Attachment parenting in a disconnected world

Posts tagged ‘babies’

Shades of something sinister?

Ok, so I thought it was about time for a book review…  Everyone seems to be reading them, and far be it from me to pass judgment without having direct experience, so I borrowed the trilogy that they are all talking about, and in between trying to get AltD2 down for her naps, I spent some quality time with Mr Christian Grey.
 
I was shocked, I tellya!  But not particularly by the sex, the whips and chains, not even by the repetetive language or confusing use of British English in Seattle.  
 
As I read on, I became increasingly frustrated by the protaganist Ana.   She was supposedly an intelligent girl, but she repeatedly demontrated a complete lack of realisation to what the heck was going on.  The plot, for those who have managed to be safely under a rock for the last six months, involves a naive university graduate who falls for a troubled millionaire with a penchent for elaborate gadgets in the bedroom and a natty taste in interior design (flogging bench, anyone?).  Can she soften his heart?  Can she “save him” from himself?… can she change her abuser?  Because ultimately that’s what he is.  Maybe Ana should have checked out “the Couple Connection” before she got in too deep.
 
I found myself almost shouting at the character when, on honeymoon in London, and left alone for an afternoon while her husband attends a business meeting, the most interesting thing she can think of to do is stay in the hotel room and shave her pubic hair off.  So much for “I’ve always wanted to visit London!”.  Bristish Museum, British Library, maybe the V&A, but no, instead she reaches for the bic disposable.  I think the term is #facepalm !
The sex scenes are repetetive and I found myself skipping past them towards the end.  In fairness, without them the books would be a far quicker read! 
The hope of course is that EL James’ readers are sensible enough to know the difference between fantasy and reality.  If not, and certainly there will be some who are not, then some of the scenes, including one where Christian asks Ana to resist him, give a frighteningly damaging message to impressionable readers.  This is, as described by Clare Phillipson, director of women’s refuge “Wearside Women In Need”, an abusive relationship portrayed as a love story.
 
But at the end of the trilogy the author has written an epilogue. Reading that part was when I got really angry.  
Two years down the line, Ana and the millionaire are married with a child, and have one on the way (I’m fairly confident I’m not giving too much away here, after all, it’s pretty much the plot of Twilight).  The following passage is reproduced here without permission and solely for the purpose of this critique:
 
“What is it?”  Christian tilts my chin back.
“I was just remembering Ted’s birth” [first child]
Christian blanches and cups my belly.
“I am not going through that again.  Elective caesarian this time.” [NB this is CHRISTIAN SPEAKING, not Ana]
“Christian, I -” 
“No, Ana.  You fucking nearly died last time. No”
“I did not nearly die.”
“No.”  He’s emphatic and not to be argued with, but as he gazes down at me, his eyes soften.  “I like the name Phoebe,” he whispers, and runs his nose down mine.
“Phoebe Grey?  Phoebe… Yes.  I like that, too.”  I grin up at him.
So by way of a bit of background, “Ted’s birth” involved a caesarian after 15 hours of labour.  The mother has been resisting a c-section, the doctors are not impressed, and when she finally agrees, there is much eye rolling all round.  “About time.”  says Christian Grey.  
I was interested and surprised when I did a little bit of research into the author of “50 Shades”, E L James.  She is English, and has two children.  The reason I was surprised is that having had two children, she is more than likely to have come across women who have undergone an emergency caesarian with their first baby.  For many women, there are health concerns that require subsequent childen to be born also by caesarian section.  However, for most of the women I have met where their first baby was a C-section, their hope for subsequent births is that they might be a vaginal delivery.
 
I was lucky in that both of my children were born by (fairly uneventful) normal vaginal deliveries.  I think Ana, in the passage above, would agree with many mothers who say that to have a VBAC [Vaginal Birth after Caesarian] is something they would really like to be able to do.  She’s trying to argue with her husband for a VBAC and he is an inconsiderate, controlling idiot, in denying his wife the opportunity to bring their child into the world in a way where she has control of the situation.  She denies that she almost died – she has no medical reason for a C-section to deliver her second baby.
 
