Looking back over the past two and a half years of parenting I have been surrounded by many ‘guiding lights’. I was a slow learner and took a while to start to feel comfortable in my new role as a parent. New situations can still make me feel like an amateur.
We began our journey with the pregnancy and birth of our first son Alexander. I chose and was fortunate enough to get in to the Birth Centre in Brisbane. We were not truly aware of their philosophy but I knew how I wanted to birth our baby and believed in my ability to do so without intervention. I had always felt that women were designed to birth their babies and that we wouldn’t be presented with ‘pain’ we were not able to handle.
Our midwives started us on the right path – having complete faith in the process and fostering our intuition as parent by allowing us to just ‘be’.
With a fast and furious labour of less than five hours we presented to the Birth Centre with our son’s head on view. He was born half an hour later. We were, needless to say, shell shocked – it all seemed so unreal.
My pregnancy had been very well read and researched (thanks to my medical background) but we had not even started to contemplate what it would be like to be a parent. So I started reading again. I had read a review in the paper on a parenting book and thought that this was a place to start.
After our first three weeks at home the hormone high started to dwindle. Reality set in. This was hard work – just like being on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. There was no end in sight! My son was three weeks old now – why wasn’t I into a routine yet? Why wasn’t he eating, playing and sleeping (in that order) just like the book said? What was I doing wrong? My baby cried so much, and so did I. Surly parenting wasn’t meant to be this hard!
A parcel had arrived in the mail. My sister had asked what we felt we needed for our new baby. While I was pregnant I had seen some slings in a brochure that were designed to carry babies from birth up to four years old. It was a major turning point for us. I felt comfortable using it. We went for walks, did the laundry downstairs, and even used the sling around the kitchen while getting breakfast. Alexander would sleep for ages and I could relax knowing he was safe and warm. Despite this newfound freedom, I began to experience an inner turmoil. We were doing what felt right and came naturally but none of our friends or family were doing these things. Their babies apparently slept for hours at a time during the day and slept through at night in their own cot! I started to doubt our approach and began to think that maybe I should try out what they were doing?
Alexander was nearly 12 weeks old, so I reluctantly decided to put him to sleep in his cot in his own room, day and night. I remember thinking at this time that even puppies were left with their mothers until they were eight weeks old – what was I doing this for? But still, I tried it.
This plan totally backfired. I became more sleep deprived. Alexander woke two hourly overnight and was sleeping less in the day and took longer to settle. His crying escalated. A clear message this was not the way to go. During this time we had been attending weekly mother and baby yoga classes. Sharing with others what was happening for you was a part of the class – an invaluable source of information and support for new mothers. However, I was too embarrassed to admit to my ‘failures’ and the effect they had on our son. Instead I broke down and started crying. With support it was suggested that I speak to a doctor who practiced in Highgate Hill.
The doctor patiently listened to all my concerns – a crying baby who was only having very short feeds and even shorter sleeps (or so it seemed). What vital skills was I unable to teach my son so that he would sleep better and be a happier baby?
She spoke slowly and gently suggesting that I start to use my sling again and accept our son back into our bed. Several books were suggested to me. This was just what I needed to hear – and from a doctor! I couldn’t believe there were actually books written on what we had been doing in the first place!
It did not take very long and Alexander was definitely a happier baby. He was feeding more often and my sleep was deeper and more restful – even if Alexander continued to wake frequently. Feeding in bed became effortless and automatic. We were again thriving.
I read extensively on attachment parenting and the continuum concept. I became aware of support groups and attended whenever I could. With support and knowledge I slowly became more confident with my own parenting style. It was working well. People would comment on my sling saying how comfortable Alexander looked in it and how contented and placid he was.
I still felt different in most circles of friend. I have however now surrounded myself with people who love and accept our way of parenting and feel totally comfortable with the decisions we have made.
When we discovered we were pregnant again there was none of the uncertainties and fears we experienced the first time – just love, acceptance and anticipation. Alexander had taught me so much about babies, breastfeeding, parenting and more importantly about myself. I felt that I could look forward to experiencing those cherished moment all over again in a new light – this time with love, patience, acceptance and wonder.
My pregnancy was relaxed as I spent my time at home mothering Alexander. I did a little bit of reading to refresh my memory and did yoga and relaxation at home. I felt our baby moving much earlier and this time was able to visualize her stretching out her little arms and legs as I felt those familiar flutters. It filled my heart with joy.
We were accepted into the Birth Centre again and were enjoying sharing the experience with Alexander and my parents. I was much more open to offers of help this time.
Molly’s birth was beautiful. It was very gentle and I felt more aware of what was happening and able to surrender and let go when it was time. I laboured for about four hours (in between hanging out washing and cooking lunch) and Molly Rose was born 10 minutes after we arrived at the Birth Centre. She breastfeed immediately as we welcomed her to the world. I held her close to me from that moment. Since then she has been breast feed on demand, sometimes as often as every few minutes!
She has slept in our sling for all her day sleeps (we were very much on the move keeping up with her two year old brother) until she became too heavy for me to support her weight. She now sleeps in a cost adjoining our bed. I have found it much easier to pick up on her baby cues this way. I am amazed at the level of trust that has developed between us in such a short time. I trust myself much more this time around. I am even more delighted at the relationship that is developing between Molly and Alexander. He is also in tune with her needs. It is heart warming to see him hand her the toy she is ‘requesting’ and say “Molly likes that?” Both of my children are sensitive to my needs also. If I am having a low energy day or need time to have a conversation with my partner, they seem to respect his (most of the time anyway).
Knowing that I am giving my children a positive role model for interacting with their siblings, other children and in the future, their own children is my greatest reward. This is what motivates me to keep learning.