Attachment parenting in a disconnected world

Posts tagged ‘families’

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.

Getting creative…

I am a little late to the party here, but over at Hobo Mama, they have been hosting a blogging carnival along the theme of Creativity.  The premise of a blogging carnival, I just discovered, is that you produce a post on a certain theme, together with a number of other writers, and all publish your pieces on the same day.  Loads to read on a specific subject, but all coming from different places.

So July’s theme was creativity, and there were some very interesting submissions.  You can find the participants on the link above.

It started me thinking about the creative buzz there is in the Alt House.  This goes way deeper than the crayons and bits of tissue paper we find stuck all over the place.  The creativity in a three and a half year old is inspiring.  AltD1 just isn’t inhibited in any way, (that is certainly true, and probably stories a-plenty for another time!) least of all when her creativity gets going.

One of my elder daughter’s favourite ways to express herself is through her crazy, crazy wardrobe choices.  We have had some interesting selections.  There was the period during which she would only wear tops and tights (in October naturally), sporting them with wellies or sandals, depending less on the weather than on her frame of mind.  We once went to do the weekly shop with AltD1 dressed in a purple tutu.  On top of jeans, with a sunhat (mine) and oversized sunglasses (also mine).  She may or may not have been wearing wings, I can’t remember.  We had a few funny looks in the aisles, but I’m pleased to say there were also a few admiring glances, too.

Someone once expressed to me that she was a little envious of her 2 year old who had gone to the library in a fairy dress.  Wouldn’t life be more fun if we all wore dress-up on a daily basis?!  Does it make a difference that the 2 year old in question is a boy?  I do feel quite proud of my friend for letting her hilarious little guy be so self-confident in his pink tulle!  She too witnessed raised eyebrows, but I hope she continues to have the same confidence as her little boy does now.

I admire AltD1 for having her own style.  She can dress herself, and she chooses from clothes that I (for the most part) have bought for her, so I can’t complain.  She is comfortable, and as long as she is dressed appropriately for the weather and vaguely appropriately for the occasion, I won’t ask her to change her outfit.  Nor would I ask her to change herself. She dresses her own way and I hope she’ll continue to do so for all of her life.  Just as I hope she won’t feel the need to be the same as everyone else in her views and opinions, nor should she need to dress the same as they do.

It’s more than just the unabashed confidence that I admire in small children, though.  They are not afraid to get stuck in.  

AltD1 loves painting.  For whatever reason, we tend not to do it at home (no child friendly paint… birthday coming up, must remedy that situation!) so given the opportunity at nursery or groups, she is straight in there, and very soon covered from top to toe.  Her favourite thing to do is hand prints, so you can guess where that leads!  Arm prints, ear prints, so on…  But secretly I would love to roll up my sleeves and squish the paint the way she does.

We are a pretty creative bunch, really, in the Alt House.  Small Person arts-and-crafts abound, with interesting shaped boxes being saved from the fate of recycling whenever castles, monsters or props for playing shop are required.  I am a stitcher and sewer, and AltFather is pretty handy with his work bench and a jig saw.  I still don’t reckon we make enough of it though. Isn’t it a shame that as adults most of us have reined in our creativity?  A three year old thinks “what shall I do today” and heads for the pavement chalks.  They aren’t worried about their skills at drawing, sometimes AltD1 decides what she’s drawn after it has come out on the page.  Actually I might apply that to dinner sometimes !  

We could all do with a bit of arts and crafts in our lives sometimes, in whatever way suits us…  just don’t get me started on the glitter!  🙂




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


And then there were four

I actually have two children.  

I sometimes catch myself thinking “I’m really not grown-up enough for that kind of responsibility!” Not only one small person, wholly dependent on me and Alt.Father, but two of them.  Which means that we are a family of four (how convenient for theme park entry tickets!).  

When Alt.D1 was born, that amazing, indescribeable feeling of first seeing my own baby was a bit of a shock.  This was for real, and there would never be any going back ever again.  She was and is a fantastic force of nature, and I love her with all of my heart.  Which would be fine, except that when I was pregnant with Alt.D2, I suddenly realised that this love was going to have to be shared between Alt.D1 and the new baby.  I fretted that when the new one arrived, I couldn’t possibly feel the same as I had done the first time round.  I looked at my daughter and thought 
“She is my baby, what’s going on here?  What am I doing?”
Loving her with all my heart would surely not leave space for baby number two.

