Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Call Me Crunchy

Attachment parenting is for weirdos. You know, those tree huggers who don’t bother to shave their legs and who think Crocs are an acceptable form of footwear outside of the garden. All of that baby wearing and co-sleeping stuff is just downright peculiar, right? At least that’s what I thought, until I woke up one day and realized that I had become a card-carrying member of this bizarre movement.

Where I’m from, alternative parenting styles were almost unheard of. Mothers gave birth in the hospital. Their babies subsisted on formula from a bottle and food from a jar. I never really thought to question it, and just assumed that things would be the same for my children. My mother was one of the more unconventional people in our Chicago neighborhood. When she dared to go against the grain, dabbling in vegetarianism before it was cool, the tofu sandwiches she packed in my lunchbox became a prime target for the class clown. But when my husband and I lost our jobs in the middle of my first pregnancy, we were desperate for creative solutions to make ends meet in one of the most expensive cities in the country – some of which put us in peculiar company.

In the beginning, our choices were driven by economics and convenience. Breastfeeding was a free alternative to the expensive powdered formula kept under lock and key at the local grocery store. Our collection of baby wraps in various shapes and sizes helped us avoid navigating the subway system with a bulky stroller. Both babies slept snuggly next to our bed because in a one-bedroom apartment, there really isn’t anyplace else to go. And in probably one of the most extreme choices, we decided on a home birth for our son as an alternative to the painful and expensive hospital birth we had with our daughter.

As we settled into our new normal, we discovered advantages we hadn’t even considered. Nursing not only had amazing health benefits for our kids, but after a few months, I noticed that my belly began to look less like an old tire. My Moby wrap turned out to be a magical contraption that lulled my babies to sleep, allowing me to cook and clean with both hands free.

I turned to the Internet in search of other women who were making similar lifestyle choices and realized I had more in common with the crunchy natural mommas I once shunned than I cared to admit. I found that I actually enjoyed comparing birth stories and baby food recipes in these close-knit online communities. We had no idea our low-budget lifestyle had a name and a huge following.

Contrary to what I thought, the principles of Attachment Parenting are meant to be more of a guide than a list of commandments. People who subscribe to this theory interpret things in their own way. And while I don’t think I’ll be nursing my son through Kindergarten, a lot of the AP principles including positive discipline and nurturing touch are closely aligned with our family’s values. The lesson I learned in all of this: Never judge a mom by her Crocs!