Saturday, February 25, 2012

Musings of an Almost Crunchy Momma

Welcome to the "I'm a Natural Parent - BUT..." Carnival
This post was written for inclusion in the carnival hosted by The Artful Mama and Natural Parents Network. During this carnival our participants have focused on the many different forms and shapes Natural Parenting can take in our community.

I'd like to outline my thoughts on where I fall on the crunchy spectrum.

Agent E holding five-day-old Agent A
In regards to giving birth, I am very much a fan of modern medicine, including pain relief. This may be hard to believe, but not everyone who reads and researches all things baby during their pregnancy comes to the conclusion that drug-free, intervention-free, or homebirth is the way to go. I have had two inductions (E early due to complications and A scheduled) and one unintentionally natural, fast birth (like almost-birthing-J-in-the-waiting-room fast). My best birth experience—by far—was my planned induction (epidural in place before beginning) with my son. If there were to be more Agents (um, there will not be) I would strongly consider being induced again.
Have I lost you yet? Should I just turn in my Natural Parent Card now? Read on.
Only one of our children is a boy, and he is intact. I didn’t really feel too strongly about circumcision one way or the other, but after doing some reading while I was pregnant (even before I learned I was growing a prince) I couldn’t come up with a compelling reason to have it done. And then once I saw my son there was no way I was handing him over to someone to have a piece of him cut off.
breastfed all three children, including part of two pregnancies and a year of tandem time. I have written quite a bit on the influence of breastfeeding on my mothering. Agent E and Agent J nursed until ages three and two, respectively (something I was never going to do). My littlest Agent is "still" nursing; I'm hoping he will want to continue until at least age two (preferably a little longer since his birthday is at the height of cold and flu season).
When my first baby turned exactly six months old, I dutifully spooned pasty rice cereal into her unwilling mouth. She never showed much interest in food until about 14 months. My second started shoving food into her own mouth at 5.5 months, but ultimately we still went the "traditional" baby food way with her. With my third, I discovered the awesomeness of baby led weaning. Here is a post about our first attempt. Agent A never ate jarred baby food or purees. We only spoon feed foods like yogurt and applesauce; everything else he picks up and puts into his own mouth. At one, his favorites dinners include margherita pizza, chicken curry, and turkey meatloaf.
We don't make a big deal about food; we aim for reasonably healthy most of the time, eat when we're hungry and stop when we're full, and never force anyone to try "just one bite" of something. We go out for fast food once a week and we don't purposely shop for organic. 
I purchased cloth diapers prior to my first birth, and am now diapering Baby #3 with them, so quite a good investment for our family. We don’t use them exclusively; we use disposables for travel and night-time and often even short everyday trips because it’s less for me to carry. I would estimate we use cloth diapers at least 75-80% of the time. Also, I honestly have no idea why it took me until my third child was a few months old to learn just how easy cloth baby wipes are! I make a simple solution of water, a few drops of baby oil, and a squirt of baby wash. I don't even measure anything. Easy peasy! Agent E learned the potty quickly and with minimal effort on my part at about age 2.5. Agent J . . . well, that's a whole other post. No expectations for Agent A at this point. The idea of EC never even occurred to us.
Sleepy Agents J and A
We co-sleep every night; we actually have three (yes; three) queen-size beds in our master bedroom: one on a frame and two on the floor. Nighttime often turns into a game of musical sleeping spots if one of the girls isn’t feeling well, has a bad dream, needs water, or just wants Mommy. I frequently almost always fall asleep on Andrew's bed when I move down to nurse him. And sometimes we all wake up on the same bed like a big pile of meerkats. Have never and will never use CIO; it doesn’t sit well with me for so many reasons.
As a general rule we practice mostly gentle discipline. I wish I had more patience in dealing with the everyday insanity that is taking care of three kids five and under. I often need to channel my inner Dr. Sears. Sometimes I do things I regret, like yell too much raise my voice with my little darlings. 

