Reflections on our first year, on her first birthday

Dalia's first birthdayI entered parenthood with a crib and an epidural. I had never heard of attachment parenting, and was pretty sure a family bed was something that could ruin a marriage.

As my baby turns one, and my husband and I celebrated our eighth year of marriage, we happily (and a bit nervously) went out for our first time alone as a couple since her birth, and reflected on the highlights of our year.

In addition to watching each other blossom as a parent, the way we parent was at the top of both of our lists.

I never would have guessed that our style of parenting could be equally important to us as the event of becoming parents.

While hard to explain – or even justify – to the uninitiated, the steps we’ve taken to build a deep and secure bond with our daughter have transformed us as just much as they’ve helped to ground her. Specifically, our top seven favorite steps we’ve taken as parents this year:

1. Bringing Dalia into our bed. Not only does she fall asleep faster, and sleep longer and more soundly, but the precious time we have as a family, gazing adoringly at our beautiful baby as she sleeps, or laughing together in the morning, is priceless.
2. Breastfeeding! While it wasn’t clear if I’d be able to at all, and then whether I’d need to supplement forever, at around the two month mark – thanks to cosleeping, in fact – we were finally able to nurse exclusively. From that point on, it’s been invaluable to nurture Dalia both nutritionally and emotionally in my arms.
3. Letting Dalia take the lead on her feedings. Introducing solids has been fun and fulfilling for the whole family, as we let go of our expectations of how a baby should eat, put safe “adult” foods in front of her, and let her show us how and what she wanted to eat.
4. Taking our infant to the potty! Reading up on Elimination Communication before Dalia’s birth, I skipped over all the yada yada about building a deep bond through pottying. Who are they fooling, I thought! But boy, knowing when she has to go and keeping our baby dry and happy are way more intimate experiences than we could have guessed.
5. Tossing the disposables! While at first we were afraid of the work – and stigma – of cloth diapering, it’s incredibly gratifying to know we’ve reduced our landfill contributions to about one diaper per day. I’d like to go all the way, and am actively looking for a leak-free overnight cloth diaper, so any recommendations would be appreciated!
6. Babywearing! How wonderful to be able to strap her in snugly under my winter coat and hit the road -especially with a baby who hates the car and squeals when we take out the stroller, our beloved collection of carriers has increased our closeness and mobility. Beyond the practical benefits, the joys of “spoiling” our baby with all the in arms time we can give has been unmeasurable.
7. Meeting like-minded parents! Since joining a group for AP moms, Dalia and I have met some amazing moms and babies who have paved the way for larger family friendships. Having a like-minded community of friends has helped us to bask in the wonder of parenthood and lean on a haven of supporters when questions or issues arise.

While each of these experiences has cracked us wide open for more and more love and closeness in a way we had not anticipated, the sum of the effect of our practices is worth way more than the individual parts. As we close the door on babyhood and enter toddlerhood together, I am confident in my ability to navigate our future as the mom. More importantly, my baby has confidence that she is loved, that her world is stable and secure, and that she can come back to us when she needs to recharge.

While AP isn’t for everyone, for those of us who know and love its practices, it can magnify – and multiply – the rewards of the parenting experience. I am grateful we happened upon this path, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

A Month of Mothering: I AM the Mom.

This guest post is part of our Month of Mothering. In recognition that all mothers want what’s best for their baby, and knowing we all have different ways of achieving that, we welcome commentaries and experiences from mothers of all different philosophies and practices.

“I can’t get him to drink anything but Gatorade,” I told Dr. Wright, our seasoned pediatrician.

We were back at his office again after several bouts with ear infections, numerous rounds of antibiotics, and the awful and endless ensuing diarrhea. My first born was only a year old at the time, and I was at my wit’s end. After getting tired of purchasing the brand name electrolyte replacements, I had resorted to Gatorade, and now this child, who had only ever had breast or cow’s milk, would drink nothing but the red, yellow, or orange stuff. Naively, I thought this was a legitimate health issue, and that my pediatrician would most certainly have some scientific strategy to deal with it.

“You are the mom,” he firmly, but gently stated. “He will drink what you give him. Trust me. No child ever dehydrates or starves when there is food and water in the house.”

Suddenly, I was brought back to my maternal senses. How had I ever lost them? He’s absolutely right, I thought to myself. How had I forgotten this? With a renewed confidence in my authority, we returned home and I began the loving battle of only offering milk and water. Miraculously, a craving for healthy beverages emerged in only about two days. Eventually, we even added the occasional sippy cup of juice without slipping into addiction.

Having now been a mom for 16 years (Gatorade Boy is now taking Driver’s Ed), I have learned over and over that the incredulous protests of children can cause you to begin to question your sanity, or even to lose it temporarily.

