Tuesday, February 28, 2012

AND... I Would Do It Again!

As my youngest is 6, I've been doing a lot of reflecting on how much I have learned from my little ones. I am quite certain I have learned at least as much from them as they have from me. They have taught me how to be wrong. Alot. And then they have taught me what works for them, and I've had to change. Alot.

Below is a list of Things I Would Do Again, the same.

Birthing my babies at home... So, So fantastic. Getting to stay in my home, surrounded by the people I love and the midwives I trust. Nothing could have felt more natural. I would do it again tomorrow.

Finding a way to make co-sleeping and on-demand nursing work... I remember my sleepy stooper... wondering down the hall, to sit in a rocker and awkwardly, exhaustedly nurse my first born 3-4 times a night. No wonder nursing didn't last long the first time around! I had this picture in my head of my perfect sleeping baby, in her crib, in her room... and I fought pretty persistently to achieve that perfect picture. Nothing could have been less natural. Eventually I realized, she needed to be with me. Which honestly, made our queen-size rather crowded; but it still felt a lot better. When she got too big to fit, she slept on a foamy in our room. As a toddler, we got her a double size bed, where her and I could sleep together without disturbing dad. It took some time, but Olivia had taught me that her need to be close to us, to feel safe and secure at night was more important than our perceived need for privacy; and far more important than the ridiculous fear that she would never learn to sleep on her own if we met that need. I will always feel good for meeting her need.

Nursing until... That double bed came in awfully handy when we had our son! After only nursing Olivia exclusively for 2 months, and then being all dried up by 6 months. I was determined to make a longer go of nursing this time. After having to help Olivia through nearly constant ear and lung infections, as well as many digestive problems, nursing as long as I could was super important! That meant sleeping with Oakley, in the double bed, and nursing all night. Surprisingly, I got a lot more sleep this way! No walking, or sitting, or even waking to nurse! He quickly found his way to latching without my help. This felt natural; and I felt positive about meeting his needs for closeness, security and nourishment! Not too surprisingly, he was a much more contented baby; the crying and health problems that we had experienced with Olivia were not making a repeat appearance with our son. We made it to the recommended 2 year mark, and just kept going, until when he was 4, we agreed to wean.

Letting my kids lead the way. This was a tricky one. After clinging to a mental picture of how this parenting thing should look, and discovering that this only leads to suffering.... I came around to the idea that I needed to be more open to the absence of a picture! The first time I heard someone say that children are equal to their parents, I felt defensive. I didn't like how that sounded. Compared to the beliefs I held in my mind, about families, and obedience.... this just sounded wrong. By now I had been wrong at this parenting-gig before; I had learned a lot about doing it wrong. I had learned by now, that my children's needs were equal to mine; just a real and valid. Seeing the success of co-sleeping had taught me that. I tried valuing their wants, feelings, and preferences too, viewing them as equal to mine. This lead to more challenges day-to-day; at first. But it also lead to children who feel important. They are articulate about expressing their feelings, fears, needs, and preferences. This does not mean that they get what they want all the time! In fact, what it means is that we have all gained experience in problem solving and negotiating. This means, for example, that when it was really important to Olivia to have a violin, and we couldn't afford one, we brainstormed ways to work together to make the money. It took two years of saving, and making and selling jewelry together; but she did it! We did it! Her want was important to us, so we did it together. This felt like a big accomplishment! All of this Following Their Lead business naturally lead to....

Unschooling! Following their lead with learning!! This is something I have become SO passionate about because I have seen how wonderful it can be! Unschooling honors natural learning. It is following curiosity. It is following passion. It is lifelong learning, not something just done in the school years. Unschooling is limitless! It is not divided into grade levels, or expected outcomes; it is not worksheets, or learning in subjects; it is all inclusive! I have watched my daughter, who has severe dyslexia teach herself how to read, because of allowing her to lead the way in her learning. She has built her own weekly learning routine which includes dance, violin, volunteering at a seniors home, learning about the bible, learning sign language, cooking and sewing..... she is a very busy girl; and she is brilliantly directing her own learning!

