I look back at the parent I was before I had kids. Lets just say I am SO glad I only had cats. That is NOT the parent I would ever want my children to have. I remember hearing about co-sleeping and thinking "you hippies are going to smother those babies!" I remember hearing about the "dangers" of formula feeding and thinking these breast feeders were Nazis, spreading their propaganda, and pushing their opinions on everyone else so they could feel superior. I remember thinking that if I ever ended up that way, I would want someone to punch me right in the face, because I'd deserve it.
Now, after three kids, part of me wants to say that the person I was then needed a punch in the face more than anyone I've ever met!! The other part of me, (the kinder, gentler part of me) knows that the person I used to be had NO information or experience, and the opinions I had at the time were formed from my own experiences as a child. Nothing more. I know that the person I was before children (B.C.) was on the outside, looking in. And really, when you're raised being told that babies need to cry (as not to "spoil" them), and that children need to be spanked (it keeps them out of prison, you know), and that formula is "just as good" as breast milk, it's only through experience and education that you can see things from another perspective. Before that, (before learning how to do things better) you don't even know there's another perspective in the first place.
So, here it is. I was a hard-core mainstream mom before I ever had kids. But then something happened. After 7 years of TTC, my husband and I FINALLY got pregnant!
I'll tell you...that in itself started things rolling in the right direction. Then, at 7 1/2 months gestation, my twins were born due to PPROM. When they were born my son was 3 lbs., 14oz. As he came, the room filled with NICU staff, they held him up for a split second for me to see him (I wasn't wearing my glasses, I couldn't see much), and they whisked him away. Five minutes later his sister was born weighing 2 lbs., 12oz. She was born not breathing, so they immediately ran out of the room with her in a towel. After 45 minutes of working on her, they returned with her in an incubator. They were bringing her in to show me that she was alive. She survived her birth.
That moment...that very second that I laid eyes on her...she was red from jaundice, and the smallest human being I had ever seen in my life...that very second, the world disappeared. Literally. I could see nothing but that little angel in her incubator. I could hear no sounds, and nothing in this world even existed but her. It was that very moment that I changed forever. That little tiny baby was mine. I was her mom.
I didn't hear the Dr. talking to me...I didn't even realize there was anyone there anymore. I was so focused on that incubator, I had tunnel vision and my ears couldn't hear...my husband put my hand in the Dr.'s, and shook it for me. Only then did I look away, look at my husband (annoyed that he had interrupted me), and said "what?!" He just laughed and said "the Dr. wanted to congratulate you." I looked at the Dr., and thanked her for my babies. That's when they took my baby girl into the NICU.
We had a nightmare of a "journey" in the NICU. It sucked so bad. I said more than once that it was a roller coaster, and I hate roller coasters. After 8 1/2 weeks of visiting them there, watching them both survive things that would have killed adults, the ride stopped, and we got off.
I don't know if it was PTSD from what we went through there. I don't know if it was suddenly coming out of the shock my brain immediately went into the very moment I went into labor with them. I don't know if it was the lack of sleep, or the complete overload of stress of their birth and first 2+ months of life. But when we brought them home, I was not the parent I thought I would be.
The instant one of them would make a sound, I was in their room standing over them, ready to pick them up and hold them if they needed me. Never once did I ever make them CIO. There were times that one of them cried while I fed/changed/rocked the other one. But it wasn't because I was trying to teach them to get used to not being held. It was simply because I didn't have enough arms to pick them both up at once. (And it would not have been safe to attempt it with how very exhausted I was.) I cannot even imagine how someone could hear their baby in distress and ignore them. It just baffles me.
As much as I would have loved to have them in our room with us, at that time we lived in a very nice, but very small 4-plex. We thought it would be perfect for when they were born...no carpets, so no worry that we'd have cat/dog hair getting all over them...just run a broom across the floor a couple times a day, and the hair would be gone. We clearly had never had children before, because it didn't take long to realize that ceramic tile, as nice as it looks, was less than ideal for infants. There were 3 bedrooms, but the only normal-sized room was on the main floor, directly off the kitchen. (Crazy!) That became our living room until the twins started Occupational Therapy , and then it became a "play" room...where I could work with them to help them catch up developmentally.
The two bedrooms downstairs seemed great before we had the kids. They were right across from each other, and the one we had for the kids was big enough for two cribs, a dresser, and a rocking chair. Our room was smaller, and fit our bed and a small side table. As much as we thought it would be ideal, once they were home, it wasn't. I had a baby monitor in their room, and the receiver was right next to my head, turned up to full volume so I could hear them breathe. Still, every hour on the hour I would wake up and run into their room to rouse them a little bit, just to make sure they were still alive. (I did that for over a year, even when they were bigger, and sleeping in 5 hour intervals.) I also had to wake them every 3 hours around the clock to eat. So I'd wake one, change them, feed them, and put them back to bed. Then I'd wake the other, change them, feed them, and put them back to bed. Then I'd wash a bottle, mix up the next one, and get into bed for ONE hour before doing it all again. (With preemies the 3 hours is from the START of one feed to the START of the next one.) In total, I was sleeping 3 hours every 24, and it was in three separate attempts. I can't help but think that if they were in our room, after they were allowed to finally sleep longer than 3 hours between feeds, I could have simply reached over and put my hand on their chests to feel them breathe, instead of waking up in a state of panic and running into their room every hour. I know without a doubt that I still would have woke up, but it could have been better. Less traumatic and extreme.
Before we were allowed to take them home from the hospital, we were required to make a Dr.'s appointment for them, and provide the hospital with the date and time, so they would know that our preemies were going to be okay in our care. We were also told that at that visit, our children HAD to be vaccinated, or they would not release them to us. (We were told more than once that our children were "property of the hospital" until released to us upon discharge. Seriously.) So I did what I had to do to take my babies home.
|The more research I did, the more I realized that I knew nothing.|
I fell down the rabbit hole.
Along this parenting path, I've encountered some amazing women who have put raising children into a whole new light. I knew after I had my children, after all we'd been through with them, that I could never put my hands on them to "discipline" them. My mother still to this day tells me that they "need a good spanking", in one breath, and in the next she tells me how she loves that they are so sensitive, and says it makes her want to cry when she thinks of how sweet they are. I think that after 50+ years of believing that spanking is the only way to teach children to behave, she's torn. I think she knows in her heart of hearts that no one should ever do anything to children that might damage them emotionally, but she's unable to ignore a lifetime of believing it's okay to hit them.
I think our children need to know they're safe. I think they need to be allowed to act out if that's how they're feeling. Adults do it everyday, but we expect MORE from children than we do from adults, and that is so very unfair. I think children need to know that mommy and daddy are going to protect them from pain, not inflict it. And I think children need to know that love is un-conditional. Even when they are not behaving appropriately, they need to know that they're not going to be punished, when all they really need is some guidance and patience!
Parenting is this learn-as-you-go experience. Sometimes our older children are given less than the best, but not because we love them less. Because we just don't go into this with all of the answers. I think parenting is one of those things that really never stop changing and growing...I do better now than I did then, but I'll do even better than I am right now, as time goes on. And we just can't change what has been done in the past, and that's okay. From every experience, good or bad, we learn. Sometimes we need to do wrong to see what was right, so that next time we can do better.
What I once believed, I no longer see as being what's best for my children. Mainstream was fine before I had them, and now that I have been blessed with three children I never thought I'd ever have, I see that the hippies were right all along. And, as time goes on and I'm getting a little more crunchy by the day, I know that before too long I'll be able to call myself one of them...and I'll be proud of that!