50 Shades has been criticised all over the media for many things, but as far as I can see, nobody has mentioned the way Christian’s control over Ana extends to the delivery of their children.  I thought she was supposed to be intelligent, I thought the premise of her character was that she refused to be his submissive… apparently not, after all.
For information on abusive relationships and domestic violence, including how to spot a controlling, abusive partner, see www.hiddenhurt.co.uk and www.refuge.org.uk
If you would like information about VBAC, here are some links that might be of interest:
Quickfacts (US site)
 
And if you’d like to read the 50 Shades Trilogy, and make your own mind up about Ana and Christian, there are plenty going on ebay!
I would love to hear your comments.

 

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Words of Love

I am working on a project for AltD2’s birthday which is coming up at the start of September.  I suppose this kind of follows on from the creativity post, although you’ll have to wait and see what it actually is.  What I want to share today has more to do with the content.


When I was younger, there was a cheesy and (usually depressing) segment on Radio 1 called “Our Tune”.  Simon Bates would read out listeners’ letters in a Serious Voice.  Soothing music would play in the background.  Invariably the couple had split up, the dog had died or some other tragedy had befallen the writer.  The feature would culminate with a sentimental, meaningful song. [Hey, wow, I just googled and discovered it is still on!]

You have probably figured out by now that I am hinting that I have a special song, an “Our Tune” I suppose (but without Simon Bates and a long-lost goldfish), for each of the Alt Daughters.  Not sure I have one for AltFather, unless you count the first dance at our wedding, which, incidentally, was Dido’s “Thank You“, and not the Eminem Stan version, you may be pleased to hear! 


So I thought I would share these songs, and how they came to be.


When AltD1 was born, we spent a few nights in the hospital, getting to know each other, working out what was what, struggling a bit with feeding, and starting our life together.  She was being fed expressed milk alternating with formula from a bottle.

‘They’ said to me:
“Someone else should give her the bottle, not you, so she doesn’t get confused.” 
My role seemed to be to hitch myself up like Daisy the cow to a turbo powered pump, and when I wasn’t doing that, I was holding a very loud small pink thing while AltFather prepared the next bottle.  In between, I would have a go at feeding her myself, although it wasn’t working very well.  She got frustrated and I got sore.  She yelled every time I picked her up.  Once, when she was sleeping, I lay on my bed and looked at her in her plastic tank on wheels next to me, and thought:
“I’m not really allowed to touch you, am I?”

It was then that a few lines from a song popped into my head:

“All I do is miss you, and the way we used to be… all I do is keep the beat and bad company… all I do is kiss you, through the bars of a rhyme…”

I was only “allowed” to touch my baby with something in between us, I felt.  The bars of a rhyme?  The plastic bottle, the swaddled flailing arms… handing her over when she got too worked up… it made me sob.  No prizes for the first to guess that this song (which betrays my soft rock roots!) is “Romeo and Juliet” by Dire Straits.
There are two other lines in that song that I couldn’t get out of my head:

“I love you like the stars above and I’ll love you till I die” (oh my goodness, isn’t that just the truth?), and
“you exploded into my heart”  I just felt that every time I looked at her, my heart got bigger and bigger!

We came home from hospital eventually, and we got the hang of the feeding and the holding and bonding.  I put Dire Straits on the CD player and played it loud (not too loud I promise) as I rocked and bounced my lovely baby.  Sometimes I played it when I was just so happy to look at her and know she was mine, sometimes I played it when the hormones were raging and tears streamed down my face as I sniffed my way through the words.  It really became a song for me and her.

One day, AltFather came home from work to find us rocking out to the guitar solo (ok, me rocking out, AltD1 staring at me from her bouncy chair).  When he stopped laughing at my air guitar he hammered the air drums alongside me, crazy fools that we are, entertaining our perplexed three month old.  He told me that on the day we were married, as he walked to the church, that song was drifting down to the street from an upstairs window in one of the houses he passed… definitely a song for our new little family.

