“Science” vs. AP?!

A beautiful sky; makes me happy, like parenting.

Entering into a new phase of my parenting journey (back in the throws of babyhood), I quietly wondered whether Attachment Parenting (or, AP, for short) has relevance for me anymore. I started this blog as a space for writing about Attachment Parenting & pursuing a career. Would I want to get back to writing about working & AP’ing as a blogger? (Well… here I am, blogging about it…) Would I be practicing AP with the new wee one?

The answer to that last question is complicated.

My short answer is yes. But it’s not because it has “worked” so well with my first child. And it’s not because I believe that AP is the only or best way to parent.

Here’s the longer answer (sorry… long post alert!)…

Before T was born, MFA Dad & I had no clue what we were doing or how we were going to approach our new roles as parents. We were living away from our closest friends & family, some of whom were starting to have kids, so we really didn’t have any models close by. Our fuzzy (or non-existent) memories of our own early childhoods were not much help. Our parents had selective amnesia & seemed to suggest things were a lot easier than they ended up being for us.

And honestly, we hadn’t thought about parenting at all before I got pregnant. And even then, it took a while for our brains to catch up with all that my body was preparing for. (A law school classmate of mine who had previously been a doula, once warned me in the hallway about books that would scare or scar me… That’s when I realized that “Oh, people take this parenting shtick seriously & actually think about how they want to parent…”)

So it was with some relief that we happened across Dr. William Sears’s The Baby Book while shopping at my least favorite store in the world (Babies R Us). A lot of what Dr. Sears-the-Elder had to say just clicked with both MFA Dad & I. (Also, some of it didn’t click.) We didn’t think that our son would be messed up if we didn’t follow all of his “Baby B’s” (Dr. Sears’s short list of AP “do’s”) but in the book we had found a bunch of baby minding tactics that seemed to mesh well with our lifestyle & world views. (For example, the basic idea that wearing your baby is an easy way to integrate a child into your daily life while keeping them physically close seemed practical to us.)

In short, it was simply nice to find an approach to this overwhelming endeavor that suited us as a couple & new family.

While we are not, perhaps, the AP “poster” family, I am grateful for what I have learned because of AP. It gave me the tools & confidence to parent in a way that felt right when I was a new & inexperienced mom. Even while I was making many first-time mom mistakes.

But here’s the bottom line. I don’t think, nor have I ever thought, really, that AP is the sole owner of “good” parenting. There are also many valid criticisms of AP, as it is represented by Dr. Sears & others.

I don’t know that any of my friends or family who are parents would identify as AP. But I’d babysit their kids or have them over for a sleepover any day. Like us, they all developed their own parenting styles. They’re all great parents & their kids seem to be normal & healthy & secure (most certainly securely attached). They are all delightful kids. And we all also have our challenges with our children.

Still, it is with some wonder (& frankly, confusion) that I observe certain types of blanket criticisms of AP. For example, take the “Science vs” Attachment Parenting podcast, wherein the host challenges the unscientifically-founded scourge of attachment parenting. The host of the podcast managed to find an overzealous follower of AP’s “rules” who takes the role of “motherly sacrifice” to an extreme & then uses the poor woman as a diving board into an equally overzealous critique of AP. (I knew the critique was off base when it started with the premise that the sample mom’s home was “child-centered,” which is opposed to my own interpretation of AP… My own take being that AP is family-based in a way that posits the child is not the center of the family’s existence & if you walk into my home it may take a few seconds to realize there are children living there too.)

Look, I get it… As the podcast’s host explained, there are books & websites & blogs (ahem…) laying out what may seem like “rules” at a quick glance. Dr. Sears & others use their authority as medical professionals and/or references to “science” to convince unwitting parents that AP is unquestionably better for babies & children. The idea of “rules” or getting things “wrong” (& possibly messing up your child as a result) makes AP simultaneously attractive & overwhelming to many parents.

Let’s get this out of the way: It’s never a good idea to blindly follow anyone’s set of rules when it comes to raising your children.

