8 Stages Of Becoming An Accidental Attachment Parent
When I found out I was pregnant and started the never-ending journey of parenthood, I didn't set out to practice any particular parenting style, let alone attachment parenting. Somehow, however, I appear to have sufficiently gone through the various stages of becoming an accidental attachment parent. Whoops?
With my parter and I's first, we did everything we were "supposed" to do in order to raise an independent self-soother, including putting the baby in the crib to sleep, giving the baby their own room when we could afford to (when babe was 2 weeks old), bottle-feeding, and even trying our hand at sleep training. Our first (Thing One) rejected the boob, never co-slept willingly, and hated babywearing. Thing Two, on the other hand, adored breastfeeding, co-sleeping, and being held as much as possible. So while it took a while and another child, I eventually found myself doing a few of the attachment parent things.
With m y second I was more attuned to myself and, as a result, more attuned with my son. We still ended breastfeeding before either of us was quite emotionally ready, though, due to external factors. I wasn't a "full time" attachment either, because I worked in a full-time cubicle, part-time private practice. So after suffering through three miscarriages, I vowed that if I got the chance again I would do mama-ing in whichever way baby and my gut told me to. Apparently, my guts are attachment.
Stage One: Damage Attachment With First Child
I do not believe our difficulty bonding, my eldest's difficulty sleeping, or any of the other challenges we've had is because we didn't use attachment parenting. My gut does appear to be attachment-based, though, and the biggest problem I have with how I parented my first as an infant is that I didn't listen to my gut.
Though the acute pain dims, there's not a day that goes by that I don't feel guilty for something I should've/would've/could've done better for my first child when they were a baby. Logically, I know I didn't do anything wrong and, still, emotionally I feel I failed my first baby.
Stage Two: Enjoy More Attachment With Second Child
I was so grateful to have a different experience of breastfeeding, sleeping, and overall bonding with my second child. I know there were other factors, but inextricably linked to those factors is the fact that with my second I listened to myself. I trusted my gut on parenting and it worked. It worked really well. So well, in fact, my now 5 year old son has a much more secure attachment to myself and my partner than my eldest. He expresses his happiness, anger, sadness, and fear in equal measure. He knows, and will say, that he is irrefutably loved by his parents even when he is angry or makes poor choices.
Yay, parenting guts!
Stage Three: Grieve A Loss
I had three miscarriages between Thing Two and Thing Three. My final pregnancy was our last try. My partner and I said, in August 2015, that if I didn't get pregnant or lost another pregnancy by December 2015 we would stop trying forever.
I conceived Thing Three on August 17, 2015.
So how did that contribute to my accidental fall into attachment parenting, you ask? Well, dear reader, I had a full year of miscarriages to think about the what if's and could have been's of the three pregnancies I lost. There was a profoundly inexplicable grief that happened when I lost those wanted pregnancies. I dreamed every night, and daydreamed every day, about how I would be hugging, cuddling, and holding them had the pregnancies become babies. My arms felt empty. My heart was broken. Given all of that, there's not much that would force me to put down my live baby after the experience of never having been able to hold those three.
Stage Four: Succumb To Baby Cuteness
I mean, do I have to explain how much I want to hold this one even now? How am I going to put that down?
Stage Five: Experience Soothing Difficulties
Skin-to-skin made soothing easier for my second and third babies. When I figured that out, I was hard pressed to try other ways of soothing them. Especially after literally nothing worked with my first. I mean, why risk it?
Stage Six: Crumble Under Crib Pressure
My third baby did sleep in a bassinet for the first few months of their life. When they'd wake I would nurse and then put them back in the bassinet. When they outgrew the bassinet, however, the switch to crib went less than swimmingly.
I caved. I wanted my sweet well-slept baby to remain sweet and well-slept. It felt alien and cold to me to force them to sleep on a hard, unwelcoming surface so far away from the warmth of mama that they wanted and needed.
Stage Seven: Enjoy An Amount Of Privilege
One thing that does seem absolutely imperative to any kind of attachment parenting, is privilege.
Though it wasn't fully paid, I did have two months of maternity leave at the short-term disability salary match of 60 percent when I gave birth to my third. This is by far the best I've heard of in the United Sates. While I worked full-time for a corporation the first eight months of my third child's life, I had the privilege of working from home and could nurse on my breaks. My partner had been a stay-at-home parent since the birth of Thing One, so Thing Three had another parent to attach to when I wasn't around.
Attachment parenting, by it's very nature of the parents always having to be there, is inherently classist and ableist.
Stage Eight: Realize You're An Attachment Parent
I don't subscribe to strict attachment parenting structures. I didn't even know I was accidentally doing it until I started reading some of my friends' articles on it and recognized myself.
So am I a strict attachment parent? No. I've learned that I am decidedly not an attachment parent in all capacities. For example, I am not anti-vaccination for many reasons, not the least of those reasons is that I have an autistic child and am well aware that neurodiversity does not equal brain damage (i.e. vaccine injury does not cause autism.) I'm also staunchly and intersectionally feminist, which means I'm pro-parents parenting in a way that works for their families instead of shaming people who make different choices than me.
My third baby is my last baby and I'm already wistful. I want to give this baby everything my heart needs and their sweet temperament desires. And this time? I can. So I am. For both of us, that accidentally means semi-attachment parenting. If the baby carrier fits, you might as well wear it.