All posts by The Attached Family

Jack Christian’s Birth

By Walker Powell

Walker Powell 1I became pregnant quite by accident when I was a senior in college. I’d never really considered different birth options before, but I knew immediately that I wanted a natural home birth.

I sailed through most of my pregnancy without a single complaint, received glowing reports at my prenatal exams, and avoided the hospital entirely except for a single ultrasound to determine the due date. My boyfriend was amazingly supportive, I think he might have been even more excited than me. I was a little nervous, but I was also looking forward to meeting this creature who had taken my by surprise. I was convinced I would do so at home after a relaxing, peaceful labor.

I read all the traditional natural birth books, but my favorite was Ina May Gaskin’s classic Spiritual Midwifery. At that point, I had never heard of Attachment Parenting, though unconsciously I was already planning an AP birth. Of course, things never work out the way we plan.

At my 38-week appointment, one of my midwives, J., looked worried. I had slightly elevated blood pressure, and the baby seemed to have stopped growing. I didn’t have any other signs of preeclampsia, and the baby was still kicking like crazy, so J. said she wasn’t too concerned. However, she suggested that I see the midwife at the hospital and get an ultrasound. I did, suddenly fearful, but the other midwife wasn’t concerned at all, and the ultrasound only revealed a perfectly healthy baby.

I returned home, worried now that my dreams of a natural birth were falling to pieces. We spent the next few days doing anything we could to get this baby out. Exercise, raspberry tea, herbal supplements, sex, whatever we could think of. Four days before our due date, I hiked to the top of a mountain. There were no contractions, but my boyfriend did propose on the summit under some trees. I said yes.

The following week I was told to go in for a non-stress test because the hospital midwife had realized that she had the wrong due date and was suddenly very worried about the baby’s size. I did, and we passed with flying colors, but no one was satisfied. The midwife suggested an induction but said she’d let us decide. We opted to wait.

That very afternoon she called again to say that the doctors had reviewed my case again and strongly recommended an immediate induction. They could have me in that night, she said. I was caught off guard, unsure what to do. I called my home birth midwives, and we decided together that I should go for the induction.

That night, my fiance and I checked into the hospital birthing center to have our baby. They gave me Cervidil, hooked a heart rate monitor to my belly, and left me to try to sleep in the narrow hospital bed. A nurse came in every hour to adjust the monitor, but I managed to sleep a little.

The following day started slowly. One of my midwives, M., came in the mid-morning and kept us company. We watched TV and relaxed all morning. The birthing center was a welcoming place where we had our own room and were rarely bothered by nurses or doctors. The contractions were starting but they were mild, barely worse than the Braxton-Hicks contractions I’d been experiencing off and on during the last few weeks.

By lunchtime I was restless and didn’t feel like eating. We took a walk instead, out to a scrap of grass behind the parking lot. M. did some moxibustion to speed up the labor because she was worried the nurses would give me Pitocin if they didn’t see some progress. It worked, and within an hour I could no longer talk through the contractions.

I took a long, hot shower with my fiance, swaying with him at each contraction. Things were going well, I thought, though it scared me a little that it hurt so much when I’d barely begun.

Then things got confusing. The nurses made me come back to bed so they could hook up the monitor, take my blood pressure, draw blood, and get a urine sample. There was a lot of hushed muttering. M. looked worried. I was focusing on the contractions and didn’t pay much attention. They drew my blood a few more times, leaving my arms dotted with bruises.

Next they were putting an IV in my arm and telling me I had preeclampsia and that I needed this drug to protect me from seizures. The drug made me feel heavy, so heavy I couldn’t even open my eyes. It also slowed the contractions down so much the nurses had to give me Pitocin as well. The Pitocin made me feel like I was burning up, and my fiance had to wash my face and neck with a cold cloth.

Several hours passed, I think. I couldn’t tell time, nor did I know exactly what was happening.The contractions came hard and fast due to the Pitocin; I never got a break. The nurses asked if I wanted a painkiller, and I said yes–not an epidural, but something that would dull the pain a little. The painkiller let me doze between contractions for a bit. Finally the staff checked my cervix and found that I had only dilated 1 cm. I did feel a little nervous then, but M. took charge. To this day I’m convinced we would have ended up with a cesarean section if she hadn’t been there.

The baby was positioned faceup, which we’d known for a few weeks, so M. suggested I get on all fours while she jiggled my stomach with a long piece of cloth called a rebozo. The nurses weren’t too happy about the monitor getting disrupted, but it only took about 10 minutes, then I was on my back again. Almost instantly, my water broke and the contractions grew much more intense. What seemed like a very short time later, I began to feel the urge to push. The nurse checked me again and with a big grin announced that she could see the head. “Let’s have a baby,” she said.