Nearly three years later, AltD2 arrived.  I had been worried before she was born that I wouldn’t be able to love her as much as I adored AltD1.  It couldn’t be possible, surely?  Then she stormed into my life and I was bowled over.  But not immediately.  It probably took me until she was 8 weeks old or so to make that unbreakable connection.  During that time there was a song I kept hearing on the radio.  All through my pregnancy it had been rising in the music charts and getting a lot of airtime. 

It’s a Bob Dylan song, but now made famous (and sounding so much nicer in my opinion!) by Adele.  “To Make you Feel My Love”.

The lyrics are presumably meant for a lover, but they are so pertinent and poignant for a new mother, even second time around.
“I could make you happy, make your dreams come true
No there is nothing that I wouldn’t do
Go to the ends of the earth for you
To make you feel my love”  
Once again – isn’t that just the truth?  My hormone-laden self certainly thought so.  I’ve played it to AltD2, whispered the words to her in the deep dark night, and really, honestly, meant every word of it.
I would love to hear if you have special songs for your babies, or any special family members… please do leave me a comment and share the story.  You’ll have to wait until September to see the finished (I hope!) birthday project, but I hope it’s going to turn out really special.

OK TV

After a brief hiatus, Alt.Mother returns, topically enough, with a blog post on technology…

I was stunned recently when Alt.D1 turned on my laptop, clicked on CBeebies and set her favourite programme going!  She’s been pressing the pause button for a while, but whoah, that took it to new extremes… parental controls here we come!

We’ve been TV free in the Alt.House for about a year and a half now, and we love it.  There weren’t really any ethical reasons behind it, it was just practical.  We came home from a trip away during which the analogue television signal had been switched off in our area.  A couple of weeks later we turned on the TV and it didn’t work… we’d totally missed the switchover, and to coin a phrase, we thought “meh” to TV anyway.  So we gave it away and I cancelled the TV licence.  The people who came to pick it up via Freegle were delighted [recycling, see!], as were we – wow, loads of free time in the evenings instead of watching TV.  

Some people thought we were bonkers:  “What will you do?” they said. Others were concerned about our interior design scheme: “What will you point the furniture at?”

They needn’t have worried though. We had tonnes of stuff to do, and the furniture just points at each other.  Most people don’t notice the lack of big black box in the corner.  Maybe they think we have a TV room somewhere else in the palace house.

Whilst our friends and family looked on in mild amusement, either waiting for us to cave in or cheering us on from the sidelines, the TV Licensing Authority were a different kettle of fish.  When I said earlier that I cancelled the TV Licence, it wasn’t quite that simple.  Oh no.  The thing is, they really don’t believe you when you click the box on the website that says something along the lines of “I don’t have a TV”.  Are you sure?  Are you absolutely sure?  Uh, yes, thanks, I am sure!  I would love one of their inspectors to come round – what are they going to do, look under the bed in case I’ve stashed a 60 inch flatscreen Panasonic Viera?

For those readers not in the UK, I should probably explain about the TV Licence.  Here we have the BBC, which is funded by the unique method of a licence fee collected from every household which has a television and uses it to watch live television.  I never really had a problem with the licence, and I really appreciate the fact that I can watch TV without any ad breaks, (yes, NO ad breaks at ALL!).  Going TV free saves us £145 a year, but that wasn’t really the reason behind it.

Eighteen months on, I’ve just had a letter from the Powers That Be asking me to check whether I might have forgotten that I do in fact have a TV and failed to mention it to them… well I have checked, and no, I still don’t have one!

The sense of incredulous wonder is sometimes amusing when I mention we’re Television Free.  The phone company rang me, trying to sell me their TV package.  As the agent started her spiel, she asked:
“What sort of things do you like to watch on TV?”
“Oh, I don’t have one…”
“Um… err… what do you do?”  The autocue didn’t cover that one, did it?!

Anyway, so we got rid of the TV.  No biggie.  Not really “turning into hippie types” (well no more than before, anyway!)

