Friday, June 26, 2015

How I came to AP - a guest post from The bearded man. An ex-marine/cage fighter. Father of 3 humans, 3 cats, a dog and a bunny who suffers from extreme nursing envy with a new blog coming soon, Wendt and gone crazy, a SAHD story

     I’ve been procrastinating doing some writing. I know, I hear you saying “who in the hell procrastinates writing”? And I’m write there with you (get it?), but I’ve already passed the deadline I’ve set with my friend at Attachment Parenting 24/7 about how we found ourselves in the attachment parenting tribe, so I’m all fired up and my creative juices are flowing. Let me just take a 5hr energy drink. 
     Ahhhh much better. Okay. Today is the first day of summer break that we (myself and three littles, 7.9 Legolas, 4.7 Mystique, and 2.5 Puss) have not been able to spend a large portion of our time outdoors, so I took the littles to see a dollar summer movie. The second (of what I hope grows into a trilogy, fingers crossed) live action film in the thrilling Smurf genre reboot. 
     Whilst ensuring 12 hands and feet were kept to themselves, children were considerate of others and food wrappers were not crinkled excessively I over heard in the film Doogie Howser M.D American actor, writer, producer, director, comedian, magician, singer, and television host AND FATHER, THE Neil Patrick Harris’ss’s onscreen wife consoling him about his terrible step father (because his biological father had abandoned him as a child) by saying “At least he was there. That’s more than most fathers.” And the movie goes along its merry way as if it hadn’t just dropped a WTF in my lap. Most fathers aren’t even there. WOW. Now I’m very hulk like in regards to anger and I used to get angry at this kind of tripe, but the longer I’m a father (and I stay at home so I see it at almost every level) the more I see just how we are perceived and portrayed by media, mothers, and even the government who runs PSA’s aimed at fathers, trying to elevate the bar of expectations of what we as a country and community want out of our fathers. The tag line for this project to make American fathers the best they can be? “Just be there”. That is the expectation the populous has of fathers, they’re absent, and they just want us to please be there. 
     So now you know where my motivation to write finally came from. [Symbol] 
     Looking back, I came to attachment parenting via my wife Linda Belcher, not only is she smart, she’s smarter than me! She’d already convinced me we would cloth diaper, and the thought of formula never entered either of our minds (the Mrs. Is a scientist and much of the science suggests breast is best [I HATE that I have to hedge my words about that and I won’t about keeping boys intact, but, there it is, I get a lot of flack if I suggest {as a man} that nursing is in any way better than formula and that women are buying a lie about their ability to nurse]) and we were lucky enough to have the ability and support to pull  off nursing for  8 years now, 5 tandem and still going strong! But when I first thought to write this, I thought the reason I’d come to live in this camp was because a nurse in a birthing class for our first of three children Legolas, brought up circumcision and said quite off handedly and unremarkably about circumcision “you don’t have to do it, insurance may not even pay for it soon.”  Then as soon as she brought the topic up, said what needed to be mentioned she moved on (knowing what I know now about how people react to the idea of not circumcising and that Michigan is number 2 in the country for doing it, I’d love to shake her hand and let her know she saved at least two baby boys. It was expertly done and with scalpel like precision). That was all it took for the big brain on my epidemiologist wife to kick in to gear, that MILF can research. We’d never discussed circumcision. It wasn’t even something I thought there was any question about. I thought we’d do it going in, but I came away saying we’d look into it. Linda did some research and the first link she sent me had a thumbnail image of a baby boy during the procedure of being circumcised. I couldn’t even open it for fear of more images like that and knew immediately I did not want to risk making my son feel like that for any reason. No way, no how. 
     Legolas was born healthy and strong and kept intact. He wanted to nurse all the time and would not let us put him down without wailing in such obvious distress we immediately picked him up. We held him in shifts as long as we could, and one of us Parents was Attached to him 24/7 in a vertical direction until someone from LLL told Linda over the phone on a consultation I thought was sometime after midnight (Linda tells me I am delusional because I was only able to get 6 hours of sleep a night and it was the middle of the day[we fought a lot in the first year of having a family of three, so it was in the middle of the day]. Something in the way she said it sounded a little sarcastic now that I think about it…)  “don’t be afraid to sleep with your baby”. Linda works in Public Health so the ABC’s of the sleep mantra (Alone Back Crib) were drummed into her every day and we were averse to the idea of co-sleeping. But after days of him (and us) barely sleeping, Linda brought him into our bed, with Legolas on her outside away from me. I remember the moment Linda laid down next to me after that call, Legolas was asleep in bed with us and from then on, all were happy east of the Anduin for the off the floor clean laundry staging crib but wait the cats sleep in it too, we gained. 
  After that we saw The Business of Being Born and things progressed naturally (just like we all hope all our births will) from there. We’ve had two homebirths and are thinking of having a free birth if we are lucky enough to have a fourth. For the first three it’s been just like shooting womprats back in Beggars canyon, so if that trend continues I should have some news for you soon. 
Also we do sometimes have sugar cereal. Please don’t report us to any AP groups on FB. Especially the ones dedicated to eradicating sugar cereals.  
Its our little secret. 
And I’ve switched to disposable diapers after 7 years of cloth. Phew. That was hard to type. 
Is there a penance for that? 
I have uttered the words “You aren’t getting ANY ice cream if YOU DON”T FINISH YOUR PIZZA/HOT-DOGS/MCDONALDS 
But this is all just between us SAH’s right? 