I was having that baby whether she said so or not.

In a strange moment of clarity, I remembered reading that the pushing stage can last an hour or more. I knew with utter certainty that I was not doing this for an hour. I know that some women prefer pushing because it feels like they are finally doing something, and it was nice to know the end was near, but it hurt far too much for me to want it to last. I think it was about half an hour of pushing, in the end.

They tried to get me to feel the head when it crowned, but I didn’t care. I pushed harder, felt a sharp pain, then the baby slid out in one smooth motion. There was a sudden flurry of action as my fiance cut the cord and the staff swept the squirmy purple body away. As I expelled the afterbirth, I heard the announcement that it was a boy. I remember thinking they must have the wrong baby; I was going to have a girl. I had known that since I’d found out I was pregnant. Then they placed him on my stomach, tiny and wet and perfect, and he crawled right up to my breast and started to nurse.

Jack Christian was born at 11:47 p.m., a little peanut at 5 pounds, 7 ounces and 19 inches long, but perfectly healthy and alert, with his father’s monkey ears and my button nose. We chose to keep him uncircumcised, but at the time I didn’t know enough to have opinions about other routine hospital procedures. I only knew I wanted him with me 24/7, which I believe is the main reason we never once struggled with breastfeeding. The nurses were very supportive of that, which made it easier. Even with his low birth weight and some jaundice, they never once suggested supplementing with formula.

I don’t have any regrets about not getting the natural home birth I wanted, though I would like to try again in a few years with the next baby. I am just glad that Jack was born healthy and safe.  

For two weeks following his birth, I was surrounded by my mom and three sisters. Even though my fiance had to go back to work more than 60 hours a week just three days after Jack’s birth, I was able to relax during those first two weeks.

The rest of his first year was incredibly difficult, and I suffered from postpartum depression for several months, mostly due to my fiance being gone so often and Jack sleeping very poorly. I had almost no support besides online groups, and I think I also had a great deal of trouble adjusting to this enormous and unplanned change in my life. Luckily I discovered AP and can at least know that even when I was at my most depressed, I still gave Jack the best care I could. He is an incredibly happy, healthy, smart and loving baby, the center of my world.

To share your birth story with API readers, see our submission guidelines for more information.

 

Birth Story Guidelines

Share Your Birth Story

1434430_56924540

Parents, we invite you to share your childbirth experiences. Sharing birth stories can empower parents to educate others, to break down barriers and help others become more accepting of experiences very different from their own, to heal from the disappointments and emotional pain of their own childbirth, to learn about birth from an Attachment Parenting perspective, and to celebrate the profound experience of childbirth.

Whether you had the perfect birth or one fraught with worry and complications, whether you chose pain relief or birthed naturally without medication, whether the birth was at home or at a hospital, every story is a valuable teaching tool for others and us.

A special note to expectant parents: The remarkable journey of new life is a positive, transformative experience. Pregnancy offers expectant parents an opportunity to prepare physically, mentally, and emotionally for parenthood. Making informed decisions about childbirth, newborn care, and parenting practices is a critical investment in the attachment relationship between parent and child. You can read about API’s Principle of Parenting: Prepare for Pregnancy, Birth and Parenting here: http://attachmentparenting.org/principles/prepare.php.

Birth Story Guidelines

As you write your birth story, we invite you to reflect on the following questions. Not all of the questions may apply to your situation. Rather than answer all of the questions, please incorporate some of your reflections within your story, if they are applicable.

  • How did you educate yourself about birth and parenting? What were helpful resources? If you read the API Principle on Preparing for Pregnancy, Birth and Parenting, what did you find helpful?
  • What did you think would be a certain way, only to find out it was different after you began learning about childbirth, parenting and attachment?
  • What are your beliefs about childbirth and parenting, and how have they made an impact on your choices?
  • What impact did your previous childbirth experiences, if any, have on your thoughts, feelings and decisions?
  • Did you have any negative emotions or fears surrounding pregnancy and childbirth, and how did you process them before the birth?
  • What kind of health care providers and birthing options did you choose and why?
  • What did you hope your childbirth experience would be like?
  • What kind of support did you receive during pregnancy from your partner, family or others? Did you join any support groups or forums?
  • Were there times during pregnancy or childbirth when your instincts were in conflict with what your health care providers suggested or demanded?
  • The childbirth experience: what happened, how did you feel and react, what role did others play in the process?
  • Were there aspects of “routine” newborn care that you felt strongly about, such as bathing, circumcision, eye drops, blood samples, collecting cord blood, and so on? Did your health care provider honor your choices?
  • Did you want to breastfeed? If yes, were you able to? How did your health care providers help or hinder this process?
  • Were there aspects of your pregnancy or birth experience that you regret or would like to have changed? How have you processed and healed negative emotions related to childbirth?
  • What kind of support did you receive after the birth from your partner, family, friends, health care professionals or support groups?