We don't do sitters very often, because I hate leaving my babies (especially at night). I'm not opposed to occasionally leaving them with a trusted caregiver during the day, and I do this regularly when Hubby is out to sea. The Senior Agents also throughly enjoyed spending time in the "kids' club" on our last cruise. In general, though, I am with them the majority of the time and I'm good with that.
If you are thinking she doesn't sound so bad, I can practically hear her crunching from here, this is the part where I might lose you.
One topic more than any other makes me feel like I am definitely not a fruit of the organically grown natural parenting tree. All three children receive vaccinations on the recommended schedule without fear of side effects. We even get annual flu shots. Yes, I read all the same articles, too, and I can discern which ones to take seriously and which ones are tabloid-ish in their sensationalism. But what it comes down to is this: Even assuming the claims are true, I am willing to take the calculated risk. I don't doubt vaccine injuries are real. And I know when something happens to your child it's personal. I would presume parents of children who have become seriously ill or died from a vaccine-preventable illness feel the same way. (My grandparents lost their first child to a disease practically unheard of in the United States today. No parents should have to bury their three-month-old.) To paraphrase my friend Heather, the mere fact that we are able to have this conversation illustrates just how ridiculously privileged we are. (At least I think it was her. Hmm. It sounds like something she would say.)
did not babywear with Agents E or J. Before Agent A was born, I bought a Moby wrap. I heard so many wonderful things about it, and I know many women simply love them, but . . . it didn't work for us. Actually, when he was tiny I preferred to just hold him. I used it a grand total of maybe six times, for fewer than 30 minutes most of those. And now he is 15 months, and there's no way we're starting over with a new sling; he just walks or I carry him or (gasp!) we use a stroller. (I'm convinced that parents who are anti-stroller never had to get three kids anywhere by themselves. And they never parented Agent J.)
I wanted for a while now to do away with chemical cleaners, but I have a long way to go. I know if I just got my act together I could clean the entire house with nothing more than a bottle of vinegar, a box of baking soda, and a lemon. I use commercial laundry detergent. (And with five people in our family, we use a lot of it.)
The Agents watch television (mostly DVDs of Disney and PBS shows or Pixar movies), and I do not think this is evil. And because Agent A is usually in the same room as the girls when they are watching, he may be, say, a wee bit familiar with the Dora the Explorer theme song. It's never really been an issue for us . . . we watch when we're interested, turn it off when we aren't, and do a multitude of other activities. Can I share a peeve here? Folks that limit screen time by offering a reward of—you guessed it—screen time. Don't get me started.
Agent E plays computer games at least once a day. I did not introduce her to the computer until she was 5.5, and we don't have fancy phones or anything with "apps" that she plays with. Mostly she putters around on PBS Kids. At first I fretted over limiting her computer time, but I quickly realized that if I didn't say anything and let her figure it out herself she stopped when she was ready and moved onto something else quite easily. Like TV, it's not a battle, so I'm not going to make it into one.
Agent J about to get really messy
We homeschool. This is something I never pictured us doing. But it's working. We are going down an Agent-led path for now.
I don't know, that homeschooling save may have redeemed me. Whew.
Did I miss anything? And what does this all mean? 
It means I hesitate to call myself a natural parent, although I am on board with a lot of what most folks consider natural parenting to be. It means I joke about being quasi-crunchy but really I feel like an outsider. It means that I know what it's like to be part of the NP community on issues like breastfeeding and co-sleeping, and then treated like an outcast by the same community because I vaccinate and love McDonalds' fries. It means I participate in carnivals like this, but I always expect at least a little judgment. It means I will keep writing and sharing and learning.
And I hope you will, too.

I'm a Natural Parent — But … Blog CarnivalThis carnival was created by The Artful Mama and Natural Parents Network. We recognize that "natural parenting" means different things to different families, and we are dedicated to providing a safe place for all families, regardless of where they are in their parenting journeys.

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

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20 comments :

  1. Hey momma in progress!~ Can I just say I echo about each and every thing that you've said in this post! I follow along the Natural Parents Blog because I do believe in a lot of things like co-sleeping, extended breastfeeding, gentle discipline, etc. But truth be told the longest I breast fed any of my children is 22 months. Yes, we eat fast food, and ramen noodles and macaroni and cheese in the box. yes, we watch tv, and I let my kids even take the lead in it and monitor it, i let them choose. amazingly, they choose well. :) so happy to "meet" you here online, read who you are, what you stand for and whole heartedly agree! It's so encouraging to find a like-minded mama! much love from costa rica, leslie xoxox

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    1. Thanks so much, Leslie. I love reading your blog. Glad you stopped by.