Source: http://www.parentdish.co.uk/2010/10/06/slugs-snails-and-puppy-dog-tales-telly-addicts/
Source:  ParentDish.co.uk

But I have been thinking a bit about whether television for kids is necessary at all.  In France, they have banned the broadcast of programmes aimed at children under three years of age.  The French authorities cite concerns for the children’s development.  It’s hard to tell really, but there are now at least three generations of people most of whom have grown up with a television in their home.  I’m not sure about stunting their development, but could it be stunting their creativity?  On days when Alt.D1 has been allowed unfettered access to the BBC catchup service, the house stays strangely and sadly tidy.  While I’ve been putting a crotchety baby Alt.D2 down for a nap, her big sister stays glued to the sofa.  It does make me a bit sad.

And yet, I do feel that it’s important that the cultural references do not pass my girls by.  A friend told me once she had met a lady at a dinner party who didn’t know who Winnie-the-Pooh was.  We couldn’t quite work out how a person could get to their mid twenties and not know at least one incarnation of AA Milne’s tubby little bear.  Even without a television, Alt.D1 knew who Iggle Piggle was as a child at nursery had a cuddly one… there’s no escaping, even if we want to.  I remember fondly my own childhood television favourites, some of which can be found in online archives and most of which look really dated and low-tech now!  (Fingermouse, anyone?).  It is a part of growing up, so Alt.Father and I are not planning to take that away from our children. 

We do tend to surround ourselves with technology, though, if not television in the Alt.House.  I know that in the early days of Alt.D2, I would settle on the sofa to feed the baby, and reach for the laptop, balancing it on one end of the sofa and catching up with friends on Facebook.  My mum looked at me once, and commented that she had never even read books when feeding us as babies; she thought she had to talk to us all the time.  Well there’s no argument that it helped me to become a good talker… I wonder if my babies will be good emailers in their turn?

I recently took a break from Facebook, deactivating my account for a week so I could concentrate on preparing for a family event.  It was an odd sensation, something definitely missing.  Friends rang me, some texted “What’s wrong, hope you’re ok?”.  Strangely, I just felt relieved.  I have since gone back online, but I find I’m spending less time there, definitely for the good.

Which brings me to share with you the excellent blog of Rachel at Hands Free Mama.  I read her blog and felt ashamed of myself for sometimes shushing my children as I checked my online messages.  We live in a communication age these days, but maybe we could all just do with communicating a bit more with the people who are close to us.  And maybe that should be by talking to them!

It may be incongruous, but Ctrl.Alt.Parent is now on Twitter.  Follow me by searching for Alt Mother or #ctrlaltparent


Touching tales

The Alt.Family have been away for a while, taking some time out in the rain!  A very wet holiday, and uexpectedly without an internet connection… so, belatedly, here is the post that you should have had last week!This video has been doing the rounds of facebook over the last couple of weeks, but just in case you haven’t seen it yet, I want to share it with you now:

The baby in that film is so relaxed, there’s no question she is enjoying all the sensations she’s experiencing; the warm water, the gentle touch of the nurse.  I have never made the most of baby massage with my two, but having seen this, I wish I had done.  There’s so much to be gained from the experience, for the parent as well as the baby,  I would think.
The skin is an amazing human organ, passing all sorts of messages to the brain.  Touch is important for babies and children (in fact for all of us, who doesn’t like a hug?) for so many reasons.  In fact, Deborah Jackson dedicates a whole chapter of her book “Three in a Bed” to the importance of touch.  She points out that before birth, the child and its mother communicate solely through touch.  They rely, she says, “on physical contact for information”.  Yet when a baby is born, we are almost afraid to touch it.  We are blinded by the apparent fragility of the newborn, and need to be reminded that this new little person has never before been “untouched”.  
How scary that must be for them, how alone they must feel!
 
