Thursday, July 31, 2008

AP and Veganism: Peas in Pod

Today yours truly was a guest blogger over at Crunchy Domestic Goddess. I wrote a little bit about how I feel veganism and attachment parenting go hand in hand. Here's an excerpt:

If I look at the world from the eyes of a child as I often try to do now that I have a babe of my own, I can’t imagine a child saying “I want to eat dead animals,” or “I want baby cows to be taken away from their mamas so I can have their milk,” when given the choice. Children tend to feel a natural fascination and connection with other animals and, I would argue, they intuitively understand on a very basic level that the difference between the family dog and the veal calf in a factory farm is an arbitrary one. After all, anyone who lives with companion animals knows that they are sentient and have feelings, moods, desires.

I figure that’s why a lot of APers are veg*ns, too. Learning to see the world through our children’s eyes lays at our feet the great and terrible potential for a larger sense of compassion and empathy. As a friend on another forum said, “Without embracing compassion for my son, I would never have moved my sphere of compassion beyond our family and beyond the human family.” It’s a fantastic joy, and it comes with its share of responsibility.

Of course, you'll have to read the rest over here.

AP Dads

One of us recently brought up in conversation the fact that her husband was having a hard time embracing attachment parenting the way she had. This comadre really wants to co-parent with her husband and hopes fervently that he will come round.

Like many of us on the road to the AP lifestyle, her husband has these shining moments of tenderness with their baby when it seems like he’s acting intuitively and listening to his innermost voice about how he wants to parent; he also has a lot of other moments when it seems as though he’s fighting a losing battle with the parenting style in which he was brought up and with the loud voices of family and bossy baby trainers that don’t seem to have an off switch. My friend wants to know what she can do to help her husband feel confident about tapping more completely into his intuition and doing the AP thing full time.

Sound familiar?

As a subscriber of Mothering, a participant in the Mothering Dot Commune forums, and a reader of many AP blogs, I’ve often seen variations on the same story: a woman wants a home birth, but “DH” isn’t into it, how can she convince him? A woman wants to practice attachment parenting with their new baby; how can she get DH on board? A woman is vegetarian and wants to raise her child as same; how can she—well, you get the idea.

Maybe it’s the circles in which I spend most of my time running, but it sure seems to me that things like having a home birth, practicing attachment parenting, eating a meatless diet made up of healthy whole foods, and generally living in a conscious and attached fashion somehow become campaigns for many women. Many of our male partners need convincing, and it seems a lot harder for them to fall into the lifestyle.

Part of it might be as simple as upbringing. As one AP dad says in his blog (bolding mine):

I grew up in a household that was a combination of strict and detached, where my parents unquestionably loved me, but in a distant and pretty much uninvolved way. As a consequence, while I have always been determined to not be this way with my kids, it's tough because there's a sort of behavioral destiny in this vein that I've had to fight on and off for years. I think we all have to be very conscious parents if we don’t want to just fall blindly into the patterns our parents used in rearing us, actually, and that’s not very easy to do, particularly in stressful situations.

Yet, it’s an argument any woman could make as well, isn’t it? I’d argue that it’s because we live in a sexist, patriarchal society that women get “permission” to “dote” and practice attachment living whereas men have it the other way around. It’s “natural” for us to be nurturing, intuitive, and attached to our children, for us to be demonstrative toward them with our emotions and affections. In fact, some of us may even feel pressure to perform as the perfect AP mama according to those "natural" expectations. Dads have traditionally experienced different parenting pressures, most of which allow for (and expect) distance.

I know plenty of women who are harangued by strangers and even family/friends/partners over their decision to practice attachment living, but it seems the men generally get one of two reactions, depending on the crowd: either they’re criticized for deviating from script society has handed them about how to live up to their masculinity, or they’re given a standing ovation.

The other day, my partner and I went to an outdoor music festival with our 6-month-old son. I toted him around in the Beco most of the time and no one seemed to bat an eye, except for a few smiles (at his big blue headphones) and a couple disapproving grimaces (“concerts are no place for babies!”).

When my husband strapped him on, however, it was an entirely different story. Women stopped him on the street and begged to take his photo, not even noticing I was there! They cooed and complimented him and generally became puddles of goo on the pavement. These well-meaning passersby might as well have said, “Good job being an involved and attached father! You don’t have to do that, you know. You’re really going above and beyond! You obviously don’t care about looking masculine, and that’s so cool.”

Traditionally, men have been kept out of pregnancy, birth, and child-rearing, only advised to play supporting roles. Bradley (and later Sears) began to bring men back into the parenting picture again in a big way; Bradley advocating for childbirth to be “husband-coached” (don’t get me started—his heart was in the right place), and the Sears franchise encourages fathers to enjoy such things as skin-to-skin time with their babies and not to balk at strapping on a sling.