Discussions around different approaches to parenting typically present stark choices with severe consequences. The choices is almost never so stark (unless one of those choices involves neglect or harm—be it physical or psychological—of the child). But if you’re a parent, you are most likely an adult who should have learned the lesson that you don’t jump just because someone (even someone in a doctor’s or lab coat) yells “jump.”

AP’s “rules” are only rules if you let them be rules. Dr. Sears doesn’t care what you do or don’t do with your child. There is no test. You don’t have to prove yourself as parent of the century.

So, while I disagree with the “Science vs.” characterization of AP, I don’t disagree with the bottom line that using “science” to prove that AP is the only way to raise a healthy child is misleading & you won’t necessarily damage your child if you don’t follow the “rules” of AP.

But here’s the thing… There simply aren’t any such rules. Many AP families use strollers. 🙋 Many AP families have cribs (though we don’t always use them…). 🙋 Dr. Sears himself has advice on bottle-feeding. Sometimes, AP parents let their children cry because they’d like some privacy in the bathroom, it’s the nightly witching hour, or they literally just can’t handle nighttime parenting at the moment.

And I’d bet (if I were the betting type) that most of us don’t “do” AP because of science. AP empowers parents (or it has the potential to, in any case) to parent intuitively. That means I don’t need someone with an MD or PhD to tell me what to do when my baby cries, when she wakes in the middle of the night, or when my older child misbehaves. Nope, I got this! I know my children better than anyone & am not concerned with “outcomes” that have been tracked by researchers or artificially created in a lab.

This premise (that there are strict “rules”) pretty much guarantees “Science vs.” will get AP wrong out of the gate. I’ve already pointed out that AP isn’t necessarily a child-centered parenting philosophy, but it also isn’t parent-centered. The podcast’s host seems to corner the poor sample mom into stating that she doesn’t let her child cry because she can’t handle it. Then she leaves it at that, which is a totally inaccurate characterization of AP. I don’t like my baby’s cries either, but that’s not why most AP parents don’t purposely let their babies cry without responding.

So, let’s look at the topics the “Science vs.” attempts to cover: crying, attachment theory, and sleep.

Babies cry. It’s how they communicate. I wouldn’t ignore my older child if he came to my bedside & whispered “Mommy, my tummy hurts.” I wouldn’t ignore my bleary-eyed husband if he asked me to pour him a cup of coffee as I pour my own. So why would I ignore my baby simply because she can’t yet use words? I want to investigate, at least. I can usually figure out what she’s asking for in her prehistoric way.

But maybe I can’t figure it out. Maybe she’s crying for a long time. Maybe I’m so sleep deprived I can’t take any more crying. Well, then, perhaps walking away is the best thing I can do for her & for me. That’s certainly better than losing my temper or harming baby in some way. But that’s not where I start.

I start from the premise that this little person is completely dependent on me & it’s my job to respond. She’s trying to tell me something important. No matter what time of day or night. No matter if I’m tired. No matter if I don’t want to (though that’s usually not the case). No matter what.

That’s why I respond when my baby cries.

Now, back to those pesky “rules.” Quite simply, there are none.

The “rules” aren’t rules. The podcast unfairly characterizes common AP practices as “rules” when they are guidelines at best. Most literature on AP that I’ve read presents these ideas as “best practices” of sorts, but by no means have I seen any proponent of AP suggest that bottle-feeding, for instance will ruin one’s attachment with one’s child. That’s preposterous & untenable. AP folks tend to be hardliners on the issue of sleep training, but other than that issue, I don’t think most advocates of AP would suggest with a straight face that there’s only one way to do this whole AP thing.

Of course, some will take things to an extreme. But I try to avoid extremes in my daily life & parenting is no different. I have criticized those AP proponents who suggest extreme views of parenting, especially when those views are aimed at women in particular & have the potential to restrict rather than liberate. If someone tells you you must do something as a parent (be it baby wearing, bed sharing, breastfeeding, etc.) pause, reflect on their motivations, and then consider your own reality.

Interestingly, while the podcast correctly separates attachment parenting from attachment theory, it doesn’t quite get that right either. To be clear, attachment parenting as described by Dr. Sears et al., has a tenuous relationship at best with attachment theory. That said, the New York Times recently reported on new discoveries in the world of attachment theory, in an article entitled “Yes, It’s Your Parents’ Fault,” no less.