Staying home with my kids long after a year... of course, not everyone has this option. For us, it meant selling our home and moving to a more affordable one. It meant asking for help from extended family and being thankful when they lent us support. It has meant being financially very poor, according to our standard of living in this country. The more time I have spent with my kids though, the more I like them. Sometimes when I hear people complaining about their kids, I think to myself, it's because they don't spend enough time with them. Did I just say that out loud?! Oops. That's not to say we don't have rough days. WE DO. We have days where everyone is whiny, when they are fighting over toys, when they are picky about food; we have days when I count down the hours until they go to sleep! But it is worth it. And as I see how quickly they are growing, and getting to know them, I'm so grateful I've gotten to be here for so much of it.

Baby, toddler, and child massage! In the beginning, I did this to help Olivia with her digestion and sleep, which it did. In the end, I have spent countless hours bonding with my babies through massage.... and the side effect is that they love giving massage too! :D

Getting a learning assessment... I know not many people talk about this one... but I'm going to because it was one of the hardest decisions to make; and one of the most intense processes.... and I wish more parents had of been open to talking about it. Going through the assessment was not about getting a label for us; it was about learning strengths and weaknesses. It was about finding out how we could be more supportive. Ultimately, it was about learning how Olivia learns best; and it has resulted in her having more and more success and confidence.

Skipping the shots in favor of building up the immune system... I know, such a controversial one, what am I even doing talking about this one?! Hey, this is my list. You can make your own; and on it can be "Getting the vaccines..." ;)

Olivia reacted to the vaccines. Her reaction lead to months of endless, inconsolable screaming; this was not colic. This was her brain being affected badly by the "medicine" that was supposed to protect her. Combined with a rough pregnancy, birth, and problems nursing; this batch of shots added a layer of "challenge" that her very small body simply did not need. I have no doubts that these contributed to her lung infections, ear infections, multiple allergies, and learning disabilities. I would not do it again. Seeing the contrast in my son's health, having not had any vaccines is remarkable. He had croup; and that has been his only serious illness. He has minor asthma, which we treat with herbs. He has never had an ear infection. He has been an incredibly healthy boy!

Realizing that the advice from the neighbor, the lady on the bus or the guy in the grocery store is not always good. My neighbor told me to let Olivia cry-it-out. This was during the time I was attached to the baby-in-crib idea. This was bad advice. My sickly, "failure to thrive", reacting-to-vaccines baby needed ME! She needed closeness and comfort; she needed to know that I heard her cries. Her cries, that were her only means of communicating. I will always regret taking that advice, especially given the link to SIDS, and other health issues associated with this "method."


I felt so sorry as I came across stories like this one:

"Especially in the first six months, avoid sleep trainers who advise you to let your baby “cry it out.” Only you know what “it” is and how to respond appropriately to your baby. The first SIDS baby in my practice awakened frequently. Her mother responded intuitively to her and nursed her back to sleep. When that baby was four months of age, a friend warned this mother that she was “spoiling that baby and that she should let her cry it out.” That night her cries went unanswered – permanently." This quote from - http://doulamomma.wordpress.com/2010/02/11/seven-steps-to-reduce-the-risk-of-sids/_mckay.html

Thankfully, I did not believe the lady that told me holding Olivia during her naps would stop her from growing! lol Obviously, I have made my peace with doing what feels natural for me now, and letting the advice goooooo... even though, I'm sure that means I sound crazy a good portion of the time ;)

Letting go of the fear, and the notion of tough love.... fear that I could do the impossible and Spoil a Baby! Fear that my babies would always need to sleep in my bed if I gave in... (really? Anyone know of a teen who wants to sleep with his parents?! ew.) Fear that my babies wouldn't stop nursing if I let it go on until they stopped needing it. Fear of people looking at me funny, or thinking I was weird. Fear that they would catch some deathly disease for not being vaccinated. Fear that they would be self-centered if I met and valued all of their needs. Fear that they wouldn't become independent and confident people if I spent so much time with them. Fear that they wouldn't grow and become great things if I allowed their natural abilities to take the lead.

Fear. Limiting and controlling Fear.

So there's my list.... what's on your's?

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