Attachment parenting amounts to practicing “feminine” ways of knowing. It asks us to get down on our children’s level, to intuit and anticipate their needs, to tune into them emotionally and otherwise. It asks us to be tender, to ask instead of tell or explain. It asks us to share our beds, our breasts, our hearts. It’s not a “method” to which you can subscribe, and it’s not always convenient. It’s demanding and it’s hard work. It’s enriching, too, and even better when both parents are into it.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, take your pick), for many men AP means giving the proverbial finger to typical ideas of masculinity. It’s hard for some of us to overcome ideas we might have learned about gender when we’re learning to parent our own children. Co-sleeping and extended breastfeeding are areas of the AP lifestyle that often raise the most eyebrows among non-APing men. After all, doing those things must preclude any kind of sex life, right? For a guy to agree to such a thing must mean he handed his wife his man card on a silver platter.

My partner is a computer guy and I’m an academic, so we both appreciate a factual and logical approach. During my pregnancy, we pored over books and articles together, with me taking the lead. I dog-eared pages and sent him links and we both quickly arrived at most of the same conclusions. I see many other women doing the same thing: preparing to do battle over home birth or AP, stockpiling research for The Big Conversation. Hey, whatever works!

So I get why it’s hard for some of our partners to get behind AP at first. It seems to require peeling back a lot of complicated layers. But by setting new examples for masculinity—especially for our sons—we show our children a broader spectrum of gendered and parenting behavior. I think I’m pretty lucky to (e-)know a lot of men—like my partner and Jeremy Adam Smith, for example—who are proud to be AP dads.

So, tell us about your partners and your (shared?) journey to attachment living!

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Mama Shape

Conversations amongst my fellow AL bloggers (my Baby Ladies!) often turn to post baby body talk. It's something that seems to weigh on the mind, even if lightly, of even the most down to earth of us.
I am in awe of my body. It grew into a beautiful shape while developing crazy powers inside. It truly is a temple- housing, knitting, birthing, nourishing three healthy humans relatively effortlessly.

It's still hard not to balk at the changes that hit so fast as we enter Motherhood. I'm back to my before children weight again but no longer will I slide into those butt-cleavage jeans without a hearty muffin top lapping over. No longer can I slip off my bra to be greeted by perkiness- they almost groan as they settle, weighted by milk and motherhood. My thighs could kill a man and pink ribbons adorn my hips.

Biologically it makes sense. We have no need for a flawless body to attract a mate anymore. We do need milk bags, hearty baby lugging limbs and that handy pooch to sit that clinging child on.
Truly beautiful. And hard to remember. As I strive for perfection I often lose the meaning in the process. In my mind I see my 20 year old body as ideal. But how ignorant that body was- of housing, of knitting, of birthing, of nourishing.

Tell us your thoughts on the Mama Figure!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

What's the Rush?

Hey, sleeping through the night? Started solids yet?  Is he rolling? Sitting up? Potty trained? Well, the last one might be a bit of an exaggeration, but I swear someone will ask me that question before my son's first year is over.   It is so easy for us to get sucked into the rat race of "citius, altius, fortius" style parenting with the focus on the next milestone, the next accomplishment, eyes always aimed on the upcoming challenges.  

Rocking my son to sleep is where I challenge this pressure each day. Sometimes my mind dwells on why I still have to rock him so much, and when will he go to sleep on his own, but I am trying to resist those thoughts.  I think about how rocking my son is such a wonderful privilege that will be over before I know it.  Instead of looking at the clock in frustration as my mental to-do list gets longer and longer, I absorb the feelings of the moment.  My arms ache as I hum along to the lullaby cd that has wormed its way into the deepest recesses of my mind.  I stand and sway back and forth, sometimes doing plies just for variety.  I exhale and listen to his slow, even breath.  I catch glances of us in the mirror I use to see when his eyes are closed.  Head resting on my shoulder. One arm thrown around my neck, the other hanging limply.  Little legs and toes resting at my waist.  I inhale the downy baby scent rising off his fine hair.  

All this will be gone so quickly, to be replaced by toddling steps, bikes with training wheels and perhaps a "My room!  Keep Out!" sign in messy crayon.  My little newborn has already become a 5 month, 20 pound dynamo.  I see frazzled new parents in the baby aisle of Target, with the teeniest little ones mewing like kittens, and I get a bittersweet twinge inside at the thought of how far I've already come as a mother.  Instead of racing through each day, attachment parenting is helping me savor the journey.   While my arms feel like they might fall off some days from all the rocking, I try to drink in each moment, knowing that snuggled in my arms is exactly where he should be.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Good-Bye Girls I'm Going To Boston

For two days I've had Arlo Guthrie's twang in my head, reminding me that I want to write this post. I can't go to bed without telling you that I adore Arlo, sure, but I'm really in love with Pete Seeger.

My four-year-old recently learned how to take charge of the cd player. She has a cd by Woody and Arlo Guthrie, and her favorite song on it is "I'm Gonna Mail Myself to You". Arlo sounds like he fell into the bottom of a well, which makes his voice that much more chipmunk-y on this catchy tune. "This Land is Your Land" follows "I'm Gonna Mail Myself to You" and it is sung by Woody. He always gets cut off after the first verse or so, when my daughter realizes "This Land is Your Land" has nothing to do with sticking bubble gum in anybody's mouth.

