The begining of our career in natural and intuitive parenting
Me: “So how does this work? Like the actual birth part?”
Doctor: “Well, hopefully your labor starts naturally, but in some cases we need to induce to get things rolling. You’ll come to the hospital once you begin to have contractions, and when you’re about 4cm dilated, you’ll get your epidural. Then it’s ‘sit back, relax and wait to have your baby!’”
Me: “Oh. So we don’t labor much before the epidural?” I replied.
Doctor: “I mean, you can, but why be uncomfortable, right?”
While I don’t remember many conversations with members of our first medical birth team (probably because they rarely lasted more than five minutes), that one has never left me. I can still feel the knot swelling in the pit of my stomach as she made the idea of a needle full of drugs in my back sound as benign as a mint for foul breath.
I tried to shake the uneasiness. She was the doctor and I had been pregnant for all of 10 minutes – surely I wasn’t going to start questioning her judgement this early on in the process; however, I would make a mental note to do some top to bottom research on childbirth – clearly I had much to learn.
Things only became less aligned as time went on. A gross misinterpretation of lab results led to premature discussions of “genetic counseling” and possible termination of our perfectly healthy pregnancy. By this point, we were growing tired and leery of “standard medical procedure”. We switched physicians and enlisted the support of a fierce and brilliant birth advocate. Her presence in our lives marked a turning point in this shift from blind acceptance of conventional practice to reliance on our innate wisdom. Our eyes were now wide open.
J’s birth was the first of many beautiful dances he, my hubby and I would share. He was our child, yet it was our implicit trust in his lead that allowed the experience to unfold as it did – naturally and without force. This set the stage for a dedicated career in intuitive and natural parenting – a journey of collaborating with our children to maintain a life of flow and balance.
“You had your baby at home?! Thank goodness everything went well. That could’ve been a scary situation.”
“Oh, he sleeps with you? Are you planning to transition him to his crib soon? Don’t want a 10 year old in your bed!”
“So awesome that you’re breastfeeding. I met a woman who did it until her kid was 3. Crazy, right?”
“The unschooling thing sounds interesting, but aren’t you worried about gaps in their learning?”
Snippets from four separate conversations I’ve had recently.
We believe in our true connection with our children
I don’t take personal offense – five years ago, even if I wasn’t bold enough to say these things out loud, I would certainly have thought them. Having expanded my thinking and experienced the joy and fulfillment of attuned parenting firsthand, I now see the danger in an entire culture of people who still share my former mindset.
Families kept in the dark from the very beginning and pumped through a “McDonalized” system, built to support the western “need” for personal convenience. A system that promotes unnatural childbirth and child-rearing practices as the gold standard, and is ready to catch us in a net of expensive parent-replacement solutions when the inevitable and devastating results of these shortcuts start to emerge. A system that has fooled us into believing that the pure, honest and insatiable energy of our children is ADHD, poor manners, bad behavior and inadequacy. And a system that has no idea how to clean up it’s mess – how to heal the broken spirits of a disinterested, unidirectional youth, rebellious and misunderstood teens, and lost, unproductive and unfulfilled adults.
I realize in this culture of “no judgement” and political correctness, polarizing topics like these can be uncomfortable, but please, don’t take this personally – this is hardly about “parent-shaming”.
This is about admitting that surrounding ourselves with information, people and situations that perpetuate our fear and unconsciousness will keep us from the evolution we seek. It’s about acknowledging that our internal wounds and reactivity and ignorance are getting in the way of a true connection with our children. It’s about accepting that we haven’t been appropriately primed to put forth the type of effort that quality parenting requires.
Because despite what the training manuals say, this isn’t supposed to be an easy, adult-centered experience; it wouldn’t be half as rewarding if it was. My husband and I are learning and “unlearning” and pausing and breathing and relinquishing more control and connecting deeper in every moment we spend with our children (not so simple, to be sure!).
Forcing our kids to do and say and act the way we want them to in order to make ourselves feel better is easy.
Raising our voices, shaming and putting our hands on them is easy.
Attempting to direct all of the decisions in their lives is easy.
Reacting and taking their behavior personally is easy.
But soon enough, we will be faced with the consequences of taking this path of least resistance. And even more alarming, we won’t be able to decipher the exact outcomes of our shortcuts – are they in my infant’s insecure attachment? My child’s repeated violent fits of frustration? My teenager’s propensity to engage in risky behavior?
So our family is moving full steam ahead on this path of conscious, instinctual parenting – the stakes are way too high.
And a day in our house must look like a poorly orchestrated circus, right? Kids running amok, parents exhausted and strung-out.
We do say a silent “YES!” as our heads hit the bed each night, but we’re not weary from a day of battling with our children. We’re tired because we started our morning with a pillow fight, baked muffins for breakfast, built a 4ft block tower, practiced riding our bike, took a dip in the pool, played a board game, completed an obstacle course, made a fishing rod out of straws and string, collected sticks on a nature walk, read three books about dinosaurs, watched six videos about marine life, made up 25 new songs and paraded around the house like superheroes – all the while, running our business, keeping the house decently tidy, preparing meals and having everybody bathed and in bed by a reasonable hour (we tried for 8, but we needed to finish one more bag of our most recent LEGO build).
Natural parenting in our everyday life
In the midst of all the fun, our dynamic is rich with consistency and rhythm and authentic leadership, as opposed to rigidity, schedules and punishment:
- If we need a nap, but we’re lonely, teething and uncomfortable – we rest in mama’s carrier and are lulled to sleep by the humming of the vacuum cleaner
- If we’re bored by the monotony of the morning routine – we dance, sing and play our way through breakfast and teeth-brushing
- If we need to nurse four times in an hour – we nurse four times in an hour
- If we don’t want to sit still but really want to hear a bedtime story – we hang upside down in bed or do yoga poses on the rug while Daddy reads
- If our big emotions turn in to dangerous behavior, we stop, connect and gently find our way back to homeostasis
- If we want something NOW and it’s just not possible – we commiserate as a family and come up with a solution that we can all agree on
- If we aren’t ready to say “hi” or “please” or “thank you”, even when an adult thinks we should – we trust that one day we will be ready and that today just ain’t that day
We have two bright, loving, emotionally secure, confident and well-adapted boys.
We have a deep respect for our role as first mates, and not captains, of their ships.
We trust that when we model flexibility, creativity, patience, resourcefulness, love and respect in meeting, instead of opposing, their needs, they learn to flexibly, creatively, patiently, resourcefully, lovingly and respectfully get what they want and need out of life.
We accept that no matter how determined we are to force-feed them all of the important lessons in life, they will learn them only when they are emotionally and developmentally ready, and not a moment before.
We believe that when we allow our children the space to guide their own choices today, they will have the best chances of becoming skilled, responsible decision-makers tomorrow.
And above all, we know that when our children feel safe, loved, understood and connected, we all thrive.
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