 

How Attachment Parenting Produces Independent Kids

By Zoe Claire, originally published on www.unnecessarywisdom.wordpress.com. Reprinted with permission.

1095865_74207826Children are in our care for a limited amount of time, generally spanning two decades. During that time, their needs change drastically yet gradually from year to year. I’ve always found it odd that the principles of Attachment Parenting are criticized as promoting dependence in children when, if you analyze the proper development of independence in childhood, the attachment style would be considered the ideal method for raising competent adults.

Attachment style parenting is based on Attachment Parenting International’s Eight Principles of Parenting. These principles are designed to guide decision making with a focus on infancy. But the overwhelming theme of the attachment style is the sensitive responsiveness of the parent toward the child. This responsiveness is directed at meeting the child’s needs in a loving and respectful manner.

The meeting of needs is a critical concept.

The end result of meeting a child’s needs is varied yet always positive. A child whose needs are consistently met learns that his voice is heard, his communications are valued, his needs are worthy, he can rely on the world to be a safe and secure place, he can trust his parents both for comfort and guidance, and he is competent.

We are most effective leaders when we teach from a place of love and trust.

Think about a time when someone tried to change you or what you were doing. How did you feel? Now think about how you felt about that person. Did you believe the person had your best interests at heart? If you did, you probably felt positive about the experience, whether you accepted the advice or not. If you believed the person did not understand you, did not care about you, or was only trying to promote their own interests, then you probably felt bad about the experience and certainly rejected the advice. We can only create true change from a position of love and trust. This is a truth of humanity.

Why do so many people worry about Attachment Parenting leading to dependent kids?

Those who don’t understand API’s Eight Principles of Parenting can often confuse meeting a child’s needs with stifling independence. An infant is at the beginning of her experience as a human. She begins her life without the ability to help herself in any way. She is entirely dependent on her caretaker. One aspect of meeting her needs is understanding what her needs are. She has not reached the stage in her development yet where she is capable of independence or desirous of it. The securely attached parent recognizes this need and attends to her accordingly.

The result of this sensitive attendance to the child’s needs is a child who has a secure foundation to begin her journey toward independence.

How does Attachment Parenting foster independence?

The drive for independence is as natural to humans as breathing, sleeping and eating. The securely attached parent is able to recognize when the child needs and wants independence and not only allow him to stand on his own two feet, but encourage him as well.

Independence occurs gradually, throughout the two decades of childhood. We do not need to force it upon a child before she is ready and should not hold her back when she is.

Responsive parents can see when their 2-year-old is demanding to pour her own milk and allow her to so. This is meeting a need. It’s a new need, different from those in infancy, but a need nonetheless. So she is allowed to develop necessary skills as she is ready.

As soon as a child is capable of caring for himself, he should be allowed to do so.

Connected, responsive parents can observe when their child is ready for independence and are able to encourage him. He wants to dress himself? Allow him. It doesn’t matter what he wears. It matters that he is able to care for himself. If he still needs to be close to his parents when he sleeps at night, that’s okay, too. It’s about fostering the child’s desire for independence. It’s about meeting needs. His need for independence is as legitimate as his need for security. Both are met with sensitivity, predictability and love.

What the child learns as she grows is that she is capable and secure. She learns that independence is a positive experience for her, as she masters each new skill. She learns that all of her needs will be met, regardless of what they are or how someone else feels about them.

As the child progresses through childhood, her need for independence will increase while her need for physical closeness to her parents will decrease. But the confidence she has in her parents is what links the two.

What does Attachment Parenting look like in the teen years?

I’ve seen articles proclaiming that parents must detach from their children during the teen years. I believe this is a misunderstanding of what attachment is. The attachment is the relationship, the sensitivity, the unconditional willingness to meet the child’s needs. A securely attached parent is able to recognize that the child’s needs during the teen years have changed and will continue to change to adulthood.

The securely attached teenager has experienced life with his parents knowing that when he speaks, he will be heard. He knows that his ideas, thoughts, opinions, and experiences are valued by them. He knows that he is competent. He knows that he can seek independence and he will be supported in his efforts. He knows that he can go to his parents for emotional support and they will be there for him. He knows that they know him well, they always have, and their primary goal is to support him. He knows this because that has been experience since the day he was born.

