Unprocessed Parenting

In trying to set some categories for this blog, I wanted to include one for posts about my experiences having children. There are zillions of articles, websites, blogs, etc., on the subject already, so it’s hard to come up with something fresh.

I settled on “Unprocessed Parenting” because it really sums up my philosophies about pregnancy, birth, and being a mother. I wanted to avoid a catchall phrase, the way ” Attachment Parenting” has become a cliche’. There’s a lot more to parenting in a natural, unprocessed way than following a list of mandates. Some of the “crunchier” people I’ve encountered online (the only place I ever seem to meet people like myself) seem to believe that you’re not doing it “right” unless you can tick off the list: natural childbirth / homebirth / unassisted homebirth, followed by extended exclusive breastfeeding, cosleeping, cloth diapering (or no diapers…another post!), delaying solid foods, selective / no vaccinations, slinging your baby, homeschooling, etc. Well, coincidentally, we do most of those things. But it seems to me that many people who don’t follow The List to a “T” are still fine parents. And there’s certainly no guarantee that you will win Parent of The Year awards even if you do them all.

When my older DD was born, two and three-quarters years ago, I was a Mama Snob. I really felt that the instinctive way DH and I parented, particularly the way I Mama-ed, was The Right Way. I was highly critical of others who didn’t do things The Right Way. Maybe it was a lack of confidence. Maybe I had this unconscious feeling that if someone did something differently, it was an attack on my own methods. In any case, I had trouble dealing with certain things. For instance, I had disdain for mothers who allowed their (S)OBs to induce labor early, or who opted for the epidural without even giving labor a try. I couldn’t even look someone in the eye who chose not to breastfeed. And I caught myself making nasty faces at mothers who pushed their screaming bucket babies around in strollers, especially when they shoved bottles in their mouths instead of picking them up. Ah, ignorance.
Then I had a second baby. Life (and my perspective) changed soooo much. First of all, I realized with stark clarity just how different babies can be. In our case, here were two sisters, with the same parents, born 20 months apart, both born via natural births without complications or drugs, and …. oh, my goodness, were they different! I almost want to have a third baby, just to see what the rest of the spectrum looks like.

I still believe in what I’m doing. I still feel very strongly that natural birth, for low-risk mamas, is best for all parties. I still feel adamant about breastfeeding on demand, for as long as the baby wants. We pick our babies up whenever they need it, and carry them around with us when they want to be carried. We snuggle in with them at night. And those things are important to me. But, I have softened my stance when it comes to how I feel about how others handle their kids. I am learning to be less judgmental (really, it’s none of my business anyway!) and especially less critical of the mamas. And I’ve seen that the things I feel most strongly about – birth and breastfeeding – are the things most heavily influenced by doctors, nurses, the medical community, and the pharmaceutical industry. Accordingly, my rage has shifted from “irresponsible” (I mean that tongue-in-cheek) mothers to the people really responsible. Doctors who don’t give full disclosure about the risks of epidurals and caesarian birth, a medical culture that embraces technology without recognizing the value of Nature’s way of things, and a Baby Marketing Machine that preys on these families and mothers at their most vulnerable- they’re the ones who get my snooty, down-the-nose looks now. Bleah.

Please don’t misunderstand… I’m not suggesting that we should ban epidurals, or that formula be made illegal. I don’t think mothers who electively bottle-feed need to be reported to CPS. There are many things that go into the choices each family makes as to how they care for their babies. What I mean to say is that technology shouldn’t replace you as a parent, especially as a mother. It seems like many of the baby products we’re told we must have (a la Babies R Us and Parenting Magazine) are just surrogates for the real thing: pacifiers, bottles, monitors, sleep-positioning wedges, swings, bouncy chairs, strollers, cribs, heartbeat teddy bears, etc. These things do make life with Baby a little easier, on occasion. Sometimes, Mama just has to go to the bathroom, or take a shower, and then, yes- it’s great to have a bouncy chair to set your bundle in for a moment. But to park him there, day in and day out, with a pacifier or bottle… well, that’s just not nice. Babies need Mama’s arms, milk, touch, smell, and comfort more than they need any other damn thing in the world. So I still think that mothers should give those things as much as possible. Forgive me for continuing to harbor that little prejudice.

But every family will find out what works for them. And every mother has to make the best of her own situation. DH and I have learned that, for us, the best way of doing things has been to shut out the noise of pop culture and Baby Talk Magazine and follow our instincts. So, when you see a post about “Unprocessed Parenting”, you’ll know what I mean: instinctive, natural, gentle parenting that shuns things that are meant to be a substitute for Mama. Because, as my kids will tell you, there just isn’t one.

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2 thoughts on “Unprocessed Parenting

  1. I started a web magazine (http://www.naturalfamilyonline.com) and AP groups a few years ago that are supportive of what I call “Midstream Parenting” which is what your “Unprocessed Parenting” is. It’s for those people who aren’t mainstream and aren’t crunchy granola to find non-judgmental support.

    Honestly, if we parent with our instincts and our minds and go beyond mainstream ideals AT ALL, we deserve a pat on the back. so ANY extra unprocessed parenting techniques or ideals we follow are going above and beyond what is expected of us as parents and baby, we done good!

  2. I’ve been to your web mag. In fact, it’s been one of my bookmarks for quite some time. Thanks for the comment!

    I like “midstream parenting”, although it’s not really us. We’re actually very crunchy, truth be told. But that’s okay. We really don’t let the lack of commonality get to us.

    The thing I hate, and a trap I fell into in the beginning, is how the media and internet-o-sphere have turned parenting into some sort of Us versus Them. E.g.: The Mommy Wars, which all the daytime shows have done some segment on. Or what about The Great Big Breastfeeding In Public Controversy. Egad. Look at the Mothering forums (which I love, have to admit). They’re full of forums where you can go find your niche and hang out with similar people (and rant about people who are NOT similar!).

    Finding common ground is nice. It’s great to have the unspoken support of someone else doing something the same way you are. But it can also be damaging in a sense. Parenting is such an in-the-moment kind of thing. It’s an art form. You have to take each kid, each situation, each day on a case-by-case basis. There’s no magic formula (pun intended and not intended, there) that you can follow to make things work out. You have to be creative, and try different things. You have to have the self-confidence to say, “Hey! I can figure out what my baby / child needs and give it to them!” You have to shut out everyone else sometimes and just do your own thing.

    Rereading my post, what I didn’t say very well is that I don’t want anyone labelling me, so I shouldn’t label myself. I want to stay as organic and instinctive as possible when it comes to parenting my children. No labels, no ingredients list. Unprocessed, if you will.

    Cheers!~mm

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