Yellow Bird

Month: September, 2015

Happy Birthday Amalia

I am not the average unmarried young mother. I am still privileged with the love and financial support of my parents who could have chosen to treat me differently. I have been able to stay in school and work as a nanny over the past year and am blessed to have had the opportunity to bring my daughter to work and have Max’s immense help with childcare so I could attend class.
Amalia has taught me much about myself and about life as a whole. She has a wonderful sense of curiosity, joy, and expression. I want to imitate her in these aspects instead of forgetting that life is full of wonder and I have opportunities to grow each day. Her first birthday gave me a chance to reminisce on my mistakes as well as my successes as a mother, which was a mostly joyful reflection. I have learned that I really don’t know much of anything, but allowing myself to be open to the flow of each day will benefit myself and those around me. Marrying Max, participating in the Church, earning a degree in nursing, and being a mother are some of my roles in life. Within these, my aim is to release the things I cannot control and let all of my actions be in accordance with Love. I regret that I have not been very successful in either of these aspects thus far.


Individualism, Consumerism, and the Rejection of Nature

The obsession with individualism, consumerism, and the rejection of nature are three important factors in the degradation of personhood in our society. Individualism is linked to “success” of a person, which is usually defined by the number of dollars in his bank account. Obviously there are many issues with that, but I will speak about how this affects babies. From the start, modern mothers are told not to let the baby be too attached or dependent because they’ll grow up to be wimpy, insecure, and needy. The other side of this is that mothers somehow deserve not to be inconvenienced by their children because that would impede upon their own individuality. So we have all these contraptions and devices that make parenthood “easier” when it doesn’t have to be difficult in the first place. Giving babies and children objects instead of human connection may be a contributing factor to the major consumerism that literally devours us today. Along with the aforementioned is the rejection of nature. To be a successful individual, one must acquire nice things that usually make life so convenient that there is no real need to venture outside except for recreation. This attitude of living comfortably and being disconnected from nature carries into our parenting. A baby not spending much time outside is a negative aspect, but also the way we treat babies is called into question. We as mothers are so far from our primal instincts that we rely on books often written by men to tell us whether or not to respond to the baby’s cry, when to feed the baby, how often to hold the baby, where the baby should sleep, how long the baby should sleep at night, and more. Babies, on the other hand, are the most primal humans there are; so responding to their cues accordingly seems to make sense (they also don’t read baby care books). Babies are not born broken; there are no habits to be fixed. In the beginning, they do not know anything but their need for nourishment and human connection. Yes, it is convenient for the baby to sleep all night, but it’s simply not natural (Dr. Sears on Sleep). We need to start respecting babies’ utter vulnerability, not taking advantage of it. We also need to start respecting mothers’ God-given instinct to respond to their offspring instead of piling on the guilt with each “is she sleeping through the night” inquiry. I may write later about my severe derailment from the natural mothering track, but it’s still too painful to do so now, almost one year later. The attitude we have toward our children starting when they are babies is likely to carry into toddlerhood, childhood, and beyond. If leaving the baby in her crib to cry is the pattern parents begin with, it’s likely that will continue into childhood.

Of Course Modern Mothers Are Depressed

I have been attempting to write this for months and have just now mustered the courage to share it.

“It takes a village,” they say. Where is the village for new mothers in the modern world? I’m luckier than most to live in a town with numerous new-mamas groups, breastfeeding support meetings, baby wearing groups, new dad groups, and the like. These aspects definitely make Athens better than other places to become a parent. A village is not just a bunch of moms with tiny babies, though. It is a community including people in all stages of life. The way babies learn to be toddlers should be by watching toddlers. The way small children learn to be big kids should be by watching the big kids. The way women should learn to be mothers should be by communing with other mothers and grandmothers. If we remain isolated in our nuclear family homes, we do not have consistent opportunities to do so. People are generally happier when they are living life together. The playgroups are a good start, but cooking, gardening, and doing laundry together might be even more fulfilling. I spend most of my days alone with my baby who is almost one year old, and I have suffered fairly severe post partum depression and anxiety. There are many contributing factors to my illness, but the main is a feeling of isolation that I know many new moms share because it doesn’t make sense to spend all day playing with an infant. Playing with babies is definitely part of it, but it should not become a chore. What does make sense is strapping the infant to oneself and going about the day, hopefully in fellowship with other humans, while the baby nurses, sleeps, and watches his mother be human. In this way, the baby gets to be part of the daily activities instead of laying in a cot or swing watching the ceiling while moms scramble to make a sandwich or wash a dish before the next shrill cry from her new addition. The irony is that modern parenting gives permission to exclude babies from normal human activity and when the baby becomes a child and does not behave the way the parent desires, the child takes the blame.

I am fairly consistently questioned (I won’t use the word criticized) for using a sling instead of a stroller, for sharing a bed with my baby, for responding to her cries, for nursing through the night, for driving as little as possible because my baby screams and vomits on car rides, for trying not to let her eat sugar. There are individual reasons for all of these, but on the whole, it is because I am on a journey to wholeness and I want to give that opportunity to my daughter as well. I do not want her to grow up fearing my reaction to her actions. I want to let her learn and grow at her own pace and in her own way. I try not to interfere with her exploration and not do anything for her that she is able to do on her own – this is definitely not easy and I am not extremely proficient in it yet. I do not want to force her to be “tough” by ignoring her cries, the only mode of communication she has in this stage of life. In my experience with other children, I’ve noticed that non-responsiveness actually prolongs the crying for years instead of it gradually slowing down as babies mature. There is always a sense of unsettled-ness between the parents and children whose cries went unanswered in infancy; the trust was never built so now there is a foundation of anxiety, fear, and hunger for approval.

I’ve seen villages in Uganda, Malawi, and Nicaragua where the parents and children lived in harmony. There was no squabbling over who gets the first turn on the xbox. There was a soccer ball made of plastic bags that kept the kids busy while the mothers shucked corn, some with babies on their backs or in the crook of an arm to nurse. The children who wanted to help were given jobs to do, and there was no complaining. Compassion, trust, and respect were communicated in each word exchanged. I truly believe the scene I’ve described exists due greatly to how the Ugandan children were treated as infants. I’ve seen first hand what Jean Liedloff describes in The Continuum Concept. How to create that atmosphere in The United States is somewhat mysterious to me, though I am brainstorming, as are other like-minded families.
More to come soon…