, even if that meant that nothing really changed.
I did not have natural parenting ideals when I was pregnant. And in all honesty, I probably wouldn’t have even known what natural parenting or attachment parenting was. I read What to Expect When You’re Expecting in tiny little snippets so the weight of responsibility and risk didn’t totally freak me out. In the last month of my pregnancy I watched a million b-grade documentary type series on cable all about birth (most ended in c-section) and babies (mainly focussed on why won’t they sleep/eat/sleep). I found the idea of breastfeeding beyond 6 months a little bit creepy, looked down my nose at people who had babies or toddlers who wouldn’t sleep or would only sleep in their parents’ bed and couldn’t figure out why parents would walk around carrying their baby/toddler when they were pushing a perfectly serviceable stroller.
My husband had different ideas. His number one priority in our baby shopping was to get a baby carrier so he would be able to carry her around. So I bought one of those front-pack type carriers along with a sling. The sling seemed like a good way to be able to get things done with having both hands free. I didn’t really consider all the benefits of the sling in terms of bonding, comfort and closeness. Towards the end of my pregnancy we were doing some last minute baby shopping. My husband saw a co-sleeper (a little bed that sits on the main bed). It had a night light and little sides to stop you from rolling over onto her in the middle of the night. I didn’t really see the point. I mean, she was going to be in her own room from at the latest three months anyway. But, I’d done most of the shopping for the new arrival, and I wanted him to be involved so I placated him with the purchase.
There were two things that we both agreed on while I was pregnant, we would not be smackers and we would not cry it out. I felt very strongly about both of those things.
Then our beautiful baby was born, by emergency c-section. Josh kept me calm during the c-section by asking me for my rugby league tips for that week. Excellent distraction tactic. I was ill prepared for actually how violent a procedure a c-section is. Because I had skipped that chapter in the pregnancy book. I was going to have a completely natural birth, with no drugs, and there was no reason why I would need a c-section. The googy had other plans. She had one hand on her head and the other hand was hanging on to the cord. I remember seeing Josh’s face when they pulled her out and pronounced she was a girl (he has only ever wanted girls). He looked at me with more happiness and excitement than I had ever seen, and I knew she was ok. Her birth was a physical manifestation of our marriage. We had said the words, but she brought them to life and no matter what happened in the future, we were inextricably joined forever in this tiny little person.
Very quickly, all of my ‘ideas’ about parenthood and babies went out the window. Fair warning: you should never develop any firm ideas about parenthood before you actually have a baby – you’re likely to end up looking like a bit of an ass. I slept with her in the bed with me in hospital because I couldn’t bear to put her in the bassinet, just arm’s reach away, it was too far. I mainly dozed at first, because I enjoyed the feeling of her on my chest so much. I was comforted by her heart beat and her soft breath.
Breastfeeding was a challenge. I had damaged nipples and we struggled to find a good latch. I felt I was failing her at something that was so important, and was supposed to be so natural. I cried a lot. My desire to breastfeed was strong enough that I persisted through the excruciating pain and the dread of each feeding. Two things got me through it and to the other side where breastfeeding was enjoyable and painless. Josh gave me support and understanding through the hard times, allowed me the freedom to consider other options if I couldn’t get through it, acknowledged my efforts and held my hand as I bawled my eyes out through the pain. A wonderful midwife and lactation consultant also set me on the right path with the latch and spurred me on further, telling me that it was obvious how much I loved Riley, given the extent of the damage. Once in a while though, when I was up for the umpteenth time of the night breastfeeding Riley or trying to get her back to sleep and Josh was next to me snoring, I was tempted to beat him over the head with something.
I became an avid breastfeeder, and fell quickly and easily into on demand feeding, because it was so much easier than anything else. Sometimes it seemed like Riley was breastfeeding for 6 hours straight. I loved the closeness and connection of breastfeeding and often fed her to sleep, through teething pain, or whenever she needed a little bit more comfort. Josh would often stroke her head, hands or feet while I was breastfeeding, and it was a bonding time for him too. Josh used to walk past the formula in the supermarket and say ‘it’s not right, I’m so glad we didn’t have to go there.’And although we were both ready when we stopped, I missed it once it was gone.