Photo credit Johanna Madden Gross

Thursday, June 25, 2015

How I discovered attachment parenting..after doing it for 20 years.

When my first daughter was born almost 23 years ago I knew nothing about parenting or that there were different ways to parent. My only parenting models were my mother, aunt and some of my mother’s friends. One of her friends let me help after her third baby was born and I learned the most from that experience. Watching her I learned to snack while you nurse the baby and make meals ahead and freeze them for later. Thankfully my oldest was easy and latched from the beginning and we shared a bed for the first few years of her life. I only breastfed her for a year because I didn’t know any better. Looking back I would have liked to continue breastfeeding her until she was ready to wean. With her I followed my instincts and breastfeeding and bed sharing just came naturally.

Then came my second daughter 5 years later, this time I knew more but wasn’t prepared for how high needs my daughter would be. It was a struggle to breastfeed and I had zero support. No lactation consultant, no supportive friends with babies, and our pediatrician was an asshole. After struggling for 7 weeks we figured out what worked best for us. Again breastfeeding on demand, bed sharing, baby wearing with her was a life saver, and following her lead with EVERYTHING. She was and still is very strong willed as a teenager. She breastfed for almost 4 years and self weaned. If I had had the support that is available to me now it would have made a world of difference. With her I was pressured into letting her CIO at 7 months and I wish so bad that I had known better.

Fast forward 11 years to my youngest daughter and I knew before she was born that I was going to breastfeed and she would sleep with us. She had delayed vaccines and weaned when her and I were both ready at around 2 years old. My husband and I were both able to be at home with her for the first few months and this created a very close family dynamic I hadn’t experienced before. With her I was able to be a SAHM for the first time where it was just her and I during the day. It was amazing and since she was a very bad sleeper it was a blessing. Being older when I had her was an advantage and made a huge difference in how I was able to be gentle and patient while following her lead. Again I didn’t have the support I have now, didn’t even know it was out there. And still had never heard of attachment parenting. That was 7 years ago.

Then 3 years ago when Jack was 13 months old I stumbled on to a facebook page called The Progressive Parent and it was a whole new world. She talked about breastfeeding, circumcision, vaccines and attachment parenting. And my page AP247 was born and I read everything I could about AP, gentle discipline, keeping your boys intact, and vaccines. There is so much information about everything. And figuring out that other people did things the same way I did was huge for me. Growing my page organically has surrounded me with like minded parents who are kind, knowlegble and always willing to offer gentle advice when someone asks for help.

Attachment parenting can look different for every family but I believe it all begins with falling in love with your child and respecting them as the person they are. I have heard AP called extreme but it feels like the most natural way to raise your children.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Mad nursing

Jack and I are having a rough day. He's tired and cranky, I'm frustrated and losing my patience with him. But at the end of the tantrum he still wants/needs his boob. So we nurse even though our emotions haven't really calmed down and we both are still upset with each other. This is something that I will miss when he weans, the comfort it brings both of us to reconnect after a misunderstanding. Again extended breastfeeding for the win. 

Monday, June 2, 2014

AP and teen depression

This is an important issue and it's going to be hard to write this as we are currently going through this with one of our teenagers. There is so much information about teen depression and suicide out there it can be overwhelming. Is my teen depressed? Are they just being a normal teenager? How do I tell the difference? Is this my fault? What do I do now? And then that awful feeling that you thought you did everything right or you know you didn't and realize that at some point you have failed your child and let them down. Please remember that teenage depression can be a chemical imbalance and instead of feeling guilty or responsible (even if you are) the most important thing you can do is GET HELP for your teen.If you think they are suicidal call immediately The people that answer the hotlines are trained and very helpful in a crisis situation.