Think about this teen for a moment. This is what all parents want. This is a teen who knows when she has a problem, she can trust her parents as a resource. She will talk to them about it. She doesn’t rebel. She has nothing to rebel against. Her parents are allies in her life. They always have been. Nothing magically changes because of her age. They are still watching her, listening to her, anticipating what she needs from them and responding to her with sensitivity. She will take their advice more often than not. She knows that they want the best for her. They don’t disregard her, brush her aside or bully her. They never have. Sure, she might make mistakes. Everyone does and teens are more susceptible due to their inexperience and youth. But she has parents to guide and teach her. And she is still willing to accept their love and support.

We all want the same things for our children. We them to be happy, successful, independent, competent, kind, loving, empathic, responsible adults when they leave to go out into the world. We are not always so sure how to get there. While we all have to find our own way as parents, this I do believe: you can never go wrong meeting your child’s needs, no matter what the needs may be.

 

API Reads January and February 2014: The Science of Parenting

The-Science-of-ParentingWe started out 2014 talking about The Science of Parenting by Margot Sunderland. Some of the interesting sections from the remaining portions of the book are:

  • Those trying times in public, in the car, meals

  • When children fight

  • How not to raise a bully

  • Creating boundaries

  • The chemistry of love

  • Developing social skills

  • Looking after you

This has proven to be a very good read in which we’ve discovered some interesting facts along the way. Our discussions happen on GoodReads. We’ll be discussing The Science of Parenting for the remainder of February.

The next book up for discussion in March and April will be Giving the Love that Heals by Harville Hendrix and Helen LaKelly Hunt. We hope you’ll join us!

Take Time to Reconnect After the Work Day

By Rita Brhel, managing editor of Attached Family magazine, API’s Publications Coordinator and an API Leader (Hastings API, Nebraska). Originally published on TheAttachedFamily.com in October 2008.

Boy & TeddyMy friend, Nicole, and her husband both work full-time. Their two-year-old daughter spends the day with a childcare provider who has watched her since she was six weeks old. Oftentimes, Nicole comes home after a 45-minute commute tired, wanting to relax and spend time playing happily with her daughter.

When her child was younger, Nicole would breastfeed to help reconnect in the evenings, but as her daughter grew into a toddler and weaned, the challenge of creating a peaceful evening has mounted. Her daughter, hungry for her attention, seems to push the limits constantly, often bringing home acting-out behaviors she’s learned from older children in her daycare. While Nicole believes that discipline is important, she doesn’t want to ruin the evening, and tends to discipline inconsistently, choosing not to discipline when it appears her child is starting a tantrum.

When you’ve spent most of the day away from your child, it’s natural to want to come home and spend a peaceful evening relaxing and playing together. But some busy parents have difficulty finding quality time to spend with their child. The parents’ priority may be to enjoy a phone conversation with a friend, to watch television for an hour, or to have a family dinner at a local restaurant. The children, anxious for their parents’ undivided attention, may express their frustration through tantrums and other acting-out behavior, quickly causing tension for the entire family. Should these parents, like Nicole, let discipline go by the wayside in an effort to have a more peaceful evening?

Consistent Discipline Always Important

Discipline is a very important component of Attachment Parenting (AP). As outlined by Attachment Parenting International’s Eight Principles of Parenting, discipline is an essential tool in helping children to develop a conscience, especially as the child grows and becomes more independent. But a key part of AP discipline is teaching children, not by reacting to their behavior, but by meeting the needs that lead to undesirable behavior. The same holds true for stressed, dual-income families seeking quality family time in the evenings after the children come home from daycare and before they go to bed.

Reconnecting after being apart for a day is essential for working families, according to Jane Nelsen, EdD, in her 2005 article “Seven Ways Busy Parents Can Help Their Children Feel Special,” posted on www.positivediscipline.com.

“Helping your child feel special is a matter of planning and habit, not a lack of time,” writes Nelsen, who co-authored Positive Discipline for Working Parents.

Here are some of her tips to help parents to reconnect with their children at the end of the day:

  • Take time for hugs – Don’t underestimate the power of a hug in changing attitudes, yours and your children’s. Hugs can also be significant in stopping acting-out behavior.
  • Involve your children in rule-setting – Children are much more enthusiastic about following rules that they’ve had a part in setting. Help them come up with creative ways of getting their chores done or setting morning and bedtime routines, and brainstorm solutions for other issues that tend to be contentious.
  • Include your children in your chores – Your children will feel empowered when you ask them for help, instead of lecturing or scolding. Instead of getting angry that there are toys all over the floor of the family room, ask them to help clean it up.
  • Regularly schedule special time with the children – Set aside some one-on-one time together with each of your children. Nelsen recommends at least 10 to 15 minutes a day for young children and at least 30-60 minutes a week for school-age children, although many parents would argue that children need more one-on-one time with their parents than this. Actually putting this quality time in your calendar means you’re making it a priority, and even when an evening is particularly hectic, your children will know that you will be available for their special time.
  • Take time to listen and share – Ask your child to share her happiest and saddest moments of the day. Perhaps you do this during your special time together, or at bedtime as Nelsen recommends. Listen without trying to solve problems, and then take your turn to tell your own happy and sad moments.
  • Write a note to your child – Put a hand-written note in your child’s lunch box, on his pillow, or tape it to the bathroom mirror. The notes, like hugs, give children a boost during the day.
  • Take advantage of errands – Whether you’re going grocery shopping, to the bank, or dropping mail off at the post office, the drive time during these errands provides additional one-on-one time for your child. If you have several children, have them take turns. Take this time to listen to whatever your child wants to talk about, and share special stories from your life, such as when you were younger.