Josh had three months paternal leave when Riley was born. And I needed him, every day. I was so grateful that we had that time together as a young family. When I was barely conscious from exhaustion he would take Riley for long walks while I either slept or just stared off into the distance, allowing myself to unplug. He fed me at all times of the day and night, quick meals that I could scoff down before catching some sleep. He proudly set up the co-sleeper in our bed at night, and on the couch during the day. He often used the night light to look at her while she slept (or check that she was breathing). Riley stayed in the co-sleeper until she was too big at around three months. At which point she moved to the bassinet (still in our room) for the first sleep of the night and then she usually slept with us after that. I mastered the art of the night-time breastfeeding and was able to sleep through most of her latching on. When she was too big for the bassinet, we moved her to the cot (in her room) at around 6 months. But it didn’t last long and she slept in our bed off-and-on until she was about 14 months. Although she’s now in a toddler bed and sleeps in her room, whenever she wakes up in the night we still enjoy co-sleeping, even look forward to it. We both wavered at times on the whole parenting to sleep thing, due to exhaustion, frustration and no prospect of change. Luckily, we never wavered at the same time. She was over a year before she started sleeping through with any reliability. And now, with hindsight, we both realise how short that time really is. When we were in it, we were so desperate for her to sleep through. But now, we both realise that the period of babydom is so much shorter than we were really ready for it to be. Parenting to sleep can be frustrating, boring and exhausting. Parenting to sleep can also be a special time for quiet connection. Josh loves it when Riley falls asleep next to him, and he sees her heavy eyes close and her body claimed by slumber.
We both preferred the sling or the carrier to the stroller. Sometimes it was a battle to decide who would do the carrying. It was a joy to have her mushy little face fall asleep against your chest. Even better was when she would wake up, slightly disoriented, and look up to realise that we were still there and she would get a happy little smile on her face. And I am one of those parents who carries her toddler around while pushing the pram. Because contrary to some of my opinions before Riley was born, babies and toddlers are actually people with emotions and needs and preferences. Riley has a preference for being held most of the time and I count myself lucky that we have such a cuddly daughter.
I happened across a natural parenting website by accident. And there it was, our parenting style, reflected back to me. None of it by design. Josh and I had floundered our way through early parenthood all through intuition and instinct, and landed somewhere that was totally comfortable for us and all three of our relationships.
The greatest difficulty Josh faced as a parent was not anything to do with sleep deprivation, or discipline, or the fact that he occasionally struggled to engage with her when she was a little baby and she didn’t really do anything other than lie there – prepared to be entertained. It was when she was really sick and she had her trip to the ICU. And it wasn’t that it was scary, or traumatic or the fact that we were completely out of control. It was after that, when she was getting better. She would cry if he came near her, and she would push him away if he came too close. She would also cry if she ever saw us hugging or kissing. And she was still hoarse from the tubes, and any cry was devastating to hear. After the trauma of her hospitalisation, all he wanted to do was hold her and cuddle her and kiss her and keep her close. And it broke his heart, over and over again. His pain was naked and raw. It was made worse by the fact that she didn’t even have the strength to crawl or sit up on her own, but she somehow found the energy reserves to make her rejection of his advances known. It took a long time, and an absolute commitment on his part to demonstrate his adoration for her, regardless. Sometimes he was frustrated, sometimes he was deflated and sometimes he was just plain hurt. And eventually, she returned to herself again, and to him. Now, you would never know it had even happened. So when the other day she crawled onto his lap for a cuddle after her nap, or when a few months ago her first clear word was “Josh”, he treasures it all the more.
Co-parenting wasn’t always easy for us. At times we were both frustrated with her clear preference for mama. I often wished that he could put her to sleep, and while this sometimes happened, more often than not, my presence was a requirement. Because I stay at home most of the time, it is also difficult sometimes to make that transition from me doing everything all day to us both participating equally either at night or on the weekend. That is still something we are working on. Our styles are different. Not in a core way, which definitely makes things easier. But, nonetheless, there are differences. Because I’m at home all day, I tend to pick my battles. That is something that Josh is still working on. I am more permissive than he is, and that is still something we’re working out together.
Since we both want to avoid day care if we can, Josh has started taking a day off once a month where he looks after Riley and I go into work. This has been great for both of us. He gets to see how the other half lives, has one-on-one time with Riley, and all in all tends to have the time of his life. Last time he had a day off, when i got home and asked him how his day was, he replied ‘just wonderful’.
