Parenting on the path of least resistance.

Before my daughter was born in March I had never heard the terms 'attachment parenting', 'baby-wearing', 'extended breastfeeding' or 'co-sleeping'. Looking back I have done all these things simply because they felt good and received the least complaints from the kiddos: the path of least resistance and most relaxation. I don't feel I have done things the 'right' way, just the way that worked for me. All the recent furore over extended breastfeeding has got me reflecting on these things.

When my first son, Ruskin, was born nearly 16 years ago I decided I wanted a home birth. Many years earlier my sister Hellen and I were sitting outside the door when my sister Katrina was born, and I had no recollection of distress or panic. Moments after the birth we were able to see her tiny form and my mother's shining eyes. In order to justify this desire to myself and others, I read about positive experiences of home birth in the Netherlands and avoided negative literature. My son was born in the little attic flat where I lived in an experience that convinced me that following my instincts could be a very good idea.

I had painstakingly painted a cot for him with hundreds of tiny flowers, but as I sat gazing at him, placing him so far from me seemed an impossibility. For a few days I felt as though he would forget to breathe if I couldn't see his face or feel his skin. I breastfed him whenever he seemed to need it. For a few nights I went through a performance of placing him in his cot and then carrying him in my arms, singing and rocking when he wouldn't settle. I sat with him into the early hours so he could sleep soundly next to my heartbeat. Before the end of his first week I was just picking him up for his first night feed and keeping him beside me till morning. And if I was writing an essay (towards my degree) he was in a sling while I typed. Of course it would have been easier to write with him asleep elsewhere, but I was just no good at putting him down for long. Being a student I was not around any other young mums and just did what worked for me.

I breastfed Ruskin on demand till he was nearly two, when I began to feel sapped of energy by it. I remember when he was about 8 months old I was in the mother and baby room in Boots with several other mums when one of them commented that Ruskin was big for his age. Knowing that he wasn't particularly, and understanding her thoughts, I told her his age. All the mothers looked at me in disbelief  (and a little disgust) that I was still breastfeeding. I wasn't put off because feeding Ruskin made life easy and enabled me to be mobile, as well as being an incredibly lovely experience.

When Ruskin was about three I left his father and things became very complicated for a very long time. I felt enormous sorrow that I was unlikely to have more children. When I met Ville close to my 35th birthday he realised this very quickly, and we decided that we would try and have a baby despite the difficult circumstances we were in. I got pregnant 7 months after we met and had Anton at my parent's house at the end of August 2008. Another uncomplicated home birth.

This time I tried to have Anton in a basket on our bed so that we couldn't roll on him but soon slept with him beside me through the night. I found the first few nights really emotional as his existence seemed so fragile. I didn't want to sleep for fear of something happening to him. Ville was working long hours on a lap-top beside us in bed and I slept best when he was there watching. I quickly got to feeling that I slept quite well as I barely woke for feeds, I just moved towards him. It felt wonderful to give him the security of lying close to me through the night. The two and a half years of feeding Anton and sleeping beside him and Ville have, the odd moment of tiredness aside, been the most beautiful of my life.

When I gave birth to Neve (an unbeatably relaxed and easy home-birth)  this March I was completely decided that she was my last and that I would enjoy every moment. I cannot describe the pleasure of sleeping with her on my arm, her tiny, light body resting on my torso. I awoke to her fluttering arms signalling the need for nourishment. She still does not cry out in the night as I am alert to her hungry fidgeting. I was still feeding Anton at bedtime when she was born. I had thought that I would feed both Anton and Neve for a while, and had several precious experiences of this, but it was also draining. A week after Neve's birth my mum took him to visit his cousins and he has settled without feeding ever since.

One of the things that Ville and I are both enjoying with Neve is using a baby carrier a lot. I bought an ErgoBaby and it is fantastic. It feels as if I am holding or hugging Neve as we walk unhindered through the chaos of Istanbul. When we put her in it she simply curls up and goes to sleep. If she is unsettled it is the best way of giving her the security she needs to sleep deeply. We have walked for hours and hours without discomfort. I do not know how we could tackle the pavements here with a pram and yet baby-wearing is still fairly uncommon in Istanbul. Fellow baby-wearers usually wave to each other much as fellow Volkswagen camper drivers do.

The way I am raising our children has been a privilege and a luxury. It has depended on not working and having someone else bring in the money. This was the state through student loans when I was a student, and now Ville. It has also relied on us having very little materially, and at a certain point in a child's life the opportunities you can give them usually require money. It is important that women work. Children need to be nurtured but they also need to be raised seeing and believing in equality. Women have to feel able to make the parenting choices that will enable them to manage their own circumstances. Most women following their instincts, are surely going to raise children well, given the right support. Women are torn apart emotionally when their external circumstances don't allow them to do what they feel their children need.

Despite dedicating myself to the kiddos for the time being the residents of Heybeliada have hardly been impressed by my skills. There has been much muttering and head-shaking about my choices simply because they aren't the prevalent ones here. Advice has flowed.  It has taken me too long not to care. Advice when it is asked for is a great thing, but there would be no loss in getting rid of the unsolicited kind.

As caesareans have become the norm amongst the middle classes here the courage to follow their instincts is often curtailed from the start. The message that birth is too difficult and it is a surgeon who can best ensure the health of your baby negatively impacts the likelihood of making individual choices. People have been utterly bemused by my home births telling me that 'only the peasants would do that here'. Yet breastfeeding is still the norm here, people taking for granted that you are. Consequently I have never felt that I was offending someone by feeding close to them. Mothers even send their children over to watch!

I haven't ever felt that I have made the perfect choices (except about breastfeeding, but that's a no-brainer if you can do it). I could be doing this another way and it work just as well. I don't think being dogmatic about parenting is helpful whatever form it takes, though I will definitely continue co-sleeping, baby-wearing and breastfeeding as long as I am lucky enough to do so.

Visit the Facebook page of this blog

One thoughts on “Parenting on the path of least resistance.

  1. Reading about those beautiful early days of Ruskin's life brought a tear to my eye. That flat...being there with you both. Lovely. Such a beautiful and happy baby. I am so glad you've loved all of your births. I certainly loved breastfeeding and there is nothing sweeter than sleeping next to your baby. Absolute bliss.


Proudly powered by Blogger
Theme: Esquire by Matthew Buchanan.
Converted by