Children may act out because they feel they aren’t receiving enough undivided attention from their parents. By taking the time to reconnect with their children, parents are not only fulfilling children’s needs but also giving themselves exactly what they need – children who feel right with themselves and with their families, and who are less likely to act out. And if children do have a tantrum or act out, those who feel connected respond more positively to their parents’ discipline.

A key part of AP discipline is teaching children, not by reacting to their behavior but by meeting the needs that are leading to the undesirable behavior.

An Attached Family in 3 Languages

By Birute Efe, AttachFromScratch.com.

P1070409We speak three languages at home with our two children, aged 5 years and 20 months: English, Lithuanian and Turkish. No, the children are not geniuses or extra-advanced. They are just regular kids with normal developmental milestones.

My husband and I are from different countries with very different cultures, and we live in the U.S. Before we had children, I never even thought about which or how many languages my children would speak. We followed our intuition, as we did with Attachment Parenting. Now we speak English with each other and our own languages with the kids. Mission impossible? Not for us.

I believe that the Attachment Parenting philosophy has greatly contributed to raising trilingual kids. Actually, AP is a perfect setup that allows a child to learn more languages. Here are some tips on how to apply the principles of Attachment Parenting to naturally teach young kids different languages.

1. The most important tip is to be sensitive, caring, responsive and positive. Only when your child’s needs are met will he be able to explore the world and the languages more freely and easily. Secure attachment and strong bonding is the key for a child to feel confident and succeed in his challenges early in life.

2. Start early. Get into the habit of talking in your native language to your baby before she is born. Your partner can do this, too. After the baby is born, stay consistent and talk to her in your language as you go about your daily activities.

3. Learning a new language doesn’t only involve new vocabulary and grammar. It can also include getting to know a new culture with different traditions. Kids can be introduced to this very early. For example, in our family:

  • We cook national dishes from our countries very often, and both kids love them.

  • We celebrate our cultures’ different religious holidays.

  • We often meet with other families who live near us and are from our native countries.

  • We often share stories from our childhoods, which involve some good memories about certain traditions.

4. Never force a child to speak your native language. This includes no bribing to talk to grandparents, no threatening to take away toys or privileges, no ignoring, and no being upset or disappointed with a child when he doesn’t communicate with you in your desired language.

In our family, the communication with grandparents usually happens through Skype. Our kids are not very fond of sitting on the chair in front of the computer to talk to a digital view of Grandma, so we never force it. We just turn the Skype on with video and let the kids play in the room. The grandparents usually comment while the kids play somewhere in the room, or we just talk and let the kids overhear us. Sometimes the kids just run up to the computer to say “Hi” or show their grandparents their new toy.

5. There will be times when a child will reject speaking your language depending on where you live and if there are any other adults or children there that speak your native language. Don’t panic. Make your child feel comfortable and speak to her in her preferred language for a while. Good communication is the key, and it doesn’t matter what language it is in.

My daughter’s first words were in my native language because I used to spend the most time with her while my husband worked a lot. But when she turned 2 years old and we start seeing and playing with a lot of kids of her age, she learned English and preferred to speak English most times.  And I was fine with it because I knew she had to learn English. So for a while we spoke English at home. She still understood what we said to her in our languages, but she would not speak them back to us. And there were days when she would ask us not to speak “your way.”

6. When you don’t get to use much of your language in regular daily conversations, try different methods to use your native language.

  • Our family loves music. We listen to “Mommy’s music” and “Daddy’s music” all the time. We purchased some fun kids’ music in our languages so the kids could enjoy listening to it. One day I was so pleased when my daughter tried to say something in my husband’s language, and she started singing the song to remember a particular word that she forgot. As soon as she got to the part in the song where the forgotten word was, she remembered.

  • We do have one strict rule on our house. It’s the story time. The first story must be in the reader’s native language, then after the first story it’s the child’s choice.  Sometimes if they really like the first story they will ask for a second “non-English” story.