I suppose this builds a little on the idea of wearing your baby in a sling, thus mimicking the sensation of being inside the womb.  The baby feels secure, snuggled from all sides, and is happy to sleep and wake, and feed and sleep again, in something resembling its own familiar environment.  It really is like a massage from all directions!
When Alt.D1 was born, she was whisked away from me to a rescuscitaire on the other side of the room.  She’d been distressed during her long and uncomfortable journey into the outside world, and they needed to check her over.  I needed stitches, I was still uncomfortable, but I was aware of the importance of skin-to-skin contact for my new baby.  I suggested perhaps she could have that contact with Alt.Father, whilst I was being attended to.  I was met with a confused look from the midwife.  The baby was wrapped up so as not to be cold, and she waited to be put on my chest when I was once again sitting.  I felt a bit cheated, although she was nice and clean and not slimy.  She hasn’t suffered through not having had immediate skin-to-skin contact, as far as I can tell, and we’re a very cuddly household (as you can probably imagine!) so hopefully we have made up for it since.  
Alt.D2’s experience was different, in that she was delivered straight into my hands and up onto my chest (very slimy, that one!).  I held her for a while, and then Alt.Father held her, also skin-to-skin, while I bathed and had more stitches (don’t ever ask me about my stitches!).  Then we attempted biological nurturing, where the baby finds its own way to its first feed.  This was with limited success, but all the while giving Alt.D2 constant contact.  We weren’t hurried to dress her immediately, and we all loved it.
I read a passage in “Three in a Bed” where the author describes being encouraged by writer Jean Liedloff to hold her young daughter up by her ankle.  I tried it with Alt.D2 (about 6 months old at the time) and she loved it!  She absolutely howled with laughter, grinning and dribbling upside down into her hair.  I mentioned it to Alt.Father, who looked a bit sideways at me, but later admitted he’d tried it with her at bedtime, and conceded that it did seem to make her very happy (weird child, loves being upside down!). So maybe we should be a bit braver in how we handle our kids.  I should probably put a disclaimer in here, shouldn’t I?  People, be a bit careful, use your common sense, but have a good giggle – remember how much you used to love dangling head down from the monkey bars?
 
There has been much research into the health and healing benefits of touch.  Kangaroo Care for premature babies has yeilded amazing results.  This technique was introduced in the early 1980s in Columbia, a country suffering from high infant mortality rates.  The babies were placed inside their mothers’ clothing, against their chests, where they remained for 24 hours a day.  Similar methods, where babies born early or with low birth rates are held by parents or carers for several hours at a time, have been introduced in many hospitals around the world.  It’s hard to believe that premature babies were once kept away from the touch of their parents and nurses in the belief that risk of infection outweighed the benefits of physical contact.  

It seems that it works both ways, too.  The touch of her baby was enough to rehabilitate Australian coma sufferer Emma De Silva, whose husband and family had been told there was almost no hope.  Their incredible story can be seen here.  Get the tissues handy before you hit play, though!  What an amazing testimonial to the power of touch.

 

Roll over… roll over…

The one thing that I can confidently say about every parent, whatever their beliefs, is that we could all do with a little bit more sleep!  Here in the Alt.house, we each have our own very different styles when it comes to sleep.  Whether this makes for harmonious times all depends of course on whether we are all actually asleep at the same time or not!

Alt.Father could sleep on the proverbial washing line.  His sleep habits have led us to wonder whether he was in fact quite possibly a cat in a former life.  A single shaft of golden sunshine falling across just about any kind of soft surface draws him in like a moth to a flame, and soon he is snoring gently.  He’s a big fan of quick naps and like a trusty Nokia phone a short charge-up leaves him re-energised and ready to go.

Whereas I can’t do naps at all.  A cat-nap for me will turn into a two hour zonk out from which I will wake slightly groggy and disoriented.  I’ll hold my eyelids open with matchsticks so that I can finish reading the last chapter of my book, and struggle with my self inflicted tiredness by being grumpy like a bear with a sore head the next day.  I love to sleep where it’s quiet and comfortable, although darkness isn’t mandatory.  A peaceful summer afternoon in the garden snoozing on a rug for a couple of hours would be absolute bliss.

