6 Ways My Babies Turned Me Into A Crunchy Parent
Being a crunchy parent – that is, one who is a bit earth mama, a bit attachment parenting, a bit of a hippie – is not necessarily a lifestyle decision you knowingly make.
Sometimes these things just sneak up on you. One day, I was looking for a midwife so I could have a low-intervention birth... the next, it turned out, I was breastfeeding to five years. I didn't mean to do it, but babies turned me awfully crunchy somehow. Let's see if we can chart the progression.
1. I got pregnant. A friend gave me a book called The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth. Clearly, I was a ‘Thinking Woman,’ so I read it. Next thing you know, I had to turn my back on all those assumptions I had about epidurals just being what everyone did these days, and do some actual ‘Thinking’ about what I'd got myself into. I started looking into low-intervention births and how to best find a practitioner who would help me get one. Aiming for natural birth: check.
2. So there I am at an appointment with my lovely midwife, who reminds me of nobody so much as Edna Mode from The Incredibles, all tiny and bossy and capable and infinitely trust-inspiring, and she says "You'll breastfeed for six, 12 months, yes?" "Um," I replied, "I was just hoping to make it to three and see how it went, really..." The idea of a whole year seemed utterly unreal when I hadn't even had the baby. But she'd sown the seed of an idea. When said baby was six months old, breastfeeding was going spectacularly well after a painful start - I certainly had no intention of stopping now and having to find out all about complicated and expensive formula when I had better stuff on tap for free. Breastfeeding (in public too): check.
3. I liked the idea of co-sleeping mostly because we had a tiny apartment and would be moving a long way in a few months' time, so the smaller our furniture the better. After some research I bought a mini co-sleeper that would attach to the side of the bed and last until we'd moved, when we could buy a proper crib. In which my baby would sleep soundly all night every night, right? Except he was so tiny, and cuddly, and if he was in the crook of my arm I could be sure he wasn't too hot or too cold and when he needed to nurse he didn't have to root very far for it. Also there was the tiny matter of how he'd be restless and wakeful if I tried to put him down a foot away from me; as soon as I pulled him close to snuggle, he'd relax and drift off again. Family bed: check.
4. And then I got pregnant again but the toddler was still breastfeeding, just a couple of times a day. Sure, it was for comfort rather than calories (though as a massively fussy eater I was always happy to think he'd at least get the good stuff there), but I didn't want to cut him off if I didn't have to. Nursing while pregnant: super-crunchy check.
5. "Some people tandem breastfeed," I said to a friend, "but I certainly wouldn't be doing that." I shook my head at the craziness of those people. I always assumed there'd come a point in the pregnancy where the milk dried up or he grew out of it, but it never happened. And once the new baby came, of course I couldn't turn the big one against his new sister by displacing him like that. Besides, when I felt a blocked duct coming on it was very handy to have such a willing helper to drain the milk while the baby was sleeping. So there you go, I was officially a crazy person. Tandem breastfeeding: oh boy, check.
6. And then I had babies who loved the boob. Who were very unwilling to give up the boob. Who were, as it turned out, a lot more strong-willed than their mother at three in the morning. I rolled my eyes at myself, but sticking with it was always easier than the trauma that happened any time I tried to stop. So in the end, child #1 gave it up at 4.5 (yes, that's years) and child #2 at 5. By agreement, not because they were done with it - but it was OK for everyone. If you'd told the girl who said, "Hopefully three months, maybe six," that she'd be breastfeeding for seven and a half years straight, she'd have pushed you out the window. Very extended breastfeeding: check check checkity ‘crunch’.
So there you have it. Beware: it could happen to you, so don't judge the ‘crunchy’ mamas.
The good news is that I'm not buying organic, I'm not growing my own vegetables or keeping chickens - or even weeding the garden, actually.
Maybe this hippie thing is finally wearing off.
Christine is totally Irish, but happens to live in the US. Her husband is totally Irish too, but somehow their two children are American. She spends her days wondering how this came about, baking muffins, and scribbling on the Internet. She also sometimes gets paid to correct other people's grammar, which is a pretty sweet gig if you like that kind of thing. Keep up to date with her hilarious and insightful blog at awfullychipper.com.
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