  • When we play, I invite them to start the game in my or my husband’s language, hoping we will continue that way. Particularly we like silly, imaginary games. For example, I start telling them a story in my language, and we all try to become live characters in it. You would be surprised where the story about the talking lizard who only speaks Lithuanian can lead all of us.

  • We love cooking, especially our national dishes. Even if we are on “English-speaking days” we still can use our native words for special ingredients and the names of the dishes because there simply aren’t other names for them.

  • When our daughter was about 3 years old, we made some friends with a family from my husband’s country. It was a big transformation for our daughter because she finally started speaking in my husband’s language. Hearing other kids talking in “Daddy’s language” made it much “cooler.”

  • One of the greatest influences for my daughter in learning languages was when we visited our home countries this year. Spending two months in each country was the best language learning experience for her.

7. For those who don’t speak more than one language, don’t worry, there are some ways to teach your child another language that don’t require you to enroll in a foreign language class. For example:

  • If possible, find friends that are from different countries and encourage them to speak their native language as much as they can or wish with your child.

  • Teach yourself a second language so you can learn with your child.

  • Seek out learning materials, books, music, and shows or videos featuring another language. (Note: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time for children under two years old.)

  • Teach words for objects, the alphabet, colors, animals, family names (such as sister, brother, father, mother, etc.)

  • Sing songs or nursery rhymes, recite poems or play games involving another language. Games may involve the senses, such as tasting and naming new foods, smelling and naming items while blindfolded, feeling and naming items in a sack, or finger games like “Itsy Bitsy Spider” in another language. Young children learn best through positive experiences and play.

  • If you use child care, you may find a caregiver or daycare with staff who can speak a different language with your child. Or you can check for a preschool that offers language education or full immersion in a second language.

I know it sounds complicated and a lot of work. I won’t lie–it’s not always easy. I hear many parents who raise multilingual kids complain that it is hard to constantly switch the “language gears,” especially when they live busy lives. And my husband and I have those days when we sometimes wonder if it’s worth it.

But then again, parenting is not always easy. The joy of hearing my children being able to express themselves in three languages when they were as young as 16 months old allows me to brush off all the trouble we go through.

I encourage you to speak the languages you want your child to speak. Be confident, be proud and most importantly, be aware of your child’s feelings.

 

Spotlight On: Birth, Breath and Death

Birth Breath and Death Front Cover copy

An interview with author Amy Wright Glenn about her book Birth, Breath, and Death: Meditations on Motherhood, Chaplaincy, and Life as a Doula.

Tell us about your book.

Birth, Breath, and Death: Meditations on Motherhood, Chaplaincy, and Life as a Doula is a heartfelt account of my work with the birthing and dying. I am a doula. I hold space for women as they give birth. I am a chaplain. I hold space for the dying. I am drawn to life’s thresholds. I am drawn to these doorways.

Birth, Breath, and Death is also a deeply personal exploration of what it meant for me to become a mother, given the painful legacy of my mother’s mental illness. I write about the healing attachment found in cosleeping, breastfeeding and babywearing. I weave together research on attachment and brain development, with reflections on empathy and compassion.

Finally, I share personal stories about birth and death, combined with philosophical reflections as my academic background is in the study of comparative religions and philosophy.

What inspired you to write this book?

My husband, Clark, came up with the title of this book during my training as a hospital chaplain. However, I wasn’t ready to write this book at that point in my life. It was the birth of my son–and the subsequently profound opening of my heart–that compelled me to write this book.

I didn’t want to go back to full-time academic work after holding my newborn in my arms. I knew I could use my skill as a writer to contribute financially to the family and fulfill my heart’s longing, and the longing of my young son, to stay at home and nurture him with the best of my energy and talents.

Much of Birth, Breath, and Death came to me in meditation, and I often woke up from sleep with sentences running through my mind. Writing has opened up many doors for me, and I’m grateful to find a way to work from home and share my insights, struggles, hopes and experiences.

How will this book benefit families?

All of us are born. All of us die. I write about the deepest questions we can examine in life. Within our family circles, we encounter both the miraculous and the mundane. Within our families, we most deeply encounter the transformative energies of birth and death.

I believe we all benefit from reflecting upon what it means to be born and what it means to die. These are life’s big questions. Even if one disagrees with my responses to these big questions, it is still invaluable to take the time to reflect upon them with an open heart and mind.

Parents, in particular, will benefit from reading this book as I reflect on what it means to be a parent and find one’s own way, trust one’s intuition, and draw upon best practices and scholarship to bring out the best in oneself and one’s children.

You share birth stories and reflect upon your work as a chaplain supporting the dying, but tell us more about the “Breath” part of your book.

The first thing we do upon leaving our mother’s body is breathe in, and the last thing we do before we die is breathe out. The breath is the link, the thread. It is a powerfully loyal friend throughout life’s journey between birth and death.

