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.
My husband, Aaron, and I fell in love as dancers in a modern piece in college before we’d ever had a conversation. We responded to each other’s essence in movement, expression, and touch. So much was communicated in those first months without words. We shared a similar energy and rhythm: we were in harmony from the first moments we inhabited the same space.
I knew that our parenting values would also harmonize and they have in every way but one. We prepared for the birth of our son and though we were not able to follow our birth plan, we joyfully welcomed him safely and lovingly into this world. We breastfed from the beginning and from the first moments Aaron honored and cared for my breasts as a lifeline for my son. Month after month of mastitis found Aaron rubbing my breasts each night, laying warm compresses, combing the clogged ducts until there was flow. And now that my son is indifferent to my breasts, Aaron listens to me and supports me in my search for solutions to this nursing strike. We baby wear, and clothe and feed and outfit his nursery organically and sustainably. We spend time with him in nature and allow him to grow side by side with animal companions. We are sensitive and responsive and loving to our son and give each other the support necessary to rise to meet all of our son’s needs. We are a passionate and committed team.
I grew up without a mother or a mother surrogate. As a motherless mother, I am more insecure than most new mothers I’ve met. Before I became a mother, I worried to an extreme degree that I was less equipped to be a mother, that I lacked the required practical and emotional role model. As much education as I had in Psychology and Education, and as much reading and studying and imitating I did over a decade, I saw only my deficits and struggled intensely with my fears. I was not only motherless, I had been neglected and abused. So how could I be a good mother? How could I trust my instincts? I didn’t know if I could.
To ease my anxiety, we hired an infant care specialist, a motherly woman, Janet, to help guide and support me in my first weeks of motherhood. But the day that she arrived and took my son into her arms, I told my husband she had to leave. Immediately I feared that something was going to change between my child and myself. Aaron asked me to give it one day and see how I felt. I had so many questions: how should I hold him, nurse him, burp him, change him. Was I doing this right and this and this? Was he content? Why was he crying? My breasts were already sore and bleeding and Janet was there beside me, an expert, ready and able to ease this motherhood journey. I realized I needed a woman by my side and that her loving attention could soothe many issues and so I decided to stick to our plan. And Janet did help me and heal me in ways I never expected, but in the process, I lost something precious—my own instincts.
Aaron never welcomed the idea of bed sharing. He believed that children sleep best in a quiet room of their own. He could not imagine how a baby could get a soothing night sleep when everyone is going to bed at different times, lights are on and off, dogs jumping here and there. He is also a physician, who has heard the many arguments against co-sleeping. Before I brought my child home, I agreed that the baby would sleep in a Moses basket and then a crib. But once my son was home, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be kept from him.
I breastfed in the bed, and cuddled in the bed, and comforted in the bed, but we did not sleep together. I felt the loss of my son profoundly from that first night, imagining that he was still in my hollowed out contracting uterus and not in a basket on his own. In my mind a distance between us began to form. In some ways this space gave me comfort because I was so frightened by this overwhelming love for him,--how can anyone love someone so much and survive--and in other ways, the loss felt so familiar to me and expected and I began to shut down. Still I asked each day: can’t I sleep with him sometimes and I was told that it would be fine to nap with him but why would I want to disturb him when he is sleeping so peacefully? And it was true: my son slept soundly and easily on his own in the basket. He settled to sleep instantly. He did not cry. He did not seem to need me. And I grew depressed by this.
We fed him around the clock until the pediatrician told me to stop waking him for feedings and then he quickly dropped one feeding and then another and transitioned without incident into his crib and I no longer spent any time with him until the next morning. He slept night after night through the night without disruption. He loved his sleep. Everyone told me how lucky I was and I began to believe that I must be. But then why did I feel such a loss?
How could I tell my friends that I wait all night to hear his first morning sighs and then run down the hallway to pull him into the bed beside the crib so that we can reconnect?
At four months, my son decided that he would no longer nap as he once did. He would not lie down in a basket or a crib and just sleep. Instead he cried, restlessly turning and seeking my attention. My doctor told me to leave him alone, the sleep expert at a local workshop told me not to make big deal of napping if he is sleeping well at night, which he still was. I was told to ignore him and he would go back to the old ways. But I did not want the old ways and welcomed that he cried for me in a way he never did, and I held him and we rocked and cradled and crawled into bed as we were meant to do. My longing to hold him magnified as I reclaimed my child and joined my spirit back to his.
I wondered what this shift would mean for the night. Would he want to remain with me? But nothing had changed. After feeding, he still reached for his crib and slipped calmly and deeply into sleep without me.
As the months pass, there are days when he wants a nap with me and days when he reaches toward his crib. There are mornings when we lie together for a long time and mornings when we cuddle briefly and then he wants kisses and tickles and to begin our day. And at night, I am given just an infrequent experience of teething where he will reach for me instead of his solitary slumber.
Each night I rehash this with Aaron. Why can’t I sleep with my baby? He is nourished, well rested, happy, he offers. He was not a baby who asked for so much holding. He seemed always content to just sleep independently and it seemed like a good thing. If he needed constant holding, he would have received it. I listen to these same arguments but I believe that we have been mistaken in interpreting that his seeming content and lack of crying for us represented a lack of need or desire to be beside us at all times. I examine this mistake each night until it bleeds, an ulcerous wound, and wonder if my son is not as bonded to me as he could be, if this is why he is weaning himself at 11 months. My husband has been quick to offer me that my recently miscarried pregnancy and my long flu are contributing to the weaning and that he is secure and happy and attached.
But today my husband has heard me and after the same lines of what he means to be reassurance, he tells me with the next child we can figure out how it will work if I want to co-sleep. But what of my son now and his uninterrupted cherished sleep? Do I leave him alone or try to claim him back fully? Rather than dismissing me, today my husband listens and reassesses.
We come to parenthood with intent: a desire to bond with and love and nurture our ever-changing son together.
To this end we reconsider beliefs and practice in this landscape of parenting together. Today we are once again in full harmony.
Visit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
(This list will be updated Feb. 9 with all the carnival links, and all links should be active by noon EST. Go to Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama for the most recently updated list.)
- 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)