Of course, it’s not all our parents’ faults. As the “Science vs.” podcast points out, our pesky genes do influence our dispositions & the ways we interact with the world & each other. But, according to the new research reported in the NY Times, it does seem that parenting matters for our future relationships & …

Luckily, as I’ve pointed out previously, “good enough” parenting will usually do the trick. But to suggest that it doesn’t matter at all (as the podcast host does) is flippant & inaccurate.

Which leads us to sleep. Ah, sleep… so elusive with young children in the house! Yet it’s the one area where most AP’ers will agree on an honest to goodness rule: Do not leave your child to cry in order to “sleep train.” Many of us would say you should consider not sleep training at all.

Unfortunately for us adults, babies’ sleep habits are different from ours. In fact, they’re rather inconvenient. They interrupt our nights and our days. Annoying.

At least, we’re culturally conditioned to think that our babies’ sleep habits are annoying or, at best, less than ideal. I’m not going to argue that adult sleep is unimportant—Parents need sleep to function… to support their children & to be living, breathing members of society, even if barely sometimes. And I’m not going to tell you how you feel. Or what degree of exhaustion you should be able to tolerate. Or that your baby’s sleep is normal. Or that you should sleep next to your baby. Or that you shouldn’t.

You’re the parent. You get to make that call. Not some random blogger. Not someone hosting a podcast.

All I’ll say here is that there are a number of sleep configurations that AP families adopt. I’ve done a little of everything, even sleep training (short of intentionally leaving a child alone to cry). (I do have lots of opinions about sleep & I’m working on a sleep-focused post.)

The “Science vs.” podcast presents an extremely simplistic overview of the issue of safe sleep & a singular vision of what healthy sleep might look like.

I understand that folks might have legitimate disagreements over safe sleep. Parents need to talk to & consult sources they trust to decides whether or not a given sleep arrangement is safe enough for them. (I say safe enough because there is no 100% guarantee no matter your sleep arrangement, unfortunately.) “Science vs.” provides some talking points, but only scratches the surface. And it presents the safe sleep question as clear-cut, when I don’t think that it’s at all simple.

For instance, the podcast appears to entirely dismiss the research of Dr. James McKenna (without explicitly naming him) because he’s not an MD. But he happens to be the only researcher to study bed sharing & infant sleep in a lab. His work appears in peer-reviewed journals (some are medical journals). And his approach to bed sharing & safe infant sleep reads to me as being very nuanced. I don’t think he should necessarily be your sole source of information, but I also don’t think his work is so easily dismissed.

As for the sleep training bit, I have to admit that I just don’t understand why critics of AP much care that we don’t sleep train at all or in the conventional ways. I found sleep training to be more trouble than it’s worth. My older son has “slept through the night” (that silly but all-important “milestone”) since around 2 1/2, more or less. He’s 8 & just had his first sleepover with friends away from home, so he can sleep independently. I share these details only to stress that sleep happens. With or without parental fussing.

My 11-month-old does not sleep through the night. She still nurses a couple-few times every night. I’m tired most mornings when I have to wake up for work. Meh. … This, too, shall pass… So for now, I try to enjoy smelling the top of her head or the touch of her soft cheek during those nighttime feedings. For me, the stress of sleep training is not worth it.

I will sleep again. You will sleep again. Soon.

Perhaps critics of AP just want to make sure parents are getting enough sleep. Maybe. But I have a suspicion that the motivations are less generous. There’s a cottage industry built on selling us bleary-eyed parents on various sleep training techniques. And because some of these techniques don’t feel right, there’s a cadre of parents who have had to convince themselves that whatever sleep training they’ve engaged in is at best innocuous. Maybe, just maybe, critics of AP resent the non-mainstream, but more palatable, approach that AP’ers take to sleep. Maybe.

My point is not to make you feel guilty if you personally have tried sleep training. My point is that there’s a strong cultural current moving in one direction & I think AP’s approach to sleep is the focus of so much criticism (as seen in the “Science vs.” podcast) precisely because it resists that current. It’s really no one’s business how you or I, individually, approach sleep.

