So lately I’ve been reading the comic/blog Mama Is…, and it’s got me thinking about some of the “ideal mothering practices” that sound lovely in theory but get a little knotty when I try to apply them to my life. I thought it might be helpful (to me, at least) to put down where I am right now in regards to these ideas.
Natural/Home Childbirth: My friend’s sister wanted to give birth at home, in her mother’s house. Her mother put her foot down. The reason? “If the worst happened and we lost you or the baby, I could never live in that house again.” A bit morbid and worst-case-scenario, perhaps, but valid. There’s also the fact that (as those of you who’ve been there know) my house is far from sanitary – the simple logistics of finding a decent place to give birth at home would be daunting! So that’s probably not in the cards. So what does that leave?
I’m honestly torn between the local hospital and a birthing center, and here’s why. I want to go to the birthing center. I really do. I want a lovely and calming atmosphere, not a hospital room. I want to be around people who will understand that I do not want certain procedures, and won’t push me towards them regardless. I want to know that my desires will be listened to. I want the option of a water birth (which the local birthing center offers, and the hospital doesn’t.) I want all the little feel-good extras, like mommy massage and tummy henna tattoos and prenatal yoga and all that.
But the birthing center is in Sanford, and I’m in Orlando. And it’s been a pain as it is, trying to schedule doctor’s appts that don’t require me to take time off work, without adding a drive into another city to the mix. Just the thought of trying to work that in makes me tired, and I’m already tired! So… I don’t know. I’m at 19 weeks and I still don’t know.
(Plus, no matter how much I tell myself I want a natural birth, I know how much of a wuss I am about pain, and I can’t guarantee that five minutes in, I won’t have COMPLETELY changed my mind on the whole epidural question.)
Breastfeeding: ok, breastfeeding scares the everloving piss out of me. Because (TMI ahead!) my nipples tend to be incredibly sensitive (we’re talking, punch-in-the-head-if-you-look-at-’em-funny sensitive) even at the best of times, and imagining a baby nursing does not seem sweet and cozy; it seems painful and uncomfortable. And the stories I hear about nipples getting dry and cracked and bleeding just make me want to curl up under a blanket and hide from the very concept.
But… I also know that it really is the best option, both nutritionally and for emotional/bonding purposes. So I’m gonna do it. I’m going to resolve to do it, and resolve not to just give up the first time it bugs me.
But here’s the thing – I work. That’s non-negotiable; I have to work. If I could quit my job and be a stay-at-home mom, at least for a few years, you know I’d totally do it. (I mean, come on – answering calls from cranky retirees, or staying home playing with a baby? No contest!) But it’s not an option – ok, it’s not an option so long as we want silly luxuries like a car and a house and groceries. And I can only be out of work for so long – and no, I can’t bring my baby with me when I go back! So at some point, sooner rather than later, breast pumps are going to become a part of my life, and drinking out of a bottle while being held by Daddy is going to – about half the time, at least – take the place of drinking straight from the tap. And while I might wish it could be different, I have to get used to that idea, like it or not.
(I also added a breastfeeding cover to my shower registry. I know, I know. I totally agree that giving women a hard time for breastfeeding in public is silly and unnecessary, but you know what? I don’t wanna have a fight about it. I just want to feed my kid and move on with my life. The breastfeeding cover is pretty, anyway – a gorgeous dark brown suede-like material – so that helps.)
Baby-wearing: Oh hell yes. I love the hell out of this whole concept. Heck, I want two carriers – one sling and one of those backpack-like contraptions – just so Spouse-Man and I can experiment and switch off. I like it for the attachment parenting aspects, having the baby always in contact with one of her parents. I like it for the ease of breastfeeding. And I like it for the convenience! OMG, have you looked at strollers lately? My folks were trying to talk me into one. I tell you true, if we had a stroller we would find it useful maybe once a year. The rest of the time, it would be a big bulky thing taking up space we can’t afford in our house, waiting for new and interesting ways to bruise our shins. And trying to imagine wrangling it in and out of the car, and navigating uneven city sidewalks with that thing… blech. No thank you. (Mom says, “But what about Disney? You said you wanted to take her to the parks when she gets bigger, and I promise you, you’re not going to want to do a theme park without a stroller.” And I believe her; she would know. But my response was, “Mom, when and if we can afford tickets to Disney, we can also afford to rent a damn stroller while we’re there.” And I stand by that.)
Co-sleeping: Oh hell no.