I practice meditation and teach yoga. Conscious breath awareness is central to these mindfulness practices. It’s central to living a mindful life. The “breath” part of the book relates to teachings drawn from many wisdom traditions that help us keep our hearts open as we live with love and seek truth.

You studied comparative religion and taught this on the college and high school level, so how does this impact your writing?

My studies of comparative religion and philosophy profoundly impact everything I do. I love making links between the particular and the universal, between the day-to-day patterns of living and the deep reflections that thinkers across time and culture bring to human life. My book is academically rigorous in the sense that I draw freely from my training as a scholar in the telling of birth, breath and death tales.

What are your views of Attachment Parenting International and what API is doing? How does your book work within our mission statement?

Attachment Parenting International is an organization I admire, support and celebrate. I’m very grateful for API’s commitment to link best parenting practices with research, and support families to develop secure attachments that foster the development of empathy, courage and resilience.

I found myself naturally practicing many AP styles of mothering and applied my previous research in the field of ethical development to the work of nurturing my son. I certainly want to support all parents to “raise secure, joyful, and empathetic children.” We do this best when we as parents embody these qualities ourselves.

My book chronicles my own journey of working through the pain of a difficult childhood and emerging with joy and empathy to embrace openhearted mothering.

Where can readers find more information?

Readers can visit my website www.birthbreathanddeath.com to read reviews of the book and find purchase information.

 

10 Parenting Resolutions for the New Year

By Bill Corbett, author of Love, Limits, & Lessons: A Parent’s Guide to Raising Cooperative Kids in English and in Spanish and member of the API Resource Advisory Committee, www.CooperativeKids.com.

Photo: Sarah Brucker
Photo: Sarah Brucker

Every January presents us with the opportunity for a fresh start, for doing things differently to make positive changes in our families’ lives. Here are my top 10 resolutions to help you engage in more peaceful parenting and create more joyful connection with your children this year.

1. Become aware of moments of frustration. Getting frustrated is a part of being human.  When your child is not being cooperative or your children are engaging in sibling rivalry, it is easy to let your frustration flare up and control your next words or actions. Take notice of a moment of frustration and focus on how it feels. Pause, but don’t speak or act. Relax your entire body, and allow the frustration to pass before moving forward. This is a challenging skill, so give yourself credit for each time you are able to pause and reflect before acting.

2. See your child’s resistance as a wake-up call. When your child resists your requests, you may need to examine how you make them and your level of connection. Children crave power and being heard and seen in the family. When they are frequently told what to do, even gently, they begin to resist. Use his resistance as a “check in” on the relationship. Have you been spending enough quality time with him, in which you’ve been listening more than talking? Have you been allowing him age-appropriate autonomy so he can make decisions for himself?

3. Become more proactive instead of reactive. Setting rules and limits in advance is necessary for teaching children about boundaries, respect and safety. Rules and limits work best when established respectfully in advance, and engaging your child to help you in creating them motivates her to acknowledge them and follow through. Keeping limits and boundaries in place may require posting them for all to see and reviewing them frequently, but don’t overdo it.

4. Speak respectfully of the child’s other parent. We all hope our children will grow up to become people of integrity, and they’re more likely to do so if we give them a model to learn from. Whether you’re separated, going through a divorce, or just mad at your spouse, commit to always speaking respectfully about that other parent in the presence of your child. Your child still sees your partner as his parent, regardless of the issue you may have with that other adult.

5. Make more emotional deposits than withdrawals. In his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families, author Stephen R. Covey urges parents to make more deposits than withdrawals in their children’s emotional bank accounts. The result will be greater cooperation and less undesirable behavior. Examples of deposits include encouraging words, acts of kindness and demonstrations of love. What deposits have you made in your children’s emotional bank accounts this past month?

6. See your child as good and not bad. Children are not “bad.” Instead, they may have “learned behaviors” that can be difficult to deal with. The behaviors can be coping skills or an attempt to meet needs. A few changes in a parent’s discipline toolbox can make all the difference in the world. Don’t be angry with your child; be patient, kind and open to learning.

7. Find ways to acknowledge and encourage your child. We’re so good at noticing and confronting misbehavior, but offering encouragement is far more powerful. Unfortunately, when our children are behaving as we’d like, we allow our attention to focus on the other stressful things we have to do in our adult life. Slow down and begin looking for opportunities to make positive observations to your children. Say to her, “It looks like you are having a lot of fun playing with your sister!” or “Thank you for helping your brother build that block tower.”