We deserve to be able to make informed decisions without folks badgering one particular method, particularly when there is absolutely zero evidence that choosing to forgo sleep training (or choosing gentle sleep training techniques) will harm children or babies. And yet, parents are pressured constantly to “do something” about their babies’ sleep. The “Science vs.” podcast host practically begs parents to sleep train for their own sanity with no discussion of normal infant sleep patterns.

It’s just weird. I mean, it’s worth exploring whether your child’s truly deplorable sleep has an underlying medical cause, but beyond that I truly do not understand the cultural pressure to sleep train.

And I say this not as the parent of a unicorn child who slept or sleeps well. Nope. I’ve been to the depths of exhaustion & back. I’m there again. Sometimes I still touch upon that irrational anger that is the special gift of sleep deprivation. I have fitful sleep. Weird dreams.

In other words, I can sympathize with parents of “bad” sleepers. And if your baby is an normal bad sleeper, I have been there. I’ll be there again tonight.

AP is an easy target for parent trash talk, but it doesn’t have to be a caricature. For most thoughtful families who have picked up a technique or two or three from AP, it’s not a silly, old-fashioned, anti-feminist endeavor. It’s not a cult or even a club. It’s just another set of tools in the parenting toolbox.

Just because the science has not definitively shown that AP is the best way to parent doesn’t make it any less or somehow worse than other ways of parenting. It is not necessary to prove that it’s somehow awful. It’s not. Engage in in-depth critique with an open mind, but don’t dismiss out of hand for no good reason.

It is telling that almost none of the critiques that I’ve come across recently have posited another parenting philosophy as a replacement as the proven winner in the (unfortunately) endless competition between parenting styles. Because, let’s be clear, “science” hasn’t proven that other approaches to parenting are “the best” either. We may turn to science for a lot, but on parenting, the science is lacking.

I’ve recently finished reading Our Babies, Ourselves by Meredith Small. She also uses science to provide an analysis of parenting styles from biological and cultural perspectives. You can find a lot to support practices typical of AP families in the book (e.g. bed-sharing, breastfeeding, responsive parenting, etc.) but the interesting thing is that it is clear from the book that these practices are not owned by AP or any particular parenting philosophy. And Small, though she has a clear preference for these AP-type practices, accepts that every culture will place its imprint on parenting practices. She also insists that babies are adaptable little beings & that science has not determined that any one parenting style is likely to result in better adapted or happier adults. (Not that results should be a goal of parenting…)

Now that I’m doing this baby thing for the second time, I can say that I love AP because it makes life easier &, more importantly, it makes being a parent more enjoyable. And even more importantly, I do it because the little person in my care is weird & has prehistoric needs built into her DNA & she doesn’t talk & AP is the best way for me to learn her language. I don’t do it because science or even pseudoscience tells me it’s better. I don’t do it because some “professional” says it’s better.

My journey on this earth as a human has made me appreciate that we are living every day we get to be here (wherever that happens to be). That is, our hours here are not (solely) in service of some yet-to-be-attained goal. My journey as a parent has taught me to enjoy the simple things in life & to connect fiercely with my family, among others. The two together have taught me to enjoy parenting. Sure, not every moment. But, most moments. Even the moments that don’t seem enjoyable at first blush.

AP is just one tool that helps me work toward that connection & enjoyment. It’s not perfect. I’m not perfect. That’s ok. What’s not ok is the hell-bent determination with which some approach AP, on either side of the fence. We are more than our parenting philosophies.

If you’ve read this long post: Thank you! And let m know what you think. What did I get wrong? Right? What helps you enjoy being a parent?

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Filed under Attachment Parenting, Breastfeeding, Gentle Discipline, Living, Mothering, Parenting, Read, Simplicity

My life post-Facebook 

My empty social media folder…


About three months ago, I quit Facebook. Indefinitely. Possibly forever.

After the election of November 2016, I had used social media as a serious crutch. Holy cow, that election was something. I don’t really want to recall how I felt in the run-up & during the aftermath. 

