When I got pregnant, my husband and I decided to be huge hippies about it. For nine months we studied attachment parenting, took holistic parenting classes, and purchased natural versions of every baby product available to make our vision come true. We were going to be the best parents ever. Our all-natural lifestyle started – of course – with an all-natural birth. While I never expected it to be easy, I also never expected to be vomiting in the backseat of a Saab as my water broke on the way to the hospital. Live and you learn. As intense as the birth experience was, at least it only lasted 12 hours. The rest of our hippy dippy parenting choices were going to haunt us for the next year and beyond. Here’s how that all went:
All the breastfeeding books and La Leche League literature tells you it shouldn’t hurt, it should never hurt. Well, that’s only if you know what you are doing. A first-time mom and her first-time baby both have no idea what they are doing. Baby Harvey and I were totally clueless, each hoping the other would take the lead and figure out this whole “latching” thing. I spent the first two weeks of my son’s life completely topless because even the thinnest tank top caused searing pain in my cracked and bleeding nipples. Did you know that you could safely take four ibuprofens at a time while breastfeeding? I did. We did get better, eventually. But even when we finally figured out what a good latch was and how to achieve one, that didn’t mean we nailed it every time. Especially at 3 a.m. Harvey could chew my nipple off at 3 a.m. if it meant we might get back to sleep in a few minutes. But yes, it shouldn’t hurt.
When I was pregnant, people would crack me up by asking, “Is your nursery all set up?” Considering our three-room railroad apartment, they might as well have asked, “how’s your horse stable coming along?” It’s not. Harvey was in with us. And not in a crib, no, no. In a device called the Arm’s Reach Co-sleeper out of which I could pluck him before he stirred, gently nurse him, and then place him back to sleep without as much as a whimper. Not! Harvey didn’t agree to any of that. He just wanted to sleep in bed with us, end of story. And that was fine. I loved cuddling with him all night, and because some studies show that co-sleeping is safer, SIDS-wise, than crib-sleeping, the set up felt like a win-win. Until I found myself obsessing over every single noise, body shift, temperature change, quiet fart, or sleep smile that the poor kid naturally experienced while he slept. It took me 18 more months to finally relax and sleep through the night again. Plus, cuddling with my husband became a very distant memory. A memory I started to resent as I watched him sleeping there without a fussy baby kicking his eyes. Look at him. Laying on whatever side of his body he wants with blankets and a pillow. Bastard.
All my literature said that wearing my baby all day would promote calmness, better sleeping, happiness, an end to war, and keep the sun burning for a billion more years. But I discovered a few factors that really get in the way of this seemingly flawless idea. For example: standing still. Harvey pitched a fit if the parent he was strapped to stopped moving, so that “all day” thing apparently meant walking and/or rocking for infinity. But, if I needed to walk someplace that was five hours away and then walk home again, it was a great system. Also, if you have the misfortune of giving birth in the summer, like I did, a sling or a wrap tends to make your baby’s head turn bright pink and slick with sweat, like a feverish drunk man. I didn’t want my baby to look like a feverish drunk man. Unless it was after eating and milk was coming out the sides of his mouth and his eyes were struggling to stay open. Then I did a little voice for him: “I’ll sstell you when I’ve sshad enough.” Hilarious. The final hitch with wearing my baby was that it’s wasn’t easy. All the sales people who helped me practice with a bag of rice into a woven wrap/rings sling/mei tai warned that baby wearing takes practice. And boy, were they right. The first 10 times, I found myself juggling a screaming baby into a soft shapeless mass wrapped around my shoulders, getting him in, making several thousand tiny adjustments, realizing I’d done it wrong and would have to start over, and literally breaking down into tears. I just want to leave my apartment and get a seltzer! Then there were the times I thought I’d done it perfectly only to have my neighbor point out that the sling’s metal rings were lodged in Harvey’s eye. Great mom!
This is the theory you can toilet-train your baby from a young age by following cues and holding them over a small bowl. We tried. We failed. We don’t speak of it anymore.
Cloth diapers are the final frontiers of hippie mom-dom. Even hardcore baby wearers and extended breast feeders don’t do it. Why not? It’s much better for the environment, better for baby’s skin, can make potty training easier, and more. Unfortunately, the “more” stands for more laundry. You can either hit the washing machine almost daily or sign up for a diaper service to do it for you because you like throwing money away. Then there is actually using our pre-fold cloth diapers. The fold was simple enough to learn but hilariously hard to master, leading to poop and pee dripping down baby’s legs and onto my clothes/bed/dog/face a few times a day. And, sure, babies have blow-outs with disposables too, but when Harvey blew out a cloth diaper it was my bad fold job – not Pampers’ fault. Plus, unlike disposables, babies can really feel the wetness in a cloth diaper. And my baby really didn’t like to feel the wetness in his diaper. That made my baby angry. As a result, we started going through 160 diapers a week. I know that’s a lot is because the diaper service lady, whose life is diapers said, and I quote: “Good grief! That is a lot of diapers!” She asked me if I was doing anything with my life besides changing diapers. “No,” was the answer. Also, my apartment always smelled like diapers, just FYI.
Cloth diaper covers
Pre-fold cloth diapers need waterproof covers and you have two choices: plastic or wool. My husband and I, of course, decided that the plastic lined covers were too chemical-laden and went with wool. There were some other upsides, too, like when a wool diaper cover gets wet from pee, it dries clean...once you lanolize it. What’s lanolizing, you ask? That’s when you soak your wool diapers in super-hot water and special wool cure overnight once a month. And when wool diapers get covered in poop you can’t just toss ‘em in the laundry because they need special wool shampoo. Also, you have to wash them once a week. Seems like a lot of extra work, you say? It was. It really was. Much like the current natural make-up trend, this so-called “natural” attachment parenting took a lot more work than I had ever suspected. But ultimately that’s true for all parenting, isn’t it? While I can’t say for sure if all that effort contributed to the amazing, sweet and healthy five-year-old Harvey is today (not to mention his kick ass 20-month-old little sister), I still wouldn’t change a thing. If nothing else, Harvey and Mabel both looked super cute in their cloth diapers. And after a while, we stopped noticing the smell.