Attachment parenting in a disconnected world

Archive for June, 2012

All part of the process

My two girls are the best things that have ever happened to me, without question.  They are better than chocolate, better than sunsets, better than dipping my toes in the Indian Ocean.  They are better than watching fireflies dance in long grass after a thunderstorm (yes, that, really!), honestly better than anything I have ever experienced.  But I can’t lie to you and say that the days they were born were the best days of my life.
You can prepare yourself for childbirth, as much as you like.  You can attend classes with other parents and nod wide eyed as the teacher shows you the physical process step by step on large picture posters.  You can go to yoga classes and spend time in the company of other women all anticipating the arrival of their first child.  There are support groups and antenatal talks.  You can wince through Channel 4’s “One Born Every Minute” while you tuck into your ice-cream and onion sandwiches (no, not that, really) but until you have lived it, you don’t know what it’s like.  You just can’t imagine.
I know that some of you reading this are mothers, and I know that you might have been nodding along to that last paragraph.  But for those who aren’t, I would just like to add that everyone is different, and the arrival of every child into this world is different for the baby and its parents.  I say parents, because in my experience, the births of Alt.D1 and Alt.D2 were most definitely shared.
Alt.D1 is now three and a half years old.  I can’t write much about her birth, here.  I’m still processing it.  In fact, I think I will always still be processing it.  It wasn’t the most pleasant thing I’ve ever done, but it doesn’t affect in any way the love I feel for her, and for that I am thankful.  
I am thankful for the fact that after 27 hours, a healthy little baby girl was handed to me, and we were both ok.  The preceding time was nothing significant to me.  Hard work, sore, uncomfortable and exhausting, but so worth it.  Alt.Father was there through it all, and he still bears a lot of emotional scars from it, he would tell you himself.  
We actually did it!
It wasn’t quite what we’d planned, having rocked up at our local Maternity Unit with sandwiches packed.  Alt.Father had assumed the role of Sandwich Maker and started buttering the bread at about the third hour.  I have no idea what happened to the sandwiches in the end – I didn’t eat them, although I could insert a joke (maybe not a joke) about squashed day old sandwiches being better than the food at the Big Hospital, but hey, let’s be nice.  😉  When the contractions started, we had no idea what was ahead of us, despite the hours of classes we’d attended.  We just held on to each others’ hands and hoped it would all turn out ok.

Which it did.  So that’s alright.

But is it?  Is it really ok for me to be so dismissive of such a huge event in my life?  

Alt.D2 made a different sort of appearance.  She was speedy and well timed.  She showed her annoyance at the speedbumps on the 2 minute drive to the Maternity Unit.  Maybe she was just embarrassed that her mother had left the house in just a towel and almost without remembering to put shoes on despite the early morning drizzle!  I was out of the house for about 35 minutes before I had my second lovely girl in my arms.  She almost didn’t give me time to think about it.  For that, I am thankful, also.

So the second time around, I was asked to write up my birth story for a local parenting magazine.  “Sure.” I said, and duly typed up an account of the day’s events.  I hit “send” on the email before I had read it through, and then suddenly it was in print in the next quarterly issue.  It was weird to see it there.  My experiences put down in black and white.  It made me a bit sad to think that Alt.D1’s story isn’t written down anywhere.  I tried to write it then, but it wouldn’t come out.  “Least said, soonest mended” don’t they say?

I live not far from the Maternity Unit (hence the 2 minute speed-bump dash!), and today I pulled over in my car to let an ambulance out, blue lights flashing, anxious partner in the following car, heading for the Big Hospital.  I felt quite emotional for the woman in there.  “You can do it!” I found myself telling her, “go on, girl, you can do it!”.  Her plans were having to change, but her baby was on its way.  I hope that tonight that family is gazing at their wonderful new addition and that the blue-light frenzy is already all a blur.
Recently I have been talking to other mothers about their birth experiences.  There is so much pressure put on us to make plans and to have a perfect, natural birth, with resistance to pain relief seen as something to be proud of.  As one of my friends said, “Birth Plan, Smirf Plan” [you know who you are!].  It seems that so many of us are beating ourselves up about our birth experiences being different to what we’d hoped for. 
We need to talk it through with our partners, and with other mothers.  We need to process what happened, and we need to look at our beautiful children, whom we are so lucky to have, and say to ourselves:

“Whatever it was, it was worth it.”