But I found a welcome outlet on Facebook. I’d never posted much, but I started sharing articles & posts, engaging in (sorta-friendly) political arguments with a variety of folks. I wallowed in liberal anguish with my “friends.” 

Then came the inauguration. The Women’s March. Anti-immigrant, anti-refugee Executive Orders & more local activism. On short notice, I rounded up the family, set off the alarm on Facebook & headed to the airport. Angry. (Though always thoughtful & friendly to the police officers protecting the various marches I attended.) Facebook was more than an on-line outlet for fake rage… it was IRL activism, y’all! Real & in-the-flesh organizing. 

But mostly I read. 

Doomsday articles. Articles that got me upset & scared. Debates on how some of us were doing activism wrong. Which made me anxious & upset for different reasons.

All of it made me feel overwhelmed.

Overwhelm was my default state.

I’d get the baby to sleep in the rocking chair & then I’d stay up late catching up on politics via social media. 

I was exhausted already & we were barely into this new presidency. How would I sustain my renewed activism over the next four (or less… or more) years? I was younger & childless & pre-Facebook when I was last involved in any activism. 

My partner suggested deleting the Facebook app from my devices. Yeah, right! I laughed maniacally. 

How else could I keep up? Stay involved in all the excellent local groups that had formed? How would I know about the next protest?

I was on Facebook on the train on the way to work. On the way home from work. Sometimes at lunch. At night after the kids were asleep.

Exhausting.

Overwhelming.

And, most importantly, unhealthy

So I finally heeded my parner’s advice & (publicly, of course!) said goodbye to Facebook. I deleted the app (though I didn’t kill my account). I thought for sure that my social media hiatus would be temporary. That I’d sort out my Facebook demons & hop back on in a more disciplined manner. 

Then the weeks started to pass by … and I just didn’t…

Maybe I’d get back on Twitter. Instagram. (Folks told me that Instagram was somewhat apolitical & happy, still.) 

Nope. 

Not interested. 

Because I started to notice something… I was deliberately more present with my family. Giving my son more attention. Relishing in the sweetness of my youngest’s babyhood. Conversing with my partner & even sneaking in a couple dates. 

It’s not that I had disappeared from family life previously, but it’s amazing how the brief snippets of social media distraction can cut into the time & headspace that should be focused on the actual living & breathing people in your immediate presence. 

And I started to think about my priorities. Talked (like, on the phone… not via Messenger…) to a dear mentor. My partner & I started some projects around the house. Started planning a vacation. Some camping trips. Sometimes we have dance parties in the evenings. Sometimes my partner pulls out his guitar & we stay up too late singing. 

It’s like a fog has lifted. 

And I’ve gotten over my social media FOMO. I know I’m missing some interesting & smart shit out there, but I can’t do it all. And for now quitting Facebook is an easy, clean way to make my life a bit more manageable, meaningful, & enjoyable. 

But saying goodbye to Facebook was not going to be a political cop-out. I saved my representatives’ contacts to my phone. I get an email each week about calls I might make. I’ve made calls. Sent emails. 

I keep up on the news on my own, with subscriptions to a small handful of real (not fake) news sources. A “curated newsfeed,” you might call it. 

But I still wanted to do more. And without the immediacy of Facebook, I could really step back to analyze my situation. 

I had never really been a protest-activist. Bless ’em, because it takes all types & all voices. 

No, in my post-Facebook meditation, I realized that I am much more into voice amplification. In college, I had a radio show, so I turned it into a platform for discussing issues affecting Latino students. As a law student, I organized events highlighting issues I cared about. As a small-time publisher, I’ve given space to a variety of voices.

So, now I’m spending some of the time I was spending on Facebook & protesting in a way that utilizes my skills and amplifies my impact: pro bono work. 

I’ve only just begun, but the prospect of helping to create access to justice for folks in my community (folks likely marginalized in the current political climate) is pretty darn exciting.  

I’m still in for a good protest, but I’m being a little more discerning. It’s gonna be a long ride. 

(Also, I started blogging more regularly again. Turns out, writing about parenting—& sometimes, politics—makes me happy.)

