“Natural Parenting” is not a trend. It’s nothing new. It’s just the most recent name given to the back-to-basics parenting style, and for me the intuitive one. The same is true of “Attachment Parenting” (labeled, not created, by Dr. Sears–who, incidentally, is not one of my gurus). These names lend a sense of community to like-minded people, but they aren’t trends.
I call the way I parent “natural” because it simply fits. Motherhood began for me with a home birth, just like the many I read about in Ina May Gaskin’s books (“Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth” and “Spiritual Midwifery”). The stories therein gave me confidence in my body’s innate ability to birth and breastfeed a baby. I also read a few books specifically on the latter (“Ina May’s Guide to Breastfeeding” and “The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding”). I would surely, I learned, be able to nurse my baby. If problems arose, they could be fixed, and I was devoted. The Farm (a Tennessee community known for its excellent midwifery center and specifically Ina May Gaskin) reports a 99% breastfeeding initiation, and a 100% breastfeeding, success rate from the years 1970 to 2000 (see appendix A, “Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth”). These books are a wealth of information, factual and sage, and if my decisions were ever judged by people (not my family) to be radical or irresponsible (the aforementioned home birth, for instance, or my total avoidance of all baby formula), I knew I had acquired the knowledge to thoroughly defend myself.
So, I went on to, exclusively, nurse my baby, with my midwives’ support, and the local La Leche League leaders’ phone numbers nearby in case I needed help (the women of LLL are enthusiastic to give free breastfeeding assistance). The first week of nursing was challenging, but it got easier and easier, and now it’s just become part of life.
I stayed at home with my daughter too, as I had always planned–not because it’s a luxury that my husband and I can easily afford. It’s been a huge struggle and we sacrifice a lot. I’m actually very proud that we’ve made it work, and it bothers me when I read the opinion that people who “natural parent” just have the income to do so. It’s often not the case.
Lately I’ve also noticed some misconceptions regarding all of the supposed hidden costs of natural parenting. I guess some people are missing the point. Again, this isn’t a trend. Nursing tops, bras and covers, expensive baby-wearing devices–none of these are necessary. Parenting naturally doesn’t need to involve any of these things. They’re just accessories. They can be great to have–I absolutely love my baby carriers, and, although not every day, I do use a nursing bra. But I don’t use nursing tops and covers, and I manage fine without them. I’ve even looked into other cultures’ ways of baby-wearing, and it’s quite inspiring what you can do with a scarf.
There’s also been an uproar from parents who use cribs, stroller systems, infant seats, formula and bottles, feeling insulted that their parenting style must then be “un-natural.” Well, it is–BUT, that’s not bad or wrong. Natural doesn’t mean “maternal.” OxfordDictionaries.com defines “natural” as “existing in or derived from nature; not made or caused by humankind.” And it goes on to say “coming instinctively to a person; innate,” and “relaxed and unaffected; spontaneous.”
It’s important to me that people understand that “natural parenting” is just parenting simply, without a bunch of things, un-influenced by people’s opinions, following instinct, like so many women have done throughout time (many poor, and many wealthy). Of course it’s not hugely common in America and many other consumer-based countries right now. And nor am I perfect, not by OxfordDictionaries.com‘s definition of “natural.” But my husband and I do our best. Call our style “Naturaler (hopefully much more so) Parenting.” I will not, however, neglect to feed my hungry child in public because of an irrational squeamishness.
There’s so much information out there on how to raise our children, and I have yet to see much research that isn’t backed by people with ties to this company or that. In parenting–and in life–I’m just following my intuition, while trying to disregard society’s venal advice. Instead, I’m doing what I honestly feel–and question a lot. I certainly don’t judge other moms. I’m simply looking for answers, and it’s not a bad thing for people to question. My questioning things certainly isn’t intended as an attack on individuals who aren’t.
I’m just looking for a peaceful life, and doing what I can to find it. For me that means parenting–and living–as simply and as naturally as I can, without shame.
Fae is in Daddy’s arms watching Alice Cooper on the “Muppet Show.” He’s bouncing her around–she loves the music–trying to keep her joyous for a couple more minutes before we go switch the diaper laundry in the dark, cobwebbed basement. It’s been pouring all day, we’re drinking some red wine, and we’ve found that Fae absolutely loves humus on bananas. A monster just ate another monster, and Fae looked at Daddy, confused. The muppets can be ridiculously funny.