Attachment parenting in a disconnected world

Posts tagged ‘nursing’

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.

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i carry your heart with me (i carry it in / my heart)

When alt.D1 was tiny, she cried a lot. She cried in the day time and the night time.  She cried when she wasn’t being fed, she cried if she was left alone for a second. She cried if you tried to sit down when you were holding her.  We put her in the pram and we went for walks, mostly she cried, sometimes she fell asleep.  We paced the floor with her chewing on one of our fingers, we bounced, we rocked… you get the idea.  She was LOUD and SAD.
I would push the pram down the hill to baby groups, and they would hear us coming.  “Oh we heard alt.D1, she’s git such a sweet cry!”  I would grit my teeth – it wasn’t so sweet at 2.30am,or 2.50, or 3.20…  People arriving after us would say “We knew you were here already, we could hear alt.D1, she’s got such a sweet cry…”  Sigh. 
There were nights spent watching reruns on TV through cordless headphones while we wore tracks into the carpet trying to get her back to sleep.  There were days when nothing was achieved, having been spent trudging round town with the pram in an attempt to get her to sleep, and when that was achieved, I daren’t go home because the eyes, those big brown saucer eyes, would pop open as soon as we crossed the threshold.
Then, when she was about four months old, we had a revelation.  We bought a sling and it changed our lives.  I am never more evangelical than when I am talking about my sling!  Seriously: Our. Lives. Changed.  
Suddenly, we could wrap up the baby, and within five minutes she would be asleep.  We could do the pacing around bit, or we could mow the lawn instead, baby in tow!  Dinner could be prepared; better yet, actually eaten whilst it was hot!  Wow – who ever would have thought!
I ordered the sling online, having tried putting Alt.D1 into a borrowed one at someone else’s house.  We’d been given a baby carrier with webbing, buckles and straps, and although it was complicated to put on the wearer, Alt.D1 had liked it and seemed more settled.  She had fought it (loudly!) when turned in towards my chest, but on turning to the outside world, she had been absorbed and fascinated, and, it seems, sometimes bored to sleep! I had read on the internet about the risks of hip dysplasia in such kinds of carriers, and realised it wasn’t putting her in the most comfortable position.  A different kind of sling, a long stretchy wrap which is tied to the adult, not involving buckles or straps was the answer.  And we all loved it.
She would sleep in the sling where you would never have thought it possible.  Suddenly our lives had changed for the better.  We had a portable child, and more to the point, a settled child.

Jean Liedloff recognised a huge impact on children’s development when they are carried.  She calls it “the in arms experience” in her book The Continuum Concept.  Liedloff noticed that the babies of the Venezuelan people that she studied were carried by their parents all the time.  They were, as a result, easier to hold, because they were used to it.  They didn’t fuss and stretch and go stiff as a board like Alt.D1 when I tried to put her in the car seat.  They didn’t bend backwards in the middle, striking out towards the floor.  We noticed a change in Alt.D1 immediately we started to use the sling.
So, when Alt.D2 was born, we didn’t need to think about it.  She went in the sling straight away.  I can’t imagine how I would have managed with two small children without it, to be honest.  The baby would sleep, cosied up on my chest, and I could play with the big one.  I could prepare food, walk to town, play dragons and princesses, or hide and seek, while my baby was contented and snoozing.
Even now at almost eight months old, Alt.D2 loves going in the sling.  She’s a bit heavy for the stretchy wrap, (although we both still prefer it if I’m honest) so now she’s in an Ergo Baby Carrier, a more structured version, similar to the traditional “mei tie” carriers used by asian people for many many years but with a modern twist.  She can go on the gront or the back, and everyone’s happy.  She can even nurse in there (obviously not on the back though!!)
Alt.Father is pleased to wear the sling, too.  I deliberately chose a plain navy colour, which just happens to match his favourite jumper.  In town one day, two teenage girls did a double take in the market while he was out shopping with Alt.D1.
“Oooh, I thought that man had two heads!” one said to the other.  Alt.D1 was peeping out of the sling, apparently suspended from her dad’s top!  He’s even had one on the front and one on the back on more than one occasion!
There are more benefits than just the practical.  In the early days with Alt.D2 I was finding it hard to really appreciate her.  I was bonding more slowly than I had with Alt.D1.  But by wearing her on my body for long stretches of time, hours while she would sleep, wake, feed and sleep again, all without being parted from me, our bond strengthened immeasurably.  She was always within kissing distance, our hearts close together.  She was comforted by the sounds she had heard within the womb; my muffled voice and my heartbeat.  I got to learn her ways, the rhythms by which she lived, and her cues for hunger, tiredness, and so on.  We enjoyed what has been termed “the fourth trimester”.  I now have a happy, confident almost-eight month old, and she and I are as in love with each other as we could possibly be.
So as I said earlier, I am positively evangelical about babywearing.  I will enthuse to any new parents, or parents-to-be about how a sling changed our lives and saved our sanity.  You can borrow slings from local “sling libraries” before you invest, and there is a host of different designs, patterns and colours to choose from.  Among some friends of mine, slings are talked about in the same way and with the same enthisiasm as the latest designer clothes.  We are “sling geeks” if you will!
Carry that baby, you won’t regret it.
The title of this Post comes from a poem by e e cummings: 

i carry your heart with me

i carry your heart with me (i carry it in
my heart) i am never without it (anywhere
i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing, my darling)
                                  i fear
no fate (for you are my fate, my sweet) i want
no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)

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