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
- A Thank You to my Husband — Lactating Girl at The Adventures of Lactating Girl thanks her husband for keeping her grounded and giving her unwavering support in the face of discouragement from within and without. (@lactatinggirl)
- My Reverse Traditional Husband In the Wild — Paige at Baby Dust Diaries gives us a lesson on how dads in the wild parent their young. Can you guess which male animal actually nurses its young? (@babydust)
- February Carnival of Natural Parenting — TopHat at The Bee in Your Bonnet tells us how the patience of a partner can make a difficult breastfeeding relationship succeed. (@TopHat8855)
- Parenting Together — For Alison at BluebirdMama and her husband, parenting is simply an extension of the way they live. (@childbearing)
- If We Had A MIllion Dollars — Melodie at Breastfeeding Moms Unite! and her husband would both agree to be crunchier parents if they had a million dollars to ease the way. (@bfmom)
- February Carnival of Natural Parenting: Co-Parents — Dionna at Code Name: Mama has written a letter to her husband, thanking him for his incredible support in every aspect of their natural parenting journey. (@CodeNameMama)
- Natural Parenting Fathers — Sarah at Natural Parenting is balancing being all there for her son with being present for her husband. (@considereden)
- Just Wonderful: Love and Partners and Natural Parenting — Zoey at Good Goog let her husband lead her to babywearing and cosleeping. (@zoeyspeak)
- All that stuff I don’t get comes so easy to him — The Grumbles is taking this opportunity to say thank you to her husband for his mad parenting skills. (@thegrumbles)
- The Power of Having a Supportive Co-Parent — Chrystal at Happy Mothering and her husband started with vaccinations and moved on from there. (@HappyMothering)
- February Carnival of Natural Parenting: Love and partners — Lauren at Hobo Mama makes do with babbling incoherently about how her husband practices natural parenting in such an effortless fashion, with bonus video. (@Hobo_Mama)
- Love and Partners — Mrs Green at Little Green Blog shares her husband’s moving account of her birth story, and his testament to the power of a woman. (@myzerowaste)
- labor support… — Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children is thankful that her partner has provided her immeasurable labor support through each of their last three unassisted homebirths (and will again for their upcoming fourth!).
- What co-parent? On prams, routines, ideals, sickness, and finding my way alone. — Ruth at Look Left of the Pleiades describes life without a present co-parent: making new choices and taking care of things herself. (@brightravenmum)
- Parenting With Support — How many people can say that their husband talked them into cloth diapering? Darcel at The Mahogany Way can! (@MahoganyWayMama)
- Co-Parenting Support — Summer at Mama2Mama Tips knows the importance of being supported in the face of criticism. (@mama2mamatips)
- Natural Parenting Carnival: Love and Partners — pchanner at A Mom’s Fresh Start has been blessed with an incredibly involved partner. Her husband loves to take part in every aspect of parenting! (@pchanner)
- Daddy’s Little Girls — Kate Wicker at Momopoly finds her husband right at home in a tangle of girls. (@Momopoly)
- How do I love my parenting partner? Let me count the ways. — Sybil at Musings of a Milk Maker is thankful that she and her partner co-parent fluidly and gracefully. (@mamamilkers)
- Interview with a Daddy — NavelgazingBajan brings us a highly amusing peek into her husband’s perspective.
- Being Supported in Natural Parenting — Sarah at OneStarryNight has witnessed both ends of the parenting spectrum, and is grateful she found a father who is comfortable with natural parenting. (@starrymom)
- Moments in time: a love letter — Arwyn at Raising My Boychick will make you cry with the beautiful way she describes the complete relationship between father and child. (@RaisingBoychick)
- Natural parenting converts — Jen at Recovering Procrastinator brought her reluctant husband around to cloth diapers, bed sharing, and time-ins as a discipline method. (@jenwestpfahl)
- Breastfeeding Father — Amber Strocel at Strocel.com describes how her husband helped her overcome the breastfeeding challenges she encountered with her premature daughter. (@AmberStrocel)
- A Natural Parenting Village — Acacia from Art, Body & Soul, in a guest post for Jamie at Suddenly Stay at Home, broadens the term “coparents” to embrace supportive extended family on both sides. (@SuddnlyStyAtHme)
- A Natural Dad — Shana at Tales of Minor Interest doesn’t have a husband who merely supports her — she has a husband just as dedicated to natural parenting as she is.
- Love and Support From My (sometimes pantsless) Man — Joni Rae at Tales of a Kitchen Witch Momma describes life with the sometimes bumbling but always lovable Pantsless Man. (@kitchenwitch)
- G-O-T-E-A-M! — Jessica at This Is Worthwhile made sure her future husband agreed with her parenting choices early in their dating. (@tisworthwhile)
- how we come to parenthood — Michelle at womanseekingmother dances with her husband around the subject of cosleeping. (@seekingmother)