Then somebody told me not to worry, I would just grow a new heart when the next one arrived, just for them.  It turned out they were right and there is plenty to go around.  We have settled into four-ness quite nicely over the last six months, and it almost seems that things were always this way.

When Alt.D1 first met her baby sister, her main concern was where the legs were!  Being swaddled up, the new sister she had been waiting for so long to meet resembled a little caterpillar (certainly a hungry one!) and Alt.D1 ran a check thus:
“Aww, she’s got tiny little ears, and a tiny little nose, and tiny little fingers and tiny little hands, and tiny little… WHERE ARE HER LEGS?!” 
she was more than a little worried!

Having finally established that all parts of “her” baby were present and correct, Alt.D1 got on with the business of being a big sister.  This has not been without its difficulties as we’ve all of us been adjusting to Life As A Four.  Being 2 years 9 months old when your life is suddenly turned upside down by the arrival of a new person in your home can’t be easy.  I was sad to find that my happy, calm, friendly toddler turned into a grumpy, stroppy tantrum-ridden image of her former self.  To be frank, she was bored by the baby, who couldn’t do anything, wasn’t any fun to play with, and monopolised Mummy’s time.

As the months have gone past, this seems to have abated slightly, and while we still have our moments, Alt.D1 clearly adores her little sister, and Alt.D2 can’t get enough of the entertainment machine that is her big sis.  The biggest smiles are reserved for the funny faces she pulls and the noises she makes for her.  It warms my heart (or should that be hearts?) to see the little mop of blonde hair leaning over the little fluffy head as I hear silly talk being whispered into the baby’s ear and squeals of laughter in response.  Even at this stage, they are sharing private jokes!

Going along in the car yesterday, Alt.D1 said to me:

“Mummy, I have to take care of Alt.D2, don’t I?  And she has to take care of me, too.  Because we are sisters.”


I assured her that yes, this was true.  I started to think about the two of them, their relationship now, and what it will be, for the rest of their lives.  Who knows how many fights and scraps there will be, how many tears and slamming doors, how many hugs and giggles and shared confidences there will be in the years to come.  Through it all, they will always have each other, which is something else that I hadn’t considered before Alt.D2 came along.  They may not always like each other, but now there are two of them, it means that they will always. have. each. other. 

No matter what roller-coaster rides life takes them on.  


Siblings rock.

 

All The Very Best

Sometimes when you are passionate about something, it’s hard to remain objective.  Especially when the “thing” is something that only 1% of the UK population do, and when you wish everyone could do it because the benefits are so great.

I am proud to say that my second daughter is among the 1% of UK babies who have been exclusively breastfed to the age of six months.  This has been a journey for our family which started before the birth of Alt.D1, and which will continue until, for now, Alt.D2 decides she’s had enough.  


Yesterday I came across this article in the British Medical Journal, wherein the authors detail their findings in research on how the idealistic “breast is best for 6 months” message compares with familes’ experiences in the real world.  It’s a fairly hefty article, but the comments made by the women and their families (partners, mothers, sisters) make interesting reading.  The conclusion drawn by the authors is that despite the all pervading “Breast Is Best” message given to parents, there is not always the support available to enable breastfeeding to be confidently established and continued. 
I have to say that I wholeheartedly agree.  BBC3’s excellent documentary “Is Breast Best?” summed up the presenter’s own experiences:
“If you’re experiencing incredible pain, it’s not okay to go through that.  It’s not something you should just swallow and suck up.  I wish I had asked for help. I wish, I wish, I wish I had gone and asked for help and not just suffered in silence.”