Teens and preteens can be very moody and emotional by nature. They can be hostile, angry, selfish, sweet, loving, helpful all in the same 10 minutes. Especially in my experience with pre teen girls. You will wish they were still cute squishy babies or fun toddlers, there will be times you wonder where the sweet child who used to cuddle you went and who is this person screaming they hate me all the time. Some parents will be in complete denial that this can happen to their child, this was me. I took for granted that my teenager was a happy, well adjusted, honor roll student who had always rolled with the punches life threw at her. It wasn't until we took her in for a constant stomach ache that we figured out she was depressed. I failed to notice the sadness, weight loss and inability to enjoy simple things she used to love. And we are super close and talk about everything and have always been able to overcome anything. It helped her so much having our doctor explain what was going on in her brain and that it was a chemical issue not something she did wrong or could have prevented (I somewhat disagree with this). Our issue was too much stress and her brain not being able to keep up with all the pressure she was under from school, friends, family and just life in general. She has had several friends that have been suicidal and had one close friend that committed suicide. This person had been a mentor to her and I have no doubt that her death set in motion what would eventually cause her depression. If I could go back we would have gotten her into therapy right after that happened.

Emotions during the preteen/ teenage years are so strong and just like when they are toddlers they may not know how to handle such strong emotions/feelings. Super highs and lows are completely normal and most teenagers are able to deal with these. Then there are the teenagers who cannot handle the strong emotions and pressures of life under even the best circumstances. If your family is going through a serious life change such as divorce, new baby, death in the family, financial struggles, a big move you may want to keep a closer eye on your child for signs they are feeling overwhelmed and stressed. This is why I love attachment parenting and the bond it creates, my teen and I are close and she knows that her needs and feelings will be my biggest priority. If you have shown them they are a priority and you are willing to always be there for them (which I have failed at many times) the bond you have will hopefully help you both through this hard time. As we struggle through this daily I am learning what things I can help her and how to handle the times when she just breaks down and feels hopeless. This is the hardest for me to watch, her struggle to see there is a light at the end of the dark tunnel she's in. I've spent countless hours at night trying to figure out things I can do to just help her and the best way I've found is to keep her life as simple as possible. Basic things have become the most important things. Eating, sleeping (at appropriate times) and getting her homework done are the things we are taking one at a time. Eating has become a chore for her and this is normal for a teen who is depressed.

Keeping a food journal and helping them prepare meals and snacks can encourage healthy eating habits to continue. As with any other stressful time in life knowing they aren't at fault and encouraging positive outlets for energy should always be important. Exercise, sports, social activities should continue and be encouraged.

Getting help for your teen should be immediate and continue as long as needed. If you need help knowing what kind of help their pediatrician should be able to help with that. Whether it's therapy, counseling or a support group having an outside person to talk to can really help during this difficult time. For you as well, it's important for the parent/caregiver to have support and someone to talk to.

Here are some signs to watch for in your teen that they may be depressed. Please always seek medical advice if you are concerned that your teen is depressed.

  • Sadness or hopelessness
  • Irritability, anger, or hostility
  • Tearfulness and/or frequent crying
  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Changes in eating and sleeping habits
  • Restlessness and agitation
  • Feelings of worthlessness and guilt
  • Lack of enthusiasm and motivation
  • Fatigue or lack of energy
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Thoughts of death or suicide 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Self care is the best care.

The past few days I have received so many messages from tired, overwhelmed and exhausted mamas. All of them with tired babies and suffering from a lack of sleep and a break from their baby. I fall into this situation often and am learning the best way to stay the calm gentle mama I want to be. That being said I don't always keep my cool and let's be honest attachment parenting isn't the easiest parenting style and it can leave you exhausted and with little or no breaks from your children. My page is called AP 24/7 for a reason. But there is something I am learning and it's helped me so much the past few months SELF CARE!!!!!!!

Self care is so much easier said than done, I used to laugh when other mamas would tell me to take some time for myself. When would I do this? I can't leave the room for 5 seconds without chaos breaking out. BUT I have learned that if the kids are in a safe space it's OKAY to walk away for a few minutes and collect your thoughts and just breathe. This looks different for all of us and can be anything from 30 seconds in the bathroom alone with chocolate (I've done this) to letting them get crazy while you catch up with a friend on the phone for 30 minutes. Letting go is my biggest struggle, what if the house gets really messy, what if they cry? what if they fight? I could go on and on..I see things all the time that list off things to do to take a break and they usually look like this.

The best way I've found is to have an emergency stash of chocolate and wine. No joke a tiny sip of wine with a piece of chocolate can get me through several hours of being alone with the kids. The other thing I wish someone had told me is that walking away from a crying baby is okay, it's not the same as leaving them to cry it out. A screaming baby can drive the most gentle person to crazytown in about 10-15 minutes. Find a safe place (crib or play and pack) give baby a kiss and go take a minute to calm down and just regroup. After you are calm go back and give your renewed self to taking care of your baby. Then make a self care plan for yourself. Whatever it looks like for you is alright. Make it special and something you know will be there to help you in tough moments. I always keep my headphones close by with a calm playlist that I love ready to go. Music always helps my kids calm down and can save a really bad moment from becoming any worse. And last of all find your support. Here are some great pages that support attachment parenting.