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  2. Momma, you rock. You are listening to yourself and your instincts and working out what feels right to you. Other people can't tell us what's right for our particular child, our particular context, our particular background of triggers and sensitivities. I think people just want it too easy sometimes; they want a check list they can follow without thinking for themselves. Well boo hiss to that. Our kids are individuals.

    My son wouldn't even wear a baby bonnet in winter; I think he would have screamed like a banshee if I'd tried restricting him in a sling because we're both a bit claustrophobic. Baby walkers and jolly jumpers worked for us. Controlled crying worked for us (and no, it's not the same as CIO and I resent being told I wrecked my child's brain, especially as he's just finishing his PhD at uni and is unreservedly brilliant). We vaccinated. He ate what he wanted, when he wanted- sometimes it was avocado dip and sometimes it was Maccas chips, but he doesn't have any weight problems or eating issues now. I didn't circumcise. I tried my darndest not to spank, but communicated honestly always and we're still talking just as frankly. The thought of eating a placenta makes me gag and wonder if they're joking. I lost my temper sometimes and sent him to his room for time out. (I wouldn't do it that way now, but i forgive myself.)

    And so on. It was 26 years ago, in a time when many of these ideas were mere twinkles in an enthusiast's eye, and nobody died for the lack of the 'rules' of crunch.

    I don't fit in with anyone's checklist either, I never belonged to a club, except that is for the 'My Child' club (him and me and occasionally my ex hubby). I see no virtue in belonging to some baby rearing 'sect' with hard and fast rules and judgmental people trying to police them. I believe in thinking for myself. Looks like you do too.

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    1. Ah, the no hat thing! People here (Italy) are fanatical about overdressing (themselves and their children). Julia leaves hats on for about four seconds. She takes her shoes (and socks) off at the playground when it's 50 degrees (10 C). One day not long ago there was another little girl there who was also running about in bare feet (it was pretty cool that day). I just gave her mom a knowing nod and sigh. It was kind of nice.

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  3. I really enjoyed reading how you changed as your family grew - getting "crunchier" in some ways, and not in others. But personally, I think that's what parenting should be about - not rigidly adhering to some philosophy, but doing what is right for your family.

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  4. It's all a process, isn't it? I always tell mothers I meet who are feeling guilty about their non natural parenting, "You have to do what works for your family." And I think it's a little ridiculous the amount of pressure that's put on women to have the "right" birth from all sides of the natural-hospital spectrum. It's great that you are happy with your decisions.

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  5. We do many of the same things you do... in fact, we were just at McDonald's today! :) And they like screen time... probably too much but eh.

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  6. I dont think any of us can be completely natural 100% of the time. We find what works best for us!! :)

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  7. The more I read into this carnival the more it becomes apparent that we are all quasi-crunchy. We all pick and choose what natural parenting tools we want to implement based on our preferences and needs. Personally, the women I have met who try and live up to the 'complete' crunchy stereotype are more emotionally drained and frazzled than the ones who selectively choose what is right for their families at the time. Being a natural parent should really mean being an 'intuitive' parent, in whatever form it happens to take.

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    1. Agree. I consider myself to be more intuitive, responsive, intentional . . . maybe those are better descriptors than "natural" . . . ?

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  8. This bloody carnival is so freaking refreshing!!!! lol!!! I'm so with you, here, on feeling "in" with some things and NPN/crunch, and "out" or judged with other things.
    It's so awesome.

    I LOVE this post because it covers many topics!! I'm 100% with you on the vaccination calculated risk idea. That's exactly how I feel about it; valid reasons not to, and I choose to based on risk assessment. I judge no one for choosing not to, and feel good about my choice TO.

    I like how you select what works for you and your family, and follow the lead of your kids; I'm surprised that your kids don't need limits (if I don't limit mine they will watch tv/play wii/play computer games ALLLLLLLLL day); so great that they don't!! Anything that is arbitrarily limited can really just become more appealing, hey? And my baby knows Dora too. Lol.

