I remember watching a parenting programme before having children about The Continuum Concept and thinking, “that looks like the best way to parent. I’ll do that. Because parenting is very easy and everyone I see all around me are doing it ALL wrong.”
When it comes to ‘attachment parenting’, ‘unconditional parenting’ or ‘gentle parenting’, the blogs and articles generally have a complement of photos depicting rainbows, love, happiness and clouds. No tears, no tantrums, just laughter and gleeful jollity. I don’t disagree with their content. I like the idea of being that kind of parent, especially if it means my child will grow up to be a confident, well balanced human being.
However, I would just like to throw a spanner in the works, if I may, and perhaps shed a bit of light as to what all the airy-fairy stuff means in real time because It all sounds very lovely in theory, but it has one major flaw…. in real life, you actually have actual children.
The fourth trimester (in attached parenting terms) means feed and feed and cuddle and cuddle as often as the baby wants. I think it makes total sense but what does this mean for you as a sleep deprived mother, grappling your way through the daylight hours with blood sugar levels at 73.8% chocolate and energy levels of a post-hypothermic slug?
# 1. Baby feels complete comfort when it is held. Translation: Baby likes to fall asleep whilst you’re stood up rocking from foot to foot. Not sitting down. That doesn’t work. Don’t fight it. The foot to foot rock isn’t completely effective unless you look like you’ve developed dementia, and carry a lifeless gaze. Don’t bother trying to sit right on the edge of the sofa either, with a view of getting baby asleep, and then sliding yourself back into a comfortable position. Baby knows that it is NOT standing up. Get back on your feet and recommence demented rocking. Immediately.
# 2. Baby can sense your energy. Translation: Despite being asleep, Baby knows the exact moment your very tired brain synapse receives the signal to fire up your thigh muscles into action and start the slowest descent onto the sofa of your life. Muscles you haven’t used in decades shudder. Exhaustion keeps you moving towards the sanctity of sitting. You’ll be allowed to almost make it, feeling the soft cushions brush the backs of your legs. Baby says no (see point #1). Accept it.
# 3. Baby likes to sleep on you. Translation: If the moon is in the sign of Scorpio and Venus is aligned with Uranus, Baby may allow a sitting down cuddle (possible after several hours of #1). It does come at a sacrifice – your head will be required to tilt at a unnatural angle to accommodate how the baby has fallen asleep in the crook of your neck. Don’t try and make yourself comfortable. Just accept you’re sitting down.
# 4. It’s ok to feed to sleep. Translation: Laying down can be the most comfortable way to feed when you’re close to collapse from demented foot rocking and repeated sofa squats. Baby will happily nurse until your nipple resembles a raisin. Once the suckling starts to decrease, as Baby falls into a deeper slumber, you can test the level of attachment by very gently rolling away. 97% of the time Baby will fire up suckling again like a tractor engine. Use this time to a) snooze, b) stare at a wall c) harbour bitter feelings towards your husband for being downstairs watching shit on telly and not being telepathic or caring enough to bring you more chocolate.
Once the roll away is successful and Baby releases your now prune-like nip, use the next 40 minutes to move very slowly off the bed, sliding onto the floor, tiptoeing to baby, holding your breath and attempting the cuddle lift, descent and release into the Moses basket/cot. Be sure to be moving at Matrix bullet time.
NB: If you ask a partner/husband to check on the baby, please specify that the light from his smartphone shone directly in Baby’s face will likely lead to GBH and a lengthy hospital stay.
# 5. Baby feels calmer when it is carried. Translation: Invest in a sling. Slings help. In theory you’ll have two free arms, although you’ll probably still support baby with one hand through fear of it dropping out the bottom. Plus there is the constant checking to make sure baby is still breathing as it’s slipped under your armpit due to your amateur sling knot tying capabilities. Baby is asleep. Leave it there.
Baby loves to sleep in the sling. When Baby falls asleep in a sling, it releases a laxative hormone so you immediately feel the urge to evacuate the packet of crisps, banana and 14 bars of Dairy Milk you consumed for your dinner 24 hours previously.
You’ll need to use your squatting skills developed whilst attempting to sit down (see # 2) thus starting the very slow, thigh shuddering descent onto the toilet seat. This obviously comes after the battle of undoing your trouser button from underneath the tripled-tied giant knot that secures Baby in place. Plus the awkward sideways lean to push your leg ware down far enough that you don’t piss all over yourself due to being unknowingly attached to the rim of the toilet seat. Beware of straining as tensing your stomach muscles to aid the evacuation will possible wake Baby. Remember, this is theoretically classed as sitting down so you’re on borrowed time.
Wiping proves the most difficult part of this task. Give up. The shower you’ll have next week will have to suffice for now. Don’t bother pulling your trousers back up – you can’t take the risk of bending forwards and causing a possible head loll out of sling which will inevitably wake Baby/break Baby’s neck. Just avoid answering the door or going near windows until Baby wakes.
Baby will sleep for an unusually long time if you find yourself inconveniently naked from the waist down.
Don’t let any of this put you off trying a more gentle parenting approach. It’s considerably less stressful than listening to a baby cry and in a blink of an eye, they’ll be four year olds, rejecting food because it was been served on the wrong colour plate, or won’t walk because of the lump in their sock.
Cherish the moments they don’t move and don’t answer back. Cherish the moments when the only thing they want is a nipple or a teat. Cherish every sicky, nappy exploding cuddle. Your unwashed hair and unwiped arse will be fine to wait another week.
Coming soon…An Idiot’s Guide to the Toddler Years.