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When I found out I was pregnant for the third time, I read and researched everything about different parenting styles. Truthfully, I hadn't had any intention of having another child so soon. My two boys were 15 months old and 2 and a half years old, and they were still so very needy. I felt that with an additional person to care for, I should incorporate fresh, new ideas on how to manage as a parent of three small children. As I did my research, the concept of attachment parenting really stuck out to me because it seemed like it was a gentle approach to parenting and was child-led. The more I researched it through websites, Facebook groups, and books, the more I felt it was right for me and my baby girl.
If I'd have known that three years later I would not have created a confident and independent little girl, I never would've done it. As I type this, my daughter is lying on my lap and nursing while she pinches my nipple. This is my life.
There is no privacy, no boundaries, and no personal space.
Attachment parenting was first adopted by Dr. Sears and is presented in his bestselling book, The Baby Book. It's a way of child-rearing that promotes strong, secure attachments between parents and children and focuses on sensitive and responsive parenting. I, however, got the unicorn child in attachment parenting.
Balancing my life as a mother and as a woman was lost when I began this style of parenting. I poured my heart and soul into this sweet little girl. I nursed her around the clock for months and months, on demand as opposed to on a schedule, sometimes every hour if she needed it. (This was my first successful breast-feeding relationship, so I celebrated and nurtured it.) I only left her side when she fell asleep so I could spend some precious time with my husband. Even then, sometimes I was just too tired to devote any amount of time to my husband because I was so tired of constantly addressing the needs of three small children.
She was worn on my chest from day one in an Ergobaby carrier. Then we settled into another carrier, the Líllébaby. I enjoyed the ease of just strapping her to me so I could run around with my boys or make a quick lunch. I used it daily. She slept with me, near my breast and heart, as soon as we got home from the hospital. I adored co-sleeping with my little girl. I had co-slept with her brothers, and it just seemed natural to me. However, with her brothers, I ended co-sleeping around their first birthdays.
I never once challenged her needs and decided from the moment she was born that I would provide whatever she required, no matter what, despite my exhaustion. Her first year of life, aside from church on Sundays, she wasn't once without me. I tended to her every whim. She never wanted for anything. I was there as soon as she cried. I even took her on dates with my husband, where she slept in my arms. After reading so many books that praised attachment parenting, I thought that this would produce a well-adjusted and self-sufficient child. I kept waiting for this magical moment when she would hop down off of my lap, walk away, and not need me.
She will be 3 years old in September, and I am still waiting for the little nipple-tweaker to leave me alone. I can only take hopping out of so many five-minute showers to dry off as quickly as possible and climb in the bed still wrapped in my towel to nurse her because she needs comfort after being separated for a short period. I can only sit on the toilet to pee and have this little precious angel walk in and demand her milkies so many times before I will crack.
I have responded to my child's every possible need for nearly three years, and now it's time for me, before my sanity is completely worn thin. She deserves a mommy who is more than just an exhausted skeleton of her former self. She deserves a mommy who is strong enough to know her limits and boundaries, so that she will learn and enforce her own in the future.
As for now, I am tasked with the job of sleep training my child who is almost a preschooler and having to figure out how to gently wean her from nursing. I know that it won't be easy, but I know it needs to be done. I know that I could just tear myself from her mouth and be done with it, but I just don't feel like that is the kind of mom I am. I can't fathom doing that to my little girl. We need boundaries, but we will find them in as painless a manner as possible.
If I could go back to the beginning of my baby girl's first three years of life, knowing what I know now, I would do some things differently. I would ask for more help with caring for her so I could take more time for myself. I would occasionally use bottles. I would've sleep trained her a long time ago. I would find balance, letting circumstances help mold me as a parent instead of completely losing myself tending to my little girl's needs.
There are some days that I don't even recognize me as a person anymore. I would not try to make one parenting style my religion. Baby books are not a Bible. Dr. Sears is not a pastor. If I could do it all over again, I would mother in the middle, like so many moms for whom I have great respect.