When I got pregnant my husband and I decided to be huge hippies about it. We wanted no chemicals or drugs near our precious progeny and set off on a path to gather all the natural methods of child rearing around us.
The drug-free natural childbirth was difficult but only lasted 12 hours. But now we have an actual baby and years ahead to deal with all those hippie dippy choices we worked so hard to make. Here’s how that going:
It’s practically the norm now, and everyone seems to be doing it. All the books and La Leche League literature tells you it shouldn’t hurt, it should NEVER hurt! When, that’s only if you know what you are doing. A first time mom and her first time baby both have no idea what they are doing. You and the baby are totally clueless at first, looking at each other like two teenagers standing over a dead body, egging each other on: “You poke it” “No you poke it!”
Is that an overly morbid image? Well, apparently you’ve never had cracked and bleeding nipples simply from trying to feed you infant son. I spent the first two weeks of my son’s life completely topless all the time because even the thinnest tank top would cause searing pain. Did you know that you could take 4 ibuprofens at a time safely while breastfeeding? I did!
And even when you finally know what a good latch is and how to get one, that doesn’t mean your going to nail it every time. Especially at 3am. Baby could chew my nipple off at 3am if it meant we might get back to sleep in a few minutes.
But yes, it shouldn’t hurt.
When I was pregnant people would crack me up by asking, “Is your nursery all set up?” Considering our 3-room railroad apartment they might as well have asked, “how’s your horse stable coming along?” It’s not. The baby is with us. And not in a crib, no, no! In a device called the Arm’s Reach Co-sleeper out of which I can pluck the baby before he stirs, gentle nurse him, and then place him back to sleep with out as much as a whimper.
Of course baby didn’t agree to any of that. And, like a lot of parents I consulted with, my baby spends most of his time in bed with us. It’s sweet as hell, and all the hippie studies show that co-sleeping is actually safer, SIDS-wise, then crib sleeping, so win-win right? Sure, until you are obsessing over every single noise, body shift, temperature change (“Justin, I’m too hot! I’m going to kill the baby!!! Get me a water!” – Me, nightly) quiet fart, or sleep smile that the poor baby naturally experiences while he’s trying to sleep.
Plus, cuddling with your husband becomes a very distant memory. A memory you start to resent as you watch him sleeping there without a fussy baby next to him. Look at him. Laying on whatever side of his body he wants with BLANKETS AND A PILLOW. Bastard.
All my literature says that wearing my baby all day can promote calmness, better sleeping, happiness, an end to war and will keep the sun burning for a billion more years. But I’ve found a few factors really get in the way of this seemingly flawless idea. For example, standing still. My baby pitches a fit if the parent he’s strapped to stops moving, so that “all day” thing apparently means walking and/or rocking for infinity. But, if you need to walk someplace that is five hours a way and then walk home again, it’s a great system.
Also, if you have the misfortune of giving birth in the summer, like I did, a sling or a wrap tends to make the baby’s head turn bright pink and slick with sweat, like a feverish drunk man. You don’t want your baby to look like a feverish drunk man. Unless it’s after eating and milk is coming out the sides of his mouth and his eyes are struggling to stay awake. Then you can do a little voice for him like “I’ll sstell you when I’ve sshad enough.” Hilarious.
The final hitch with wearing your baby is that it’s not easy. Not easy to find a carrier that works for you and then not easy to make that carrier actually work for you. All the sales people who help you put a bag of rice into a woven wrap/rings sling/mei tai will warn you that it takes practice. And boy, are they right. The first 10 times I found my self juggling a screaming baby into a soft shapeless mass wrapped around my shoulders, getting him in, making several thousand tiny adjustments, realizing I’d done it wrong and would have to start over, and literally breaking down into tears. I just want to leave my apartment and get a seltzer!
Then there were the times I thought I was perfect only to come back from walking the dog and have my neighbor point out that the metal rings were lodged in my baby’s eye. Great mom!
Plus, there’s the whole husband being convinced that the baby wasn’t breathing when I wore him, which makes you lose your confidence a bit. Husbands!
Cloth diapers are one of the final frontiers of hippie mom-dom. Even hardcore baby wearers and extended breast feeders don’t do it. Why not? It’s much better for the environment, better for baby’s skin, can make potty training easier, and more! Unfortunately, the “more” stands for more laundry. You can either hit the washing machine almost daily or sign up for a diaper service to do it for you because you are rich like Madonna.
Then there is actually using the cloth diapers. The fold is simple enough to learn but hilariously hard to master, leading to poop and pee dripping down baby’s legs and onto your clothes/bed/dog/face sometimes a few times a day. And, sure, baby’s have blow outs with disposables too, but when she blow’s a cloth diaper it’s YOUR bad fold job not the diaper’s fault.
Plus, unlike disposables, baby’s can really feel the wetness in a cloth diaper. And baby doesn’t like to feel the wetness in his diaper. That makes baby angry. That means that some times in the beginning we went through 160 diapers a week. And the only reason I know that’s a lot is because the diaper service lady, whose life is diapers said, and I quote: “Good grief! That is A LOT of diapers!!”
She also asked me if I was doing anything with my life besides changing diapers. “No”, was the answer.
CLOTH DIAPER BONUS!
Cloth diapers need waterproof covers and you have two choices: plastic or wool.
My husband and I, of course, decided that the plastic lined covers were too chemical laden and went wool. When a wool diaper cover gets pee-wet it dries clean! Once you lanolize it! What’s lanolizing you ask? Well, that’s when you soak your wool diapers in super hot water and special wool cure over night once a month! And when wool diapers get covered in poop you can’t just toss ‘em in the laundry because they need special wool shampoo. And also you have to wash them once a week.
Seems like a lot of extra work you say? It is!
Difficult as may be, we still believe what we are trying to do is worth it. We like wearing the baby more then the stroller. I love nursing my child from my breasts. The wool covers are really pretty. We just didn’t get that patience went hand in hand with hippiedom. Patience and pee fountains.