This is another one of those things where you kinda have to know me. I’m a terrible sleeper. I have insomnia like whoa. I’m always too hot or too cold or too restricted, and I can never sleep in my jeans except when I have to sleep in my jeans, and I toss and turn and flail trying to find a position, any position (even if it’s upside down and diagonal, snuggled up to my confused husband’s feet) where I can get comfortable enough to fall asleep. And then when I DO fall asleep, I flail some more and beat up my unlucky bed partners. (There are stories. College and the Charlie Bucket Bed. I gave someone a black eye, don’t even ask.)
So, fascinating as the whole crib-vs.-bed argument may be, for me it’s a moot point. Putting an infant in my bed would just be asking for that sinking sensation when I realize I just kicked my wee little one in her wee little head. I’ll pass.
Elimination Communication: gods, I wish. This goes back to the logistical breastfeeding concern – I only have so much time at home with my baby before I have to go back to work. And from what I’ve read, EC is a very intensive thing. So while I would love to just skip the diaper stage entirely, realistically? I don’t see it happening.
Homeschooling/Unschooling: See above.
I’ve said for years that I wanted to homeschool my kids. Mostly because I’m a fucking intellectual elitist who has impossibly high standards, and does not trust the public school system (or most private schools, for that matter) to educate my children the way I want them to be educated. Hell, I spent most of elementary and middle school being bored to tears, with my mother having to come in and fight for me to actually get books at my reading level so I wouldn’t lose interest and wander off mid-lesson. Being in gifted helped some, but it was still public school. It wasn’t until I got to high school and got into the IB program that I understood what an actual challenging curriculum could be like, with teachers who pushed me past my comfort zone and teachers who made math interesting and teachers who made me want to take a second foreign language and extra advanced classes, just cuz learning was actually fun. I mean, I bitched about IB at the time and in a lot of ways it was hellish, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything, and if I got a do-over I’d do it exactly the same. And my god, how wonderful it would be if that intense, challenging education was presented to me right from the start? If my first-grade math teacher had just understood the truly awesome coolness of math and how numbers work and made us understand it too (like my 10th, 11th, and 12th grade teachers did), jumping up and down from the sheer excitement of it, instead of assigning us 50 arithmetic problems to slog through every day, like clockwork? If instead of giving us dumbed-down, easy-to-read books that bored me to tears, my elementary school teachers had given us books above our reading and comprehension level, and dared us to keep up anyway? (Well, ok, my 4th grade teacher did that. ILU Mrs. Anderson!)
It would have been awesome.
But for various reasons, schools can’t do that. And I get that, I do. But it means I’d rather not have my child in them.
But until I can find a way to get someone to pay me for homeschooling my daughter… yeah. Not so much.
Free-range parenting: I’m all for this, honestly. It’s how I grew up and it’s how I’d like my daughter to grow up. Not unsupervised or completely uncontrolled, but with enough freedom and trust to be able to go do stuff on her own, and having free time to just run around the neighborhood and find trees to climb and get dirty and do stupid stuff that would turn my hair grey if I knew about it and yeah, if she takes after me, break a bone or two. My brother and I pulled stunts growing up that make me terrified to think back on now, but they were some of the best parts of our childhood – and y’know, if you don’t risk breaking a bone now and then, how else will you learn what you can and can’t do, right? I loved long bike rides to nowhere in particular, and tromping through the woods pretending I was exploring uncharted wilderness, and the million and a half imaginative games I used to play on the sand hills back of the baseball park, which all pretty much equaled “time to wander around and think.” And yeah, we had structured activities and my parents had rules, but it was… it was all about sanity and balance. I don’t know exactly how to strike that balance with Susannah (at this stage, the thought that one day I’m going to let her out of my sight is terrifying!), but I know it’s worth trying, for her sake.
So that’s where I’m standing right now. And there’s a part of me that thinks I’m taking this too seriously – I mean, my brother and I were born C-section and fed formula (both for medical reasons), slept in cribs and were pushed in strollers and went to public school. And we’re both well-adjusted, well-socialized adults, who have good relationships with our parents and relatively few emotional issues 🙂 So it’ s not like I’m going to ruin my child for life if I don’t do everything spot-on perfect (and it’s important to remember that, too, because I know the day will come when I’m going to mess up some minor thing and feel like a total failure who’s completely messed up her child. Apparently every parent has those days. Mine certainly did – and the terrible horrible incidents that prompted it? I don’t even remember them. So there’s that.) But, even knowing that the world won’t end if I’m not perfect, that’s no reason not to at least think about what the best choice is, and take it when it’s an option… right?