So last week, I attended my first birth as a doula. An incredible, difficult, tiring, miraculous, and wonderful birth that took a total of 32 hours, 22 of which I was there for. This week, I’m back on call for my next client and next month – over the holidays, as a matter of fact – there will be yet another.
I left my house at 1 am last Wednesday morning, and didn’t get home until 11 pm, meaning I didn’t see my son from the time he went to bed Tuesday night until he woke up Thursday morning. My daughter, meanwhile, had a dream feed about an hour before I left, and another right after I crawled back into bed with her. The hours in between were spent having (more or less) the first bottled meals of her 7 month long life.
I was nervous, obviously, about how all of this would go down for her, but it worked well and I can sum up the reason why in just two simple words: Attachment Parenting.
Thanks to the attachment practice of cosleeping, I didn’t unnecessarily lengthen our separation. As I said, I didn’t set eyes on my son for 36 hours, but he’s two and a half and not only sleeps in his own room (with Dad joining him as needed), he’s already spent several happy weekends with his grandparents. But Lady Fair is only 7 months old. Frankly, even 22 hours felt too long to be away. Thirty-six hours is just inconceivable. If we didn’t share sleep, it could have been 36 and the additional hours would have been completely unnecessary. If we didn’t share sleep because we were trying to follow a book-prescribed sleep program, then an already difficult situation would have been rendered more difficult by a person who has never met me or my child, and who has no actual knowledge of our situation or needs.
Thanks to attachment parenting, I was able to leave at a moment’s notice without worrying that a messed up ‘routine’ would throw the kids into some kind of coping tailspin. You see, aside from the major time markers of breakfast, lunch and dinner, our daily routine is this: child has need, child expresses need, caregiver meets need to best of caregiver’s ability. That’s a pretty easy one to follow, and it depends only on a loving caregiver. Mr Fair, as co-parent, certainly fits the description of loving caregiver and, when armed with a freezer full of booby juice, has every tool he needs to parent solo without trauma for anyone. The kids obviously felt my absence, but not to the same degree as if a missed snack of 1/4 cup rice gruel at 10:17 am led them to a missed nap at 10:36 am which then made them too tired to focus on their Baby Einstein flashcards from 11:46:30 to 11:59:59. Their day remained exactly the same as normal, just with a hairier chest to snuggle on.
As an extension to the above, taking an attachment-based approach with my kids meant it was much easier to come home again. I’m not under the illusion that a human being will have the exact same needs at the exact same time of day, every single day, so when Lady Fair expressed a need to reconnect after my absence, it was no big deal. She spent the next two days almost constantly in-arms (yay ring sling!), sleeping only at the breast. And that was lucky for me because, guess what? I was exhausted! I couldn’t have spent the day trying to stay awake to reestablish a schedule even if I wanted to. Instead, I just enjoyed the snuggles without worrying that it was the oft-feared ‘bad habit’, a harbinger of chronic dependence that is sure to persist into adulthood. And of course, it wasn’t a habit at all, just a need. One that passed away once it had been filled (she’s upstairs asleep in bed as I type this), and one which I was able to fill thanks to attachment parenting.
It’s not easy transitioning back to work when you have little ones. The logistics and emotions can be complex and unpredictable. But for the good of our family as a whole, and my mental health specifically, reestablishing a career is something I have to do. I’m just grateful that we have so many tools on our parenting workbench that I can do it with few side-effects.
How does attachment parenting help you cope with life’s challenges?