I started thinking about Arlo, Alice's restuarant, box car jumping, Wilco and Billy Bragg, musical storytellers, activism through art, and Pete Seeger. About this time last year I checked out a cd from the library entitled A Child's Celebration of Folk Music. The whole album was enjoyable, but I was drawn to the sounds made by Pete Seeger. I searched my library's database to find that Mr. Seeger worked hard to entertain children and adults, and I put holds on several of his cds, all of them excellent.

Sometimes I think of the songs as a musical version of waldorf-inspired toys: simple, natural, well-made and open-ended. Enduring. They invite the listener to interact, imagine and explore. A man and his banjo, sometimes whistling or clapping his hands, always singing with inviting joy. If you like folk music, maybe even if you don't, you can't go wrong with Woody, Arlo or Pete, but my heart belongs to Mr. Seeger.

I'm Gonna Mail Myself to You
(written by Woody Guthrie, but sung by Arlo in my house)

I'm gonna wrap myself in paper
I'm gonna dot myself with glue
Stick some stamps on top of my head
I'm gonna mail myself to you

I'm gonna tie me up in a red string
I'm gonna tie a blue ribbon too
Climb up inside my mailbox
I'm gonna mail myself to you

When you find me in your mailbox
Cut the string and let me out
Wash the glue from off my fingers
Stick some bubblegum in my mouth

When you find me in your mailbox
Wash the glue from off my head
Fill me up with ice cream sodas
Tuck me into a nice warm bed.

I'm gonna wrap myself in paper
I'm gonna dot myself with glue
Stick some stamps on top of my head
I'm gonna mail myself to you

Sunday, July 6, 2008

The Best of the Breast

To be absolutely honest, there have been times when I have felt stinging bitterness while reading statements such as, "Oh, I LOVE nursing my baby!!! I want to breastfeed forever!!" Red faced and shamed, I have thought, with my baby latched to my breast, "oh please let this end soon, oh please let this end soon. Deep breath. How much longer? Baby, why aren't you full yet?" That was during a postpartum phase when my certified nurse midwife was ready to write me a prescription for "something" because I had filled out a questionnaire with a few too many indicators for possible post partum depression. "I'm in pain," I exclaimed to her, "every time he eats I'm in pain. He's six weeks old, so he eats all the time!" At times with blood dripping from me, blood dripping from his mouth. The feeling akin to hundreds of nails shooting into my nipples and through my breast. Cringeing through moments that were supposed to be special.

With both of my children I have gone through nearly every problematic issue possibly related to breastfeeding. I won't catalogue them all here, I don't really want to dwell in that space right now. Right now I want to gloat and dance the dance of someone who has come through the other side and witnessed the beauty that all of those other lucky women have beheld. I want to revel in those moments of breastfeeding that have not hurt, and have brought joy to my children and myself.

I am grateful for every chance I have had to feed my child from my body. In all of my reading on the topic (obsessive and exhaustive, stimulated by those hyper-focused new mama hormones), oh the stories I found out there! The discouraging, sad stories of pain, frustration and so much worry. Our new mama job is to Keep The Baby Alive. Everything else can go to hell, but Keeping The Baby Alive. When you plan to keep the baby alive via breastfeeding, but breastfeeding is not the simple, beautiful joy that surely nature must have intended... betrayal, heartbreak, fear, shame, anger.... but wait, I said I was not going to go there!

Instead I'll go to Mt. Tabor, the extinct volcano near my house in SE Portland. I was there just today, with my daughter, my partner, and my baby. While my daughter and her father explored the hillside, my sixth-month-old was ready for a meal. I nestled my back into the V bottom of a douglas fir, exposed roots supporting my arms. Stretching my legs out in the green grass, I released the straps of the baby carrier and positioned my baby gently in my arms, at my breast, where he latched easily. It was probably 80 degrees, blue skies, a gentle breeze ruffling the branches of the maples and doug firs surrounding me. A couple walked by. One of the pair, a woman in her 50s, strong and healthy and smiling happily, but not intrusively, at me. I smiled back, the exchange between two women who know how precious it is to do what I was doing. Gentle encouragement. Looking down I saw my baby, eating contentedly. Looking up I saw sky, clouds and the life of the trees. Looking outward I saw the vista of my favorite city, my home, my view. It was one of those special moments seemingly designed to erase the pains of a few short months ago. A moment to remind me of other breastfeeding moments that were particularly poignant: in the California Redwoods (pictured above), soothing my daughter simply and easily through a few different plane flights, sitting on river rocks as a cold Cascade Mountain Range runoff bubbled by, and that time I fed my son at my breast again, after a day of formula and pumping so I could heal enough to cope through more newborn feedings.

If you have had a special breastfeeding moment (or moments) that you would like to share, please do!

Thursday, July 3, 2008


I bought a bunch of peaches and spinach with the intention to really DO this challenge. I forgot to call dibs on the peaches and they were gone by the end of the day. For real. So I improvised with strawberries and blueberries. The strawberry mix was pretty delish, but the blueberry/spinach was really, really yummy. I did add chocolate soy milk which may be cheating. My blender is very sorry so that made for some chewiness. No notable difference in my health yet but it feels nice to have a heaping serving of leafy veggie under my belt at 9 am. For what it's worth.