8. See if a “misbehavior” in your child is a desire to meet a need. Take a closer look at behaviors–they may actually be needs in disguise. A mother noticed that her little son was drawing on walls and other surfaces more and more. She tried every discipline technique she could, but his drawings continued. Finally, she went out and purchased a drawing easel and a colorful set of markers and crayons. The boy began to draw amazing pictures on his easel pad and no longer defaced other surfaces.

Challenging behavior may signal that your child needs more of your loving attention in the moment, especially if you’ve been busy doing your own work for a while. Taking a break from your tasks in order to spend some time with your child (one-on-one when possible) will help meet needs for attention and connection.

9. Give your child advance notices of a transition. Younger children live only in the moment and have great difficulty seeing beyond NOW. Because of that, they don’t transition well without advance warnings. Visual timers and visual schedules are incredibly effective at helping children to transition because they enable the child to see how much time is passing and the activities that are planned next.

If you don’t have a visual reminder handy in a given moment, a countdown of verbal reminders is also helpful. Be mindful of starting a countdown and then becoming distracted yourself with talking to another adult or doing another activity. A helpful long-term approach is to narrate your own thought process, since kids learn from what we model: “Oh, look at the time, we’d better start cleaning up … Ok, we should be leaving in 5 minutes, that’s time for two more trips down the slide, then we pack up the car … ”

10. Help your child move closer to his or her purpose in life. Effective parenting means more than just trying to get through each day, but also helping our children to hear the voice inside of them that guides them to find their purpose in life. Minimize the “noise” around her so she will hear and follow that voice over her lifetime.

 

API Reads January & February 2014: The Science of Parenting

The-Science-of-ParentingLet’s start out 2014 by talking about The Science of Parenting by Margot Sunderland. Some of the interesting sections from the first half of the book are:

  • Your child’s three brains

  • Parenting the brain

  • The science of comforting

  • The need to cling

  • Getting your child to sleep

  • The power of hormones

  • The importance of play

  • Temper tantrums

This should be a very good read in which you’ll become absorbed and learn some interesting facts along the way. Our discussions happen on GoodReads. We’ll be discussing The Science of Parenting during January and February.

The next book up for discussion in March and April will be Giving the Love that Heals by Harville Hendrix and Helen LaKelly Hunt.

The Best Gift You Could Ever Give Your Child

By Bill Corbett, author of the award-winning book series Love, Limits, & Lessons: A Parent’s Guide to Raising Cooperative Kids in English and in Spanish and member of the API Resource Advisory Committee, www.CooperativeKids.com.

Photo: Phaitoon
Photo: Phaitoon

It’s nearly Christmas, and I’m shopping at a department store. A woman in the aisle just ahead of me is pushing her shopping cart and begging her daughter to cooperate with her. The little girl appears to be about four or five years of age and is dragging her feet and whining that she’s too tired to walk. Her mom looks very tired and continues to plead with the child to keep moving. Suddenly the little girl collapses on the floor, and mom seems to be on the verge of “losing it.”

The woman picks up her daughter swiftly and sets her in the carriage. Once placed in the carriage, the little girl begins kicking her feet, and the crying begins. Soon she’s demanding to get out of the carriage, and her mom is doing everything in her power to hold back her anger. In that moment, I feel so bad for both of them and wish there was something I could do to help. Both mom and daughter are probably feeling the stress of shopping, the holidays and who knows what else.

I was a parent three times over and know exactly what that situation feels like. In situations when my children were small, I remember feeling stress from three things: the complexity of the family schedule that the holidays brought on, the fear that I might not have enough money (or credit) to pay for all the gifts I wanted to buy, and the conflict brought on when the magic I was trying to create for my children from my own childhood didn’t manifest itself to my satisfaction.

My children are all grown now and living productive lives. One of them gave me my two grandchildren, and I love seeing them get very excited about Christmas. Their mom has done a great job of making it happen. But if I could go back in time and do anything different, it would be to put more emphasis on being the person that I wanted them to become rather than trying to make everything so perfect.

Believe it or not, the story that I started this article with actually ended well. You see, the mother did a wonderful thing in that heated moment. She did not yell, she did not scold the little girl, and she did not “lose it.”  The woman reached into the carriage and picked up her sobbing daughter without saying a word. She held her close to her chest and sat down on a sturdy display shelf.  For a few moments, they just remained there, ignoring any of the people milling past them. The little girl cried on her mom’s shoulders, and the woman remained silent as she gently rocked back and forth.

If you ever find yourself ready to “lose it” with your child because you’re feeling tired or stressed, or because things just aren’t turning out as you had envisioned, stop and take a deep breath before you act or speak. See your child as just a child and forgive him or her, then forgive yourself. Acknowledge the stress you may be feeling from the season or other factors, and hold your child a little closer. Give your child the powerful gift of seeing what unconditional love looks and feels like.