I want to talk about Attachment Parenting. This is a phrase which was coined by Dr. William Sears in the 1980s. The concepts are based on the attachment theory of developmental psychology which ultimately suggests that the bonds established between caregivers and children at a young age have lifelong consequences. The practices of AP have risen in popularity recently even though the practices are in many ways taking us back to our roots.
When I was pregnant, I read a number of book, one of which was The Baby Book by Dr. Sears, which is basically the AP bible. I thought the theory of AP sounded super swell, but I also knew that bringing a third person into our family was going to be an adjustment. I knew that my family needed to learn how to live with this new in a way that would work for us, not the way it worked on paper for someone else. I didn’t put pressure on myself to fit into a certain mold or to follow any strict rules, but as time has gone on, I have come to discover precisely what AP advocates tout, which is that they are only doing what comes most naturally.
In the beginning, I hated the term Attachment Parenting. I thought it was a trendy label and I didn’t want to just jump on a wagon. I wasn’t leery of the philosophies, of which I nearly wholeheartedly embraced, it was more of the idea of attaching a label to something that for us, was not being done for any philosophical reasons. As it is always an evolution, I have continued to grow as a parent, however I have found that I have continued to trend towards the AP values enough that I’ve started to embrace the term. To pretend the term doesn’t apply to me is to deny myself access to communities of parents who share stories, offer advice, and promote a general lifestyle that is supportive of children, families, and communities.
One such resource is Attachment Parenting International. This is a non-profit organization which educates parents and promotes the values of AP. Their mission statement is: …to educate and support all parents in raising secure, joyful, and empathetic children in order to strengthen families and create a more compassionate world. API provides Eight Principles of Parenting. I want to discuss each of them individually in a series.
Prepare for Pregnancy, Birth, and Parenting
The first principle is Prepare for Pregnancy, Birth, and Parenting. As I’ve all ready shared, my daughter was born at home. For us, the high rate of interventions in births was very troublesome. When I got pregnant, I was healthy and strong and logic dictated that my body was capable of bringing a child into the world. It seemed to me that as a woman, this was what my body was made to do and I wanted to be able to experience it for all that it was; every beautiful, painful, uncomfortable, dirty bit of it. As I started researching my options, I learned a lot of scary and discomforting stuff about hospital births and delivering my daughter in the security of my own home was the safest and healthiest option for us. We did not do it with our eyes closed; we were fully aware of our options, risks, and benefits. I can also honestly say that in the process of coming to this decision, my husband and I, and our families as well, learned more about pregnancy and childbirth than anyone I know who did not consider their alternatives.
That’s not to say that a hospital is not a good option, but it was not one for us, and I would encourage anyone who is pregnant, or planning to get pregnant, to at least take the time to learn their options and what the real risks and rewards are.
I’ve had many friends refer to the advice received by a doctor as a “need” and accept it without finding out why it was so necessary. Induction, c-section, epidural, circumcision, and episiotomy are all examples of interventions that are very rarely a necessity, and yet, are accepted as the norm. Again, that’s not to say that they’re wrong, but they’re not always right either. One can often create an avalanche of interventions that we just did not think were appropriate for us. In our case, we had great faith in my ability to grow and bring our daughter in the world and in my husband’s ability to provide me with the safest possible environment for that to happen and we are very happy with our decision. We chose not to have an ultrasound or get any other prenatal tests done. We discussed them, their possible outcomes, and how they would impact our decisions and ultimately opted out. We did not know the gender before the baby arrived so we discussed (and vetoed), circumcision in the event that we had a son. We discussed our childhoods, our thoughts about education, our futures, our hopes for our children, fears, finances, insurance, vaccines, breastfeeding, and endless other issues. Obviously, we can’t prepare for everything, but we developed a tradition of having open lines of communication in our family and making educated and informed decisions. We did not leave decisions about my body and our child up to chance or to the discretion of a doctor who may have other motives or may not be fully educated about alternatives or advancements in research. Home birthing, or any of our other decisions, are not in and of themselves AP values, but we knew our options and made decisions accordingly and that, is the first principle of Attachment Parenting.