It is noteworthy that this investigation centred on families, rather than just women themselves.  For me, and I know that if you ask Alt.Father, he will say the same, support for breastfeeding involves the whole family.  That is not to say that the decision necessarily involves the family, despite well meaning titbits of advice (no pun intended!) from elderly relatives!  What I mean to say is that the father’s role in a breastfeeding family should never be under-estimated.  Without the unending support of Alt.Father, I would not be where I am today.
I’d like to share the story of our journey, and you’ll see where I’m coming from.
My mum told me that when I was born, a nurse held me up and said 
“This baby will never breastfeed, look at the shape of her mouth!”
This was 32 years ago, to a stressed out, confused new young mother, who was trying and struggling to feed her new baby.  Yet despite this blow to her confidence, Mum struggled on and succeeded, managing to feed me for 9 months, and subsequently both of my younger siblings.
So it was with her in my mind that I tentatively pressed the buzzer in the hospital ward time after time during the first 24 hours of Alt.D1’s life.  I called for help, and each time someone different arrived at my bedside, giving me different advice, or no advice at all.
“Is this your first baby?” asked one nurse, “you’re very confident.”
I didn’t feel very confident.  I felt like I didn’t have a clue what I was doing!  My baby was waking every hour, making a noise in an overheated room full of other women without babies (mixed ante-natal and post-natal ward).  I couldn’t tell if she was getting anything from me.  I was sore, tired and lonely.  At 4am, when I hadn’t really slept for 2 days, a heathcare assistant asked me
“Have you got bottles at home?” and fed formula to my baby from a cup.  Alt.D1 slept.  In tears, I sent a text message to Alt.Father:

They just gave her some formula.  I didn’t want to do that.  I feel like the worst mother and she isn’t 1 day old yet.” 
In 30 years, nothing had changed.
I was lucky though.  The following morning, Alt.Father collected us from the Big Hospital and took us to our local midwife led maternity unit.  Still sore and sad, I was shown by my trusted community midwife how to hand express the rich golden colosturum and give it to the baby.  Over the next five days, I was given so much help and support by wonderful women who knew about breastfeeding.  I pressed the bell 100 times, maybe 200 times and I didn’t feel guilty, I felt supported.  I was struggling, but I was supported.
We left the unit with a medical grade pump and Alt.D1 on bottles of expressed milk.  As fast as I was pumping, she was drinking it.  We supplemented with formula, and I spent hours each day in tears, hooked up to a machine.  Alt.Father fed the baby, who cried a lot.
Then the day came of our local Breastfeeding Support group.  The three of us toddled along, and were made welcome, despite the bottles we were reliant on.  We tried “biological nurturing”, allowing the baby to seek out its own feed.  We all felt more confident.  Alt.Father commented at the time that it’s all very well telling us breastfeeding is best for your baby, but nobody had told us just how hard it could be.
With perseverence and the aid of nipple shields (sometimes controversial as they can affect milk supply) we mastered it.  Alt.D1 went on to breastfeed past her 2nd birthday, as if she had read the World Health Organisation guidelines herself!
By the time Alt.D2 was born, I had become involved with the breastfeeding support group, and had attended a training course for Peer Supporters of breastfeeding families.  I was armed and ready to feed my new baby from the moment she was born.  Every squeak she made, I latched her on.  She and I got the hang of it and never looked back.  This time, I proudly read the words “confident mum” written in my hospital notes at the maternity unit, and was pleased that I did indeed feel quietly confident with the breastfeeding aspect (if nothing else!).
So it was with a little sadness but without surprise that I read the BMJ article.  New mums, dads and babies need support.  Healthcare professionals need more training.  They need to care about this.  We are the “alternative” 1% of a population that exists because their forebears did something that like it or not is natural for 100% of the human species.  It’s up to us to encourage our children, daughters and sons alike, to get these figures up.  Let’s hope that in another 30 years’ time, something will have changed.




If you are reading this blog and wondering where you can get help near you, here are some useful links:

NCT Breastfeeding Helpline:  0300 330 0771
Open 8am – 10pm, 7 days a week
Association of Breastfeeding Mothers helpline:  08444 122 949
Open 9.30am – 10.30pm, 7 days a week
Breastfeeding Network Supporterline: 0844 412 4664
Open 9.30am – 9.30pm, 7 days a week
www.breastfeedingnetwork.org.uk

La Leche League: 0845 120 2918
www.laleche.org.uk

  

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