How are you managing (or mismanaging) your social media “life”? Do you have rules you abide by? Have you quit cold turkey? Never started?

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Another Mothers’ Day Rant


I like to complain about Mothers’ Day on this blog. Hey, it’s my mommy blog & I can whine if I want to…

Mostly, I think the holiday is bullshit. 

Also, I hate making decisions on what I’ll do to celebrate. Do I escape? Pretend I don’t have a family for the day? Do I force my husband to take me to an over-crowded, rushed, & mediocre brunch? Do I demand special treatment? Breakfast in bed & all that? What about my own mother?! In indulging in myself, am I neglecting her?! And I have work on Monday, so there can’t be too much booze or fun because I need to sleep & get ready for the work week. Ack! 

And all for what? So that we can pretend mothers are honored in this land of zero-paid-maternity leave? So we can pretend mothers are important, even in this culture that undervalues family & women & anything remotely domestic? 

WTF, I thought this was supposed to be special & fun! Where are my Instagram-able #mothersdaymoments?! 

So, it’s the Saturday before Mothers Day & it’s been busy as hell. I got to sleep in a bit (which was awesome!) but I woke up extremely groggy & baby was in need of nursing & a nap. Ok. She’s almost asleep when my phone rings. Bam, she’s awake. Also, where’s the coffee?! Husband makes me coffee (yay!) & leaves. Ok. So now martial arts for the big boy & a walking nap for the baby. Then dentist appointment. Fuck, they asked me to come early but now they’re running behind. I’m hangry ’cause it’s past lunchtime & baby needs more sleep. She’s yelling & I admit I encourage her because I’m so grumpy & want our presence to be known. But everyone’s so damned nice. Darn, I can’t be a total bitch… which is a good thing in the end because I love our dentist & it’s not like we won’t be back. No more cavities for the boy. Phew! And then we grab lunch & I get more caffeine & we’re ok. Groceries for dinner. Baby will sleep in the car right? No! She’ll scream bloody fucking murder!! But my amazing son calms her somehow. I’m gripping the steering wheel in random heavy traffic but I somehow remember to breathe. I notice the sky is beautiful. I’m still grumpy but slightly less so. Home. Finally. My husband has picked up the entire house & is halfway through our laundry. Wow! It’s warm enough to throw open the windows. I want to pass off the baby. Hide in a room & lock the door. But of course the baby needs to nurse. Fine! I’ll be a mom for, like, five more minutes!

My Butterball-turkey-sized 10-months-old falls asleep in my arms. My partner & son bring me a beer. I quietly thank my son for being so patient & lovely today. I quietly thank my husband for the beer & for taking care of the house. I’ve found gratitude & I’m no longer angry or even cranky. 
Now I’m sitting here, rocking with my napping baby, sipping a beer, enjoying a beautiful breeze. How could I possibly complain?! 

Three years ago, on Mothers’ Day I was pregnant & and about to miscarry. Two years ago, I was bitter after having suffered a second miscarriage some months earlier & I was also barely pregnant & about to lose a chemical pregnancy & picking up a bridesmaid’s dress that had to be altered because, well, miscarriage. Last year, I was eight months pregnant but still nervous. This year, I have the honor holding the most perfect, napping baby in my arms. 

In the blink of an eye, despite chaos & loss, I feel like the luckiest mom in the world. 

Happy Mothers’ Day. Seriously!

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Filed under Attachment Parenting, Breastfeeding, Feminism, Living, Miscarriage, Mothering, Partnership, Simplicity, Working

Focusing on the best

“Loving”—A reminder of my son

A mere 4 1/2 years ago (oh, where does the time go?!), I shared the parenting motivation that helps to keep me on my game. That motivation comes from Scott Noelle at The Daily Groove. Noelle’s format has changed a bit since then, but he still sends out nuggets of gold a couple-few times a week. Sometimes, I’m too lazy or busy to read the emails, but thankfully my partner (MFA Dad) will forward to me the ones that are resonating with our current parenting challenges. 

