Friday, July 23, 2010

Parenting Take Three

Apparently I am not the only one still nursing a grudge against Gary Ezzo .  In fact, there's a whole week dedicated to it which I missed, but I've been wanting to post about this anyway.

I have probably done enough Ezzo-ranting on this blog, and the fact is that I have friends who I respect very much who do Babywise, and I know that it fits some personalities and some babies, and it can be done gently and wisely . . . so rather than offend anyone or get myself all stressed-out just thinking about my experience with "the Book", I'll just describe a bit about my three different girls and my three different approaches, and the conclusion I have finally come to.

I feel bad for firstborns.  Seriously.  My parenting style keeps changing and it's the firstborn who must endure all of my mistakes.  If Sami grows up to hate me and chooses to rebel by being really prissy and buying a lot of expensive purses, Sam, I will not blame you.

Sam was a difficult baby.  And when I say difficult I mean that she didn't sleep for the first three months years of her life, was colicky and wanted to nurse so much that I believed she was sucking the marrow from my bones.  I think I thought this was pretty normal until we had Annie who actually slept for more than ten minutes at a time, and I couldn't believe how easy life was.  I was a first-time mom who loved this baby so much I couldn't see straight, I hated not being in the same room with her, couldn't run to the grocery store without calling twice and rushing home to be with her.  But I was battling this intense guilt that said I wasn't doing this right, she should be sleeping by now, I need to let her cry.  And so we'd read "the Book" and tell ourselves okay, this is the night, tonight she cries . . . and I could just cry now even thinking about those times we let her cry it out, and the way that she cried and cried and cried and cried and did not go to sleep . . . and I won't even tell you how long she cried but it was TOO LONG and my mothering instincts were going nuts, I would just weep until I couldn't take it any more and would rush to pick her up . . . I thank God that we weren't so foolish to keep doing that to our poor daughter, but even one night of that much crying was too much.

And yes, there are babies who respond much differently to this approach, just slip right into a schedule, like our second born Annie did, but Sam was a completely different baby.  The only thing that could comfort her was to be held, to sleep between us, and her need to be close to her mother was NOT a SIN, not something that needed punished or disciplined . . . rather we were being trained to be good parents and all of the sacrifice that requires.

(Also I understand now that a first-time mother often doesn't have as much milk, and the only way to stimulate more milk production is with frequent nursing.  I am certain that had I stuck to the schedule I would not have been able to nurse her for the full first year).

After the first two sleepless and guilt-ridden months I went to the library where I found Dr. Sears and his book on high-need babies .  His parenting methods resonated with what my maternal instincts were already telling me: to co-sleep, demand feed, and hold my baby as much as possible.  He describes a "fourth trimester" that some babies (I now believe all babies) need to be close to their mother, and this made perfect sense to me.

(The thing that I really don't get with the Cry It Out method is why Christians- Christians! are so drawn to it, even adamant about it . . . because if parents are a picture of God to their children, this is nothing like the God I know . . . I do not serve a God who only responds to me at certain times, under certain conditions . .. I do not serve a God who refuses to listen when I cry . . . rather the God I know invites me to cry to him, over and over He says this, to pour my heart out to Him . . . and that He is a waiting Father, a Father lavish with affection and understanding, one who is ever-present, ever holding His children).  

Annie was different.  I brought her home from the hospital and laid her on the bed and I couldn't believe it- she stayed asleep!  She loved to sleep!  She didn't need me at all, she could sleep in her bed and when she was still waking up several times during the night by about six months I decided to see what would happen if I let her cry, and it took less than five minutes- probably two minutes for her to put herself back to sleep.

My regret with Annie is that I didn't hold her enough.  I didn't feel as quickly connected with Annie as I did Sam, and I noticed that though she was a far easier baby, I would become irritated much more quickly when she would wake up at inconvenient times.  One of the benefits of "wearing" or holding your baby a lot is for the mother and baby to attach, and it can even help with a mother's post-partum emotions.  Now as a two-year old, I welcome any affection I can get from her . . . she is a very loving, sweet kid but I will always worry that she is so independent and maybe that is my fault.

I am so glad to have a third child to finally be confidant in my approach to parenting!  This time, I held Josie as much as possible as a newborn, I nursed whenever she wanted, and we slept together the first few months (now she falls asleep in her own bed, and when she wakes up to nurse I bring her into bed with us- if her sisters haven't taken her place).  I have a couple of slings that I use sometimes, but mostly I just hold her.  She is my calmest, happiest baby, and we have a really natural rhythm that flows with the rhythm of the rest of the home.