    And birth? Any way a woman can come out the other end feeling happy with what happened is amazing. You're awesome.

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    1. E went a little nutty with the computer when we first introduced it, but then the novelty wore off. Same with TV . . . one month recently we had "free" channels so they wanted it on all. the. time. (We normally only get one kid-oriented channel, and it's not that great.) Anyway, once those couple of weeks ended, they we're like, oh, it's over? okay, whatever.

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  9. I have seen vaccinations on a few of the carnival posts now and I was surprised. I didn't realize that not vaccination was a big thing in the natural parenting community. Possibly because it isn't in my close circle. We have all vaccinated our kids (some on delays or altered schedules) but no one hasn't vaccinated.

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    1. It's funny because I know very few people personally who don't vaccinate, yet when I read other blogs/NP writers it seems to come up all the time! I suppose I could have also thrown in there that in spite of that we avoid most over-the-counter meds (we often have children's motrin that expires before we use it, and that's one bottle between three kids). Actually, it makes A puke. Yet at the same time, J is on long-term daily meds for her asthma. Wow, we make NO sense at all! Ha!

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  10. I'm with you - we did vaccinations and will continue to vaccinate as well. I don't judge those that don't and I hope that they don't judge me either. If they do well there is nothing I can do about that. Moby never worked for me either - just too many steps for such a short period of wearing. I've found others that worked better later for him and hopefully I will be able to use them with the next. TV also makes a frequent appearance in my house. Sometimes "mama just needs a minute (or 30)" Thanks for sharing.

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  11. "It means that I know what it's like to be part of the cool crowd with the NP community on issues like breastfeeding and co-sleeping, and then treated like an outcast by the same community because I vaccinate and love McDonalds' fries. It means I participate in carnivals like this, but I always expect at least a little judgment." UH, YES. That quote was awesome. It is this sentiment that keeps me from getting very involved with NPN. I feel like I'm with them 80% of the way, but I'll be damned if I mention something that ISN'T right in line with all the "natural" ideals. I hate this feeling, but I am learning to be more confident (and vocal, especially on my own blog, for pete's sake) with who I am and what works best for our family. Friends in real life think I am the hippiest person on earth, but blog folks? It never seems to be quite good enough. (I am learning that most NPNers really do want the "best" for everyone and so this judgment comes from good intentions, at least.) It's all about balance. And grace, both for ourselves and for those around us. Wonderful post!

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  12. The term "natural parent" is kind of new to me, especially as it seems to be very specifically defined (or rather undefined) by this carnival. I feel very fortunate to stumble upon this community at this time. A time when these confessions of sorts really reveal how different we all are in practices yet united in the priority of doing what's best for our family and children. So great to hear about so many aspects of your parenting in a nutshell. Thanks for the insights!

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  13. Yeah - well I am pretty crunchy but I did give Tiny a few vaccinations until I realized that she was one of those kids that actually DID get a horrible reaction to them. And now she has health issues because of it. But you know what? I did what I needed to do at the time. We are all just getting by the best we know how. Cleaning products? Yeah - there are a few less than crunchy ones in our home too. Ooops. Stone me. Thanks for your honesty mama. Feels good to know that the cool kids aren't perfect.

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  14. Happy SITS day. I am somewhat Crunchy... trying to get more natural by the day. Sometimes succeeding, others not. I am using cloth diapers, I breastfed (well, I had to pump, we had latch issues) all 3 kids, I am converting to natural cleaning products. I am, however, a huge advocate for Immunizations. I worked closely with health department officials in my former job, and the statistics of how many sick/deceased children there would be without immunizations is really frightening. However, I do believe in spreading them out, and I did just see that they've linked giving Tylenol before/after vaccines to higher risks of issues. I guess it's good I seem to always forget to give the Tylenol! Anyway, we all do what we believe is best for our children, and that's all we can do! :-)

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    1. Thanks for stopping by, Kat. Yeah, I had read that about the tylenol, but not until I had Agent A. So the girls always got tylenol if they had a fever after vaccines. With A I've held off.

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