If you found this post interesting, you might also be interested in the Blog Carnival “Embracing my Birth Experience”.  Look out for a friend of mine, Caroline, and her blog, which is featured.

Plastic Fantastic

Well we are just recovering from a trip to Legoland Windsor where a good time  was had by all!  Thinking we would be clever, Alt.Father’s sister and I arranged the family reunion outing for 12 on a training day for her children’s school.  Then they announced the bank holidays for the Jubilee, and the world and his wife decided to descend upon Legoland for the day!  Ah well, the more the merrier, I say.  Once you get over the audacious charges for everything from car parking upwards, it’s a fab day out!  Anyway we, like most of the other people there that day, had spent supermarket coupons rather than real money on our entry ticket!  In our matching Team T-shirts, we tore up the park and had an absolute whale of a time!
Lego has a special place in the Alt.Household.  Despite my rant last week at their disgracefully sexist “Lego Friends” range, Lego can do very little wrong.  In fact, it’s the main exception to the “no plastic” rule that pervades in our house.
I had never really thought about the impact toys can have on the environment before Alt.D1 was born.  I had rolled my eyes at the idea of the stacks of plastic junk in the house that “inevitably” follow the arrival of a small child.  We’d get used to it, be ruthless in handing things down, get a good storage system and live with it, I supposed.

Then I saw this video:
I watched it with tears in my eyes and determined that I would not be responsible for any more of that as far as I could help.  We already had reusable carrier bags, we already recycled as much as possible.  No way was I going to start gathering things which were destined for landfill or to be floating about on the sea one day just for the sake of a couple of years of playtime.
Plastic toys break.  Then what can you do with them?  You can’t fix them, or reuse them for something else, or even recycle them, as the plastics they are made from are non-recyclable.  They are a drain on our oil reserves, and their mass production in China means they have thousands of miles of production and distribution under their belt before they reach the toybox.

Wooden toys also break.  But any rough edges and splinters can be sanded down.  They can be repainted, glued, mended.  When they are beyond repair we can use them to heat our home!  They can be home-made, they can be produced from sustainable sources, and they can be played with for years and years, mended and fixed between generations.

So before Alt.D1’s first birthday I somewhat nervously emailed round the family saying that if they were going to buy her a present (and only IF, there were certainly no expectations!) we’d prefer not to have plastic toys.  I sent out the link to the video, and my weirdy alternative hippy request has been complied with, for the most part, for the last 3 years.  We’ve really tried to keep away from plastic toys, and we have mostly succeeded.

Yes, I know that lots of wooden toys are made in China too, many have been given bad press when their paintwork turns out to be poisonous.  Some are dull colours, some are uninteresting.  But that does not have to be the case.  Shop around, buy second hand, try making your own (little kids won’t mind, although the older ones might!).  Educate your children as to why you made that choice.  Alt.D1 knows her toys can be mended, and she’s happy with that.  
I would urge you to think about what you buy for your children to play with.  What is its lifespan?  What went into it?  Where will it go?  Is there an alternative?  There are so many beautiful alternatives out there that you may get bitten by the bug too.  We have wooden, fabric and knitted play food, wooden (and metal) cars, a wooden dolls’ house, car garage, toy mobile phone and Noah’s Ark.  We have home-made cloth baby dolls (not as scary as some of the shop ones!!), a hobby horse, dolls’ crib and push-along walker.  We recycled and re-painted a wooden scooter for Christmas (much coveted, that one, she was delighted!).  We’ve got a wooden Wendy House, and metal mini gardening tools… our girls are so lucky to have so many wonderful toys and hopefully, they will last, and be recycled when their time is up.

So, Lego is the exception to the rule.  Its unbreakable, reusable, creative qualities have earned it a stay of execution in the Alt.House.  Actually, Alt.Father is a teeny bit obsessed with it, I think he was more excited than any of the 6 children who came with us to Legoland on Friday!

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