from the blog.

The Accidental Attachment Parent

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We sleep snuggled up together. Our bodies are warm and often a bit sweaty. His tiny hand clutches a handful of my hair, some strands still attached to my head, others not so lucky. A breast is exposed, left out after nursing. Sometimes I can feel his breath on my face. Other times he sleeps on his back and I hear the snores that tell me he inherited my deviated septum. We are entangled. We are attached.

I didn’t really read any parenting books before my son was born. I was given several, but I didn’t read them. A friend of mine didn’t read any because she had been through so many losses that she didn’t believe she was taking home a baby until she actually took one home. But that’s not my story. I suppose my thoughts on parenting philosophies are a bit like my thoughts on organized religion: it’s all too personal and complex to let someone else tell me what to think or do.

So I was pretty grateful that the hospital provided us with a brief list of instructions for infant care with our discharge paperwork. Frankly I had no idea what to do. In the early days, I was just surviving. There was no overriding philosophy other than keep my son safe and loved.

I still haven’t been reading parenting books. Instead, at some point, I started listening to Goose and following my instincts. I find I seek advice from others less frequently now and most of the time I simply do what feels right for me.

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Imagine my surprise when I realized I was basically doing attachment parenting. I didn’t realize this was happening until my son’s problems sleeping got to the point that we saw his pediatrician about it. And she basically told us that he was too attached to me. At the time he was seven months old. It’s been suggested that I find a new pediatrician.

Attachment parenting was named by Dr. William Sears. It’s all about being sensitive to your child’s needs and responsive in meeting them. In The Baby Book by William and Martha Sears, which I have also not read, parents are given “‘seven baby B’s of attachment parenting.” These include “Belief in the signal value of your baby’s cries” and “Bedding close to baby.” Those two right there describe how I live pretty much all day, every day. My son cries and I respond. He sleeps in our room, most frequently in our bed. This allows me to respond to him at night in seconds, thus allowing us both to fall back asleep relatively quickly.

Our current home shares property with our landlords. A month or so after we moved in, they said something to my husband about how they never hear Goose cry. They keep telling us how “good” he is. Our son is neither good nor bad. He is an infant. The reason they don’t hear much crying from him is not because he doesn’t cry. It’s because when he does I respond as quickly as I reasonably can. I do not let him cry it out because I have (for once) actually read the research. I know about the way cortisol floods his body when he’s distressed. I know that just because he stops crying at night doesn’t mean he’s not distressed; it means that he has learned that his cries won’t produce a response. I want him to always trust that I will be there for him. As someone who has spent most of her life battling anxiety and depression, I don’t want to take a chance of fucking with his nervous system. I will do everything in my power to raise a child who feels secure.

I do not feel like this makes me a superior parent. I simply am doing what my gut, my instinct, tells me to do for me and for my son. For us that means being a responsive parent. Even though it’s hard. Even though it’s frequently exhausting. Even though our “family bed” gets rather crowded. It’s all I know to do. Meanwhile those parenting books continue to gather dust.

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2 Comments

  1. I also could have written this. I didn’t consciously choose attachment parenting but right now, I couldn’t imagine it any other way.

  2. I naturally gravitated towards attachment parenting, as well, at least in part. One thing we never got the hang of was co-sleeping, so she does sleep in a crib in her own room. But I still respond as soon as I can when she wakes up and starts crying in the night. Same during the day – I just can’t let her cry if she truly needs me. Now, if all she wants is to be put in reach of something she’s not supposed to have (which is frequently), I’m fine with her whining cry. But, even in that case, if it goes on too long – if she doesn’t get distracted with something else – I will pause what I’m doing and redirect her so that she’s not crying for a prolonged period.

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