Is it unreasonable to require a fresh, clean pair of pants every third day?

Maybe naps for 2 year olds are torture?

Are dusting and vacuuming delineated as unfair and illegal child labor?

Several years back, all three of my children became enamored with the movie The Music Man ~ watching the VHS vidoetape over and over. When the Broadway production came to the stage at our local university, I knew I wanted to treat them to the live version and promptly ordered tickets. They were simply elated until the day of the performance arrived, and I informed them that we would be “dressing up” to go to the theater ~ a matter of protocol, I instructed.

“Then we aren’t going,” the older two declared. Khakis and collared polos were so overwhelming to their t-shirt-and-sweat-pant-loving-hearts, that they were even willing to sacrifice third row orchestra seats to their all-time favorite movie ~ live, and on stage. Discussions, protests, and tears followed, and again I questioned my good sense, but Dr. Wright’s admonition remained in the back of my mind. I patiently stood my ground (and protected my $200 investment) and we arrived at the theater looking fairly shiny and put together, but definitely not happy.

The lights dimmed, the music began, and we could see both the orchestral instruments and the sweat on each actor’s brow because of our fabulous seats. My kids were completely mesmerized, and my oft-wavering confidence was restored. At intermission, they needed a restroom break. While waiting in line, Gatorade Boy (about 8 years old at the time) could not contain his excitement: “This is the best night of my whole life, Mom!”

Thrilled at this and feeling playful, I started in with a little game I like to play ~ sort of a soft I-Told-You-So sort of game.

“What? What was that I heard you say? You’re the best mom in the whole………….. what?”

“You’re the best mom in the whole universe,” he grinned and knowingly played along.

Well, maybe not the best, but I AM the mom.

Melanie Krumrey is a native Texan and University of Texas alum, but has enjoyed living in beautiful New England for the last 12 years. Happily married for 19 years to her pastor husband, and mom to Kory (16), Cooper(14), and Kayla(11), Melanie can usually be found in the kitchen feeding her kids, at the dining room table homeschooling them, or in her mini-van transporting them to dance, baseball, piano, guitar, and various other activities.  When she can escape her apron, textbooks, and taxi service, she also loves to read, run, blog, study and teach the Bible, travel, and look at magazines over iced coffee in a sunny window of the Barnes and Noble cafe near her house. You can find her over at Gluten Free Krums.

A Month of Mothering: A Son’s Perspective

This guest post is part of our Month of Mothering. We’re featuring the words of women (and a few men!) from a variety of walks of life. In recognition that all mothers want what’s best for their baby, and knowing we all have different ways of achieving that, we welcome commentaries and experiences from mothers of all different philosophies and practices.

When my daughter asked me to write about my mother, my first thought was that this would be a wonderful opportunity to talk about the greatest mother ever (possibly only this writer’s opinion). But, over the last several weeks, I realized how ill equipped I am to put into words the person, the warmth, the love and the experiences she gave me. I began to ask myself how a guy who flunked Mr. Resnick’s English class – for failure to include footnotes on his term paper – was going to find the words that would keep the readers’ attention beyond the first sentence.

Then it came to me. I had all I needed in the many stories about her that demonstrate Mary’s versatility as a mother. She was everything to us and she did everything well.

Her kids came to calling her Mary later in life. She was always Mum to us as children, but she was Mary to everyone who knew and loved her, young and old. So Mary it is.

Mary vs Technology
I don’t want to give anyone the impression that Mary was against progress. She strongly believed in and was very vocal about the causes of women, minorities and the oppressed – you know, people who were forced to use VCRs and answering machines or as she called it – “my answering service.” It’s fair to say she did not get along with machines. On one summer vacation that we took with her sister Annette, Mary had the whole family lined up for a picture for what seemed like hours. When I got up to help her with the camera, I realized that she had picked up my sister’s transistor radio and she had been trying to find the shutter button! She just giggled.

After she’d had a couple of minor fender benders, Mary gave up driving. She felt cars had become way too complicated. Of course, that was never a problem for her. There was always someone ready to take her anywhere she wanted to go.

Mary in the Kitchen
For an Irish lass, she sure could make some impressive chicken cacciatore. I have never been able to recreate that dish the way she made it. Maybe there was something more to it though – like the wonderful feeling of coming in to her kitchen, hungry from a long day of playing with my friends, that made it smell and taste so good.

Among other things, Mary did teach me that, if there is anything at all in the refrigerator, you can make a good dinner. That was a challenge during my college years, I will admit.

I remember as a very young boy, coming into the kitchen for lunch and Mary was making onion soup, which she loved. She offered to share it with me and got out two small bowls. She poured my soup and I sat down across from her. As she brought her bowl to the table, it slipped and spilled on the floor. I felt bad enough that she had shared her lunch, but now had none herself. When I told her we could share my soup, she gave me the biggest hug. Onion soup was her favorite.