This morning he sent me one called “The Power of Attraction.” In it, Noelle suggested writing a reminder on your hand of one characteristic of your child that you “really, really adore and appreciate.” I chose “loving” because my son’s big heart is so endearing. At least, it is when I stop to allow him to fully express his loving nature, including both his capacity & need for love. 

The idea of Noelle’s experiment is to think about this particular attribute often throughout the day & observe how it affects your interactions. Noelle writes:

“Psychologically, attraction means you can focus on certain things, and your mind will ‘pull’ matching thoughts and conditions into your awareness and experience. …

“Can you see how, through your intentional focus, you created (attracted) that experience?”

I enjoyed thinking about T’s loving nature throughout the day, especially as we were apart for most of it. These days I have to admit that I am often rushed with him, as the baby’s needs are so urgent & ever-present. This experiment has forced me to (re-)create some space for him, which he deserves. 

And guess what? It worked! We had a delightful & playful evening. 

I find myself wanting to do this for MFA Dad, too! And even baby M. 

Try it!

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Sick days & teething 

I hate having to take sick leave. I usually have my next day planned (at least mentally) before I leave work. (I am much more organized at work than at home…) So to take unplanned leave means that the momentum of the work week comes to a screeching halt. I don’t like it!

Not to mention being sick. Or caring for a sick, miserable child. 

But I’ve had to call in sick at least three times since coming back to work from my maternity leave. (Can we come up with another name for “maternity leave” when it’s unpaid by either government or employer?! “Self-funded maternity leave” sounds a little too posh when you’re using your own hoarded vacation & sick leave plus unpaid FMLA leave…) 

Sleeplessness does not a strong immune system make. 

But after a busy birthday weekend with out of town visitors, a sleepover, merrily screaming boys, and a teething baby nursing all night, getting a little bug was weirdly just what I needed. 

I was forced to rest. To lay around and do nothing but nurse the baby as necessary. To sit & watch her roll & scoot around the floor. To lay down for bed at 7:30 pm. 

I haven’t slowed down like that in a long time. Since just after giving birth? 

I needed that. Even if I was feeling icky. Even if I am now once again standing on a crowded train on my way to work. Even if there will be a lot of catching up to do at work. 

But baby is still wanting to nurse all night. Maybe I’ll try to go to bed at 7:30 again tonight! Yeah, right…

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Life after loss & the “rainbow” baby

What might have been…


I had a dream the other night about losing a small infant. It was not a sad or scary dream, though it was bizarre & jarring. 

I feel certain this dream was about “Twin A,” who we lost over a year ago during my pregnancy with M (who is thriving!). Both of my kids were in my dream, so the loss was of someone else entirely. 

And suddenly, I find myself emotional about that loss again. It’s a grief I haven’t let myself feel since we found out what had happened. But now, over a year later, a beautiful rainbow baby in my life, I am again sad that my twin pregnancy ended up as a singleton pregnancy. 

I often tell people (when it comes up…) that I had 3 miscarriages. Truth is, it was really 4. It’s just that the last one was, thankfully, hidden in an otherwise healthy pregnancy. It’s weird that I’m just now realizing that or, at least, doing the math.

And perhaps because of the successful singleton pregnancy, I didn’t get the closure I’d had with my other miscarriages. There was no physical sign. Nothing to bury in the small memorial garden. I was, for good reason, preoccupied with the health of “Twin B,” aka M. 

But now it’s as if my soul (or my subconscious, at least) is crying out. It’s telling me with this dream that I am in a safe place now & I can grieve what might have been. 

The truth is that for me, the twin loss was in some way more difficult than the others. Whereas with the singleton losses I hadn’t done any mental planning beyond the vague dreaming of early pregnancy, it took a lot of mental effort to just wrap my brain around the fact that I was pregnant with twins at the beginning. 

I thought about birth. I thought about three car seats in a Toyota Corolla. I thought about sleeping arrangements. Breastfeeding. School expenses. 

I thought, happily, how we’d be thrust into life as a family of five. I’ve secretly wanted three children for a long time & this was my way to achieve that without having to get my partner’s consent. I was secretly overjoyed. 