Alt.D1 started off as a shocking sleeper.  Her preferred pattern was 20 minutes sleep at a time, day or night, with a lot of noise in between.  It would take us hours of pacing up and down in between those sleeps just to get her back down again.  Her sleep pattern was not unlike a series of delayed trains, with one sleep becoming so far gone as to roll into the next.  She settled down as she grew older, eventually taking morning and afternoon naps and at long last, bedtime in the evenings became a more predictable state of affairs.  Now she sleeps wrapped in snuggly duvets and blankets, legs and arms sometimes poking free, head sometimes at the foot of the bed and sometimes hanging off the side!

Alt.D2 was the opposite of her sister on arrival.  Sleeping for four hours at a time as a newborn, quickly making it known that she wasn’t hungry and just wanted to be put down to sleep.  We had made the decision to co-sleep before she was born, and she cuddles down comfortably in the evenings, sucking a thumb to send herself off.  We call her the “light police” though – no chance whatsoever of reading a book in bed for her parents, she’ll snuffle and squeak until we turn the light off!

Sleep deprivation is a form of torture, we used to frequently remind Alt.D1.  Somehow she always seemed to know when there was an early morning meeting for Alt.Father, and would choose that night to remain awake during the early hours, refusing to be put down, refusing to just GO TO SLEEP!  We tried all sorts of tricks: hot water bottles in her moses basket, warming the blankets in our bed, wrapping her up in my t-shirt… mostly to no avail.  We read up on all sorts of methods for encouraging good sleeping, including the No Cry Sleep Solution (although it wasn’t clear whether it was the parents or the babies doing the crying!), the Baby Whisperer, Babycalming, and the Dr Sears website.

Alt.D1 teaches Alt.Father the meaning of “share”

What worked for us?  Probably just the passage of time.  Alt.D1 did suffer from awful colic for many weeks, something I will probably write about another time, but that aside, things eventually just eased up.  We “gave up” on trying to get the baby into her own bed, and kept her in ours, moving her cot right up against the side of our bed with the bars removed like a little refuge she could be rolled into when she eventually dropped off to sleep.  Even then she was about 15 months old before she slept through a night (March 5th, 2010, I have it etched in my mind!) and sadly, it was a fluke!  We were like the line from that Alanis Morissette song “I’m tired but I’m working, yeah”.  Somehow, be it hormones, or adrenaline, or magic powers, we just kept going through the days and nights until things became easier of their own accord.

By the time Alt.D1 was 2, she was often sleeping through.  Sometimes it was in her own cot, in her own room, and sometimes it was in our bed, but sleep is sleep, as far as I am concerned!  We started to think about having another baby.  We reasoned that the sleep deprivation couldn’t be as bad as the first time around, and anyway, if it was, we would be prepared for it.  We bought a bigger bed.  Plenty of room for all of us.

Alt.D2 had a lovely moses basket.  I used it for storing my laptop, phone and book in.  Whilst we were in the maternity hospital, we had been tucked up in the bed together by the midwives, and she had slept beautifully, nestled into the crook of my arm.  If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, they say, so we continued that way once we came home.  I read Deborah Jackson’s “Three in a Bed” which reassured us that this was the right thing to do.  It’s working out ok so far, although Alt.D2 hasn’t yet begun to roll!  A much easier life for all of us, and still space when Alt.D1 decides she wants in on the action, too!

Co-sleeping isn’t for everyone.  You do need to be careful, as although you are unlikely to roll on the baby and squash them as many people fear, it is not without its risks.  The NHS current guidelines are that the safest place for your baby to sleep for its first six months is in its own cot in its parents’ bedroom.  There is more information available here about sharing a bed with your baby.  Statistically, mothers who co-sleep breastfeed for longer (probably because they are not driven half mad by lack of sleep!) so there are health benefits, too.

In most parts of the world, babies sleep with their parents, and it does make sense, really.  For 9 months they were inside their mother, then all of a sudden, they are out in the big wide world.  They feel safer, calmer and more relaxed when next to their parents, making sleep come more easily and life a little better for everyone!

I will leave you with a clip that sums it all up.  Michael McIntyre on children’s bedtimes:



Sleep well, all.



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