Mary and her Kids
My two sisters and I felt very loved and very lucky to have a mum like Mary who was our cheerleader, our friend, our confidante, our therapist, our chauffeur, our chef and our biggest fan. Yet she never yelled or nagged. We knew what she expected and we wanted to please her and make her proud. I still wonder how she did that, and my admiration for her and my amazement grow, especially after raising kids of my own.

As we all got older we knew that we had to watch Mary to make sure we could anticipate her needs. The last thing she wanted to do was ‘bother’ her kids. When, in fact, that is the very thing that we wanted her to do. Even as I write this, I feel the smiles return and know that sadness is not something that I’ll ever really associate with my mother. I miss her, but I giggle too.

I still love Mary and I still love onion soup.

Ted McGrory is the very proud father of four and grandfather of one.  He grew up in West Roxbury in a different time, before 9/11, cell phones and computers.  Now, he tests computer software and lives on Cape Cod with the love of his life. He plans to retire fairly soon and intends to get better at golf.  He has to. His wife is getting really good.

A Month of Mothering: Natural, Gentle Parenting

This guest post is part of our Month of Mothering. In recognition that all mothers want what’s best for their baby, and knowing we all have different ways of achieving that, we welcome commentaries and experiences from mothers of all different philosophies and practices. Please note that the opinions expressed and baby care techniques used are reflective of the individual posters only, and do not imply endorsement or recommendation of the Other Baby Book.

I had only been 17 for a few months when I found out I was pregnant. I was young, and pretty wild at the time. I lacked respect for others, and well as myself. I knew nothing of what I was going to face in my life, knew nothing of the times ahead. I had only just met this guy, and boom – I was pregnant! Family and friends were not optimistic of the outcome, but I had a feeling – a hope – things would work out.

I went into labor on my due date, September 25th, 2002. It was a natural vaginal delivery (not my choice) and my son was born not breathing. I didn`t get to enjoy his first moments of life, as he was whisked away to be resuscitated, and then spent time in the NICU. I wasn’t ever asked if I wanted to breastfeed. I often regret not nursing him and even tried around two weeks of age, but my local nurse was no help and I hadn’t a clue what I was doing, so I went the formula route. I did various other things that my doctor recommended, including using the Cry-It-Out method at eight months.
Though these decisions seemed to go against my instincts for what was best for my son, I assumed the doctor knew best.
Jacob is now eight years old and suffers from severe ODD, as well as Bi-Polar disorder and motor ticks, along with anxiety. And no, I do not blame it all on how his first year went, but I do believe it has played a significant role. He lacks ability to trust, and is not a cuddly child. His psychiatrist even asked me if my son was breastfed. It got me thinking…and of course the guilt came rolling in! Though there’s nothing I can do to turn back the hands of time, and though Jacob has a long hard road ahead of him, we will get through it. One day at a time.
I went on to have another child, Kaleb, in February of 2008 and unfortunately, he didn’t survive longer than eight hours after delivery. I was 37 weeks when my placenta detached and he and I bled out….only I had a lot more blood to lose than he did. I didn’t get to look into his eyes, hear him cry or feel his little  hand grasp onto mine. It was soon after his death that I realized I needed to listen to myself, and follow my heart with my children and when my next baby was born that is what I did.
Kayleigh came on December 30, 2009 after a LONG and worrisome pregnancy. I was high risk and had weekly appointments, which were 45 minutes from my home. It was exhausting to say the least, and I had to juggle them with my son’s appointments as well. Kayleigh was born by scheduled C-section four weeks early, and was a lovely 6lbs5oz and 18 3/4 inches long. She was perfect! She came out screaming and so full of life, not at all like my other two. Upon hearing her cry, the tears began to flow.
I told the hospital staff I planned to breastfeed, and soon after delivery we had our skin-to-skin and she nursed. It was amazing! She was a pro for sure. We co-slept with her; I started thinking about cloth diapers; I bought a wrap and wore her often…and it felt so natural to me. It was heaven. People told me I would spoil her; that I should let her cry; feed her cereal – and it drove me crazy!
Instead of listening to those voices, I held her and cuddled her all the time, nursed for 13.5 months, and dove into the cloth diapering world. I wouldn’t have it any other way. My daughter is well loved, well adjusted, independent  and very happy. I know in my heart this is how it was meant to be. I didn’t read parenting books. I just followed my instincts, and that’s been the greatest gift I can give my children.

Evelyn lives in Canada (Maritimes). She is a stay at home mother to her two gorgeous earth children, Jake and Kayleigh, and angel baby Kaleb. Evelyn is the founder of the site Natural Gentle Parenting.