Now, I’m certain that ship has sailed. And perhaps as a mental safety mechanism, I didn’t really allow myself to think about that until now. I had to remain focused on growing & then caring for the one healthy baby who would become my sweet M. 

So, no more babies. No more miscarriages. 

I have to say, while I find myself occupying a space of unexpected sadness & disappointment right now, I am relieved that we will not walk in that heartache again. At least, not in the present. I still feel scarred & that is quite enough. My whole family would agree, I’m sure. MFA Dad is still touched in his quiet way. T knew about one miscarriage & is still emotional about it at unexpected times. 

The truth is, even though I might idealize a third child, another full-term pregnancy, another birth-day, getting there might include the sort of life-shattering heartache that we experienced in getting to baby #2. I don’t think I’m willing to walk that road again, as joyful as all the rest is. There is something to be said for being happy with what one has. And I am. 

So, I will allow myself to grieve. To get teary-eyed at unexpected moments. To be an enigma to my partner while I talk about Twin A again after a year’s silence. 

And then, when I am ready, I will find a way to commemorate that loss—all of my losses—& compartmentalize that phase of my life. I will “move on.” (I’ll also probably write about it!)

I don’t know what “moving on” looks like beyond not dwelling. Perhaps “moving on” is not the right term because moving on is literally impossible. I am a changed, deeper, better person. All I can do is pick up from a new starting point… allow the pain of loss & miscarriage to fade softly. 

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Filed under Living, Miscarriage, Mothering, Parenting, Simplicity, Snapshots

Mother-Anniversary #8

Sorta-still-life with a seven year old & an infant


I try to contemplate my journey as a mother every year around the time of my son’s birthday. I had a two-week wait between his guess date & the day he actually arrived. I spent those two weeks in quiet contemplation. A lot of solo (& very slow) walks. I thought about birth & I thought about impending motherhood. I like to think of those two weeks as my slow transformation to motherhood before the wild awakening. 

This is the first year I get to write this annual post as a mother of two. 

I’m letting that sink in (for myself), as I wasn’t so sure a year ago or two years ago that I’d ever get to say that. And three years ago, I was pregnant for just the second time, though that pregnancy would end in a missed miscarriage. 

But here I am. Here we are. Eight years after I crossed over in that so-sudden way from not-mother to mother. And the not-mother in me is starting to fade from my memory & my identity. I still have my own independent identity, but as my son grows & ventures more & more into the world, it seems that I identify more strongly as his mother, not less. 

Of course, he’s less physically attached to me (though I relish the brief moments he slows down enough to cuddle with me) but he is still very much attached emotionally, in a way that requires me to be ever more keen to his needs. 

And so, the mother-me keeps growing & changing & trying to adapt. I still fail often. But I am confident in this little family that we have all worked so hard to build. There are moments where I glimpse its vulnerabilities. And I realize how much work there is still to do. 

My own independent actions & words seem to carry even more weight these days. Children are sponges from infancy, but now my eldest consciously understands so much more. 

The baby has made a big difference in my parenting. I enjoy parenting her almost every moment. I’m not as nervous as I was when T was a baby & I was new to it all. And, so, I know I can enjoy parenting my older son almost always. The baby reminds me of that. 

His challenges are opportunities for me to reflect on what it means to be a child. We are now firmly in the age of my own memories. I know what it was like being 7 going on 8. I remember the joys & the difficulties & the weirdness & the excitement.

We are together. Now.

He deserves to be happy being who he is today. My daughter, too. Me, too. 

We’re not always happy. Sometimes I lose my shit. After our latest confrontation, I was sulking (angry-guilty) & my son excitedly told me what he does after he’s upset. He just forgets about it, he said. He throws it out of his mind & moves on. It’s true—He does this often & it’s remarkable. He takes the bad thoughts out of his mind like Dumbledore & his penseive. 

I tried it & it works. 

Of course it does. Children have this whole “being alive today” thing figured out. So, what have I learned in these eight years of mothering? Sometimes I need to shut up & listen to my kids. 

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Filed under Attachment Parenting, Gentle Discipline, Living, Miscarriage, Mothering, Parenting, Simplicity