I have read a lot of Dr. Sears and have found that the Attachment Parenting approach fits my personality, but as with anything I take what works for us and try not to be legalistic about it.  When I began to feel stressed about whether I was holding Josie enough, whether I had the correct slings or should buy more, whether she was "attached" enough . . . and when I began to realize that my older girls were becoming resentful of my constantly carrying Josie, I stepped back and gave myself permission to parent according to what works for us, and not another kind of formula.

Hopefully all of our children will be loved and understood enough to make-up for our many flaws and mistakes, and more than anything we are so aware of our dependance on God's grace to cover our children, but maybe this is also a good reason to have many children, because you just keep getting better at it. . . right Babe?  Right??


Kelly Langner Sauer said...

I've been thinking that God has given our kids us for parents, because He chose us for the shape of their lives, for the deep needs of their hearts. He knows how our mistakes and inadequacies will feed that empty they have for Him. I don't regret me for my kids, just for me, because I hand off so much joy sometimes...

I completely understand your experience. I wonder if we'll even get to three...

Ruth said...

Great post!

Young Mom said...

I think you do become a better parent as you go. My parents have grown in leaps and bounds since I was living at home!
I also feel bad for first borns. I had a similar experiance to you in some ways. My oldest was a pretty content baby, and I often just left her lying by herself, if she was happy she didn't need me. I regret all the times I ignored her when we could have been snuggling. And I still can't believe that I ever spanked her, what was I thinking?
My second was a very needy baby who slept with us and had to be held at all times, and even though it felt as though we never slept, that was what made us fall in love with the attachement style parenting.
Like you, with my third I have been so much more at ease, co-sleeping, breast-feeding, snuggling, quality time parenting has been amazing.
Now if only I could be as confidant in the descisions I make when I'm parenting my toddlers, I still doubt myself too much since it is my first time parenting that stage of life.

Becky said...

gosh. i havent had any time for blogging i came here to catch up with you. you always write so beautifully and uncondemning. seriously. :) i regret all the times i used the "ezzo method" for my own advantage and because of my selfishness. and i regret "preaching" it to everybody...i loved talking about it cuz it is a solution, and i do love me some good solutions. but i am learning. learning. that that is not the way God treats me and my needs. that He says to let the little ones come to Him. and i am thankful for redemption amid the regret. and for the beauty of the blessings of parenting with more grace and love and mercy rather than with laws and legalism. i can.not. believe the difference. it makes me sad for my firstborn. i can totally relate to you on that! i cringe at all the mistakes we made IN THE NAME OF CHRIST...that has got to be blasphemy! all i know is to walk in His forgiveness and trust HIM to redeem the time. and, no. not claiming perfection with our last two, but having peace in following HIM rather than MEN!! thanx, jess. loved this post! take care. you are a wonderful mother!

charrette said...

I have never felt the need for God's grace on such a daily basis as I have as a mother. So true.

And -- I just have to add that attachment is my primary focus in parenting too (although it takes a different shape when the children are older.) I, too, love Kids Are Worth It , which you mention in an earlier post, and I especially think you'll love Hold On To Your Kids -- all about the importance of attachment in parenting, and the dangers of peer orientation. Fascinating. Life-changing.

Okay, enough with the book recommendations from me. I just erased another one. Because what I really came here to say was that you are and amazing mother and I love it when our hearts and minds are in alignment. That is all.

Heather of the EO said...

I love this. I feel bad for first-borns too. And I also really really really love the italics part. Such good and beautiful food for thought.

Meg Martin said...

I'm parenting my first baby. :) I'm so glad for moms out here like you who have tried things and give your opinion on what worked for you. I have wanted to rant about Ezzo's teaching but I haven't wanted to offend anyone and I'm so new at this stuff. I'm glad that it works to just listen closely to your intuition and figure out what works for your baby... I can't quite put my thoughts into words but thanks for writing this!

camilla said...

When I was a new parent I was surprised at the passion that quickly surfaced when you talk about parenting styles. Truly it's our insecurities that cause us to resent others suggesting we are doing it wrong. And what parent isn't insecure? I can't think of another job that has such long term rippling affects on character (ours and our children's and their friends too). Sure, we gain confidence when number two, three, or four comes along. I have always felt God's help more acutely when I am less confident, beyond just insecurity, KNOWING that I can NOT do this thing because I don't know how.

One thing is true for all parents, using all parenting methods... parenting teaches us a lot about ourselves (much of which we are embarrassed about). Ideally we take what we learn about ourselves and change what we don't like.

I love how honest and transparent your posts seem to be.

Jessica said...

Cami, such great points you make here! Yes, I think that it is the gravity of the long-term effects on our children that makes us question ourselves so much . . . and the reminder that going beyond insecurity to the knowing that I can do nothing apart from Christ is a timely reminder. Thanks!