Now that I've been a mother for two years and I'm pretty open about my experiences, plenty of soon-to-be moms have asked me for advice. More often than not, I tell them to make a plan. "The best way to be prepared, is to plan." Then, in the same breath, I tell them that their plan won't matter. Contradictory, I know, but it's the truth; you try to formulate an idea of what you want to do, then you adjust. The stages of not planning to attachment parent, but attachment parenting anyway taught me this very important, very frustrating but very worthwhile lesson, and it's one I have carried with me as my son enters toddlerhood and I'm presented with a new set of challenges.
List most new mothers, I had an idea of the kind of mom I wanted to be. I asked questions and did my research and learned from the other, more seasoned moms around me, and I formulated a "plan" that I thought I would follow once my son was born. I was going to use a crib and get my son to sleep in his own room; I was going to push him in a stroller because, why not? I was going to get him on a feeding schedule because I value my sanity and my sleep. Oh yes, I was going to do all of these things and it was going to be very easy. Ha. Turns out, my son had different plans, and I was the one who as going to need to accommodate him (not the other way around).
I'm thankful my plan went out the window because, well, I love attachment parenting. I love cultivating a close, emotional bond with my son by co-sleeping, babywearing, breastfeeding on demand, skin-to-skin contact and using more empathetic, gentle parenting techniques. It's what works best for us. However, I would be lying if I said that was my overall plan, so if you're going through the following stages, know that you're not alone. After all, life — and parenthood in general — doesn't really care about the plans we make.
Research. Research. Research.
Before I even formulated a general idea of how I was going to parent, I did my research. I checked out every parenting style under the sun — authoritative, permissive, attachment, alternative, helicopter — and tried to find myself in the descriptions. If I was going to create a plan to help me take care of my son, I needed to make motherhood work for me and not the other way around. Work smarter, not harder, right?
Once my research was behind me, I started to plan. I thought about the baby's room and what my partner and I needed to make sure the baby was going to be able to sleep by himself in a very nice, wonderful crib. I planned on breastfeeding but I was also going to work, so I needed to plan potential feeding schedules (ha!) and find ways to feed my son breast milk when I wasn't around. I planned on continuing to be active and wanted to go out into the world after I had a baby, so I had to plan how I was going to deal with carrying and/or pushing my little one around everywhere I wanted and/or needed to go.
...And Unnecessary Purchasing
So much of my pre-baby plan involved "shopping." So. Much. Shopping. I wanted to feed my kid breast milk when I was at work, so I had to buy an expensive breast pump and bottles and even a back-up tub of formula just in case. I had to buy a crib and I had to buy a stroller and I had to buy an endless amount of other baby-related products so that I could be the best mother I could be and the mother my son deserved. It was stressful. It was exhausting. It was expensive.
Of course, the best part of spending every cent I had on a bunch of baby products, was setting them up and putting them where I wanted them to be. The crib in the corner of a room; the breast pump right next to a rocking chair that I had envisioned myself sitting in; the stroller perfectly set up next to one of our doors, almost begging to be used. I couldn't wait.
I bought everything I thought I needed and set everything up exactly how I wanted and had this perfectly laid out (in my mind) plan of how I was going to parent. I'd handle sleep training like a boss and I would push my kid in his expensive stroller and I would be firm but kind, always available to my child but quick to teach him independence.
Yeah, it didn't work out that way.
I was confused when he wouldn't sleep alone. At all. Ever. I was confused when I hated the stroller and didn't appreciate my son being that far away from me (even though it wasn't very far at all) when we were out in public. I didn't like using my breast pump very often and was breastfeeding on demand, so the damn contraption sat untouched for the most part. Everything I thought I needed were things I didn't end up using because, well, my child had other plans.
I looked at the items I had invested my money in and the plan I had made, and was determined to stick with it. That determination, however, had a formidable opponent: sleep deprivation.
I guess I could have tried to sleep train my son more than once, but it was too much effort and co-sleeping was just easier. I guess I could have attempted to stick to a feeding schedule, but he was hungry when he was hungry and there was no way I was going to fight him on it (especially when I was so damn tired). I guess I could have powered through how uncomfortable I felt using a stroller, but babywearing was much easier and made me feel more at ease and, with little-to-no sleep on my side, making myself feel more comfortable was the name of my parenting game.
In the end, I just gave in. I got rid of the parenting plan I thought I needed to follow, and started following an entirely new one. Turns out, that parenting plan was attachment parenting. My son was happiest when he was sleeping in our bed, or in a babywearing sling or breastfeeding on demand, and I was all about it, too. Whatever made this new life-change easier to get used to was fine by me, as long as my son (and myself) were happy and healthy and safe.
Feeling Too Many Feelings
Turns out, I love attachment parenting. I can't tell you how happy it makes me, to wake up every morning and see my son's sweet face. I loved the moments I was able to wear him in public, and feel his warm little body against mine. I loved breastfeeding on demand, even when it was hard, and I love using positive reinforcement and more gentle parenting techniques when it comes to discipline (things my parents didn't do).
When the exhaustion subsided and I adjusted to motherhood as best as I could, I continued to attachment parent simply because I loved it. In the end, that was the parenting style that worked best for my son, my partner and myself.
Buying More Stuff...
While we barely used our son's crib, ditched the stroller after only a few strolling sessions and didn't use the majority of the items I bought in preparation for my son, I still had some shopping to do. Like slings, for instance. You look at a few babywearing sites and tell me you don't feel a sudden urge to buy every wrap and sling you see. It's addictive and, in the end, the number of companies that market products to mothers are endless.
...And Eating Crow
I vividly remember my mother telling me that I was barely if ever going to use that expensive stroller I just swore I had to have. I remember telling her that she was wrong, that I "knew what I was doing," and that this would come in handy.
Yeah, not so much.
So, I had to tell my mother that she was right and I was wrong. I had to sit and listen to her say, "I told you so," and I had to admit that when it came to parenting, she probably did know just a little bit more than I did. Just a little, though, you guys. Let's not get too carried away.
Making Zero Apologies
While I had to admit that I was wrong and my pre-baby parenting plan was laughable at best, I also make zero apologies for adjusting accordingly and finding out what worked best for myself, my partner and my son.
Attachment parenting, for us, is where it's at, and while the myths surrounding this particular parenting method are still prevailing and can shape a lot of people's views about those who attachment parent, I am not going to be saying "I'm sorry" anytime soon. I love co-sleeping, I love babywearing (even my toddler, in fact), I loved the moments I was able to breastfeed my son and I love using positive reinforcement to teach him right from wrong. It doesn't work for everyone, but it works for us, and I'm all about working smarter, not harder.