This article is still in-progress.
Choosing to become a parent is the biggest decision a person can make. Being a conscious parent takes a lot of will, strength, back-bone, and resilience because you are pretty much a pioneer in the wilderness.
Join me in this blog post as I shatter mainstream Western thinking and beliefs about parenting. However, if you like mainstream, you need to look no further than the car or house in front of you; but you can read this post if you want to learn of other ways.
I would have loved to see a compiled list like this prior to getting pregnant, and to have handy to read again when I needed some encouragement and validation.
Before getting pregnant, figure out why you want to be a parent. Discuss with your partner their parenting objectives as well. Figure out if there are any discrepancies between both of your objectives, and spend a significant amount of time figuring out how to compensate for the discrepancies. For example, if one parent wants to have a very attached relationship with the future child and the other wants plenty of time away from the future child, then figure out a way for the attached parent to be supported in being close with the child, and the less-attached parent to be able to get time away from the child.
I, personally, recommend a four-year gap between kids to allow for nursing and bonding time with toddler (a three-year-old is still a baby in my eyes), and for the mom’s body to recover from pregnancy and nursing before making another baby. My two kids are almost four years apart and are best friends.
Parenting as Partners: Understand that, after going through pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, and co-sleeping, all your plans for having a romantic marriage and an organized home might completely get blown out of the water. Make sure your partner is okay with the unknown, as well as sharing your attention with children. Partnership pre-kids is nothing like partnership with kids. Read together my post called Partnership While Parenting for a pretty realistic idea of how it could be.
At-Home and Working Parents: Figure out which of you is going to stay home with the children–until the children start full-time elementary school or else until they are adults if you decide to homeschool. Note that I never even considered homeschooling prior to having kids; but once I became a mom, it just made sense as a continuation of the relationship with my kids and our family. So, be sure you both are aware and agree to the possibility that the at-home parent might not bring in any income until the youngest child is an adult (even in the case of divorce).
If the mother is going to be the working parent, take into account the amount of rest needed during pregnancy (sometimes sleeping is really difficult while pregnant, plus ‘morning sickness’ symptoms sometimes last the entire pregnancy), recovery time needed from pregnancy and childbirth, and a lot of time to establish a strong nursing relationship with the baby. Skipping recovery time will likely bite you in the butt later. Sleeping while the baby sleeps (and with the baby) is advice to take heed to. Also keep in mind that most of the working world isn’t female-issue friendly; this probably makes women reject their bodies as well as have invasive procedures done rather than healing slowly, naturally, and in privacy.
Downsizing: Begin living on just one income, the designated working parent’s, prior to getting pregnant. If it’s tough to manage with one income, then make all necessary adjustments to make it comfortable–including downsizing your home, getting rid of a car, selling extras, skipping daily runs to the coffee shop, discontinuing paid memberships and subscriptions, etc.
Save the extra income for your homebirth midwife, a doula experienced in both homebirth and hospital births, waterbirth tub rental, a body pillow (makes sleeping during pregnancy easier), a kangaroo fleece pouch, a wrap (you can make your own), an Ergo-type carrier, a nursing pillow (works great for the quick moments you need to set baby down and for nursing a newborn upright), cloth diapers and cloth wipes, bulk clothes soap, a lot of baby t-shirts, baby socks, baby hats, baby blankets, an extra bed (not crib–see section, below, called ‘Co-sleeping’), a car seat and cover for the car (not to keep the baby in outside of riding in the car)–that’s about all you really need. A bonus would be a cleaning person for the first month or so after the baby’s birth.
Finances: Along with downsizing to one income, combine your finances and sort out your bills. Streamline payments. It’s helpful to keep track of, in a spreadsheet, where your money goes, organized by month and category: food, rent/mortgage, insurance, utilities, car loan, car maintenance, gas, personal and toiletry items, medical expenses, non-tax-deductible health expenses, education, clothing, haircuts, and entertainment. Also log in the date each bill was paid.
It’s important, here, to note that raising children isn’t expensive. My biggest expense is food because we buy a lot of organic products. We don’t spend a lot on clothing or entertainment. Classes, educational materials, and medical expenses are usually tax-deductible.
Heal Your Issues: If your partnership has issues, deal with your problems as soon as possible. Any problem you have in your relationship will be blown up 100 times once you have kids. The book called Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life by Marshall B. Rosenberg is helpful in learning to communicate in relationships. A great book to read together is called Getting the Love You Want by Harville Hendrix. Hendrix also wrote a book for parenting called Giving the Love That Heals which is really helpful in beginning to heal areas in you which will affect your parenting. Recognize that you will still have many issues come up, including some you didn’t know existed, once you become a parent. Children are little mirrors; be ready to have everything about you turned inside-out when you take on parenting.
Find a Support Team: Find people in your area who are supportive of attachment/conscious/natural parenting, homebirth, breastfeeding, co-sleeping, babywearing, and homeschooling. You are fortunate if you have relatives or a social circle of people who are unconditionally-supportive. I let relationships go due to my being ridiculed for my choices. I spent a great amount of energy early-on in my parenting to try to find my own supportive community; but I found that many of us who choose to raise our kids differently than the mainstream got to where we are because of the crap we’ve been through in life–which means many of us are working through our issues and sensitivities which doesn’t always jibe well and sometimes creates more work than less. Additionally, as time as gone on, I have learned to be my own support.
Find a family practice doctor and a nurse midwife who aren’t going to harass you about having a homebirth or about your other natural-parenting choices–including co-sleeping, breastfeeding, vaccinations and so forth. Mothering magazine’s discussion board has a ‘Finding Your Tribe‘ forum where parents post to find local practitioners and maybe even nearby like-minded friends. Although, even a locally-known ‘natural-friendly’ doctor might not be as natural as hoped.
A doctor I saw pre-pregnancy had her nurse call me to say they refused to see my baby for three months after my upcoming homebirth (even though the only thing I inquired with them about, via phone pre-birth, was getting a PKU test in their lab; some homebirth midwives do this in-home, by the way) because my having a homebirth to them meant I was putting my and my baby’s lives in danger. What a bunch of baloney.
Also, beware of information collected by physicians these days that really have nothing to do with the realm of health they are addressing (for example, personality and mental-health data and information for ‘research’); I suggest researching international databases being kept on us and our children. More below.
Stay Informed about Issues Affecting Families, and Children & Our Freedom and Rights: Dig deep. And then dig even deeper. Beware of red herring issues–which many people seem to fall for.
Know and Trust Yourself: You might not be able to find a support team. And even if you do have one, only you can live your life and go through each moment with your child; plus, you still get to raise your kids your own way. Know and trust yourself, your gut, your instincts. There will be plenty of people who will tell you how wrong you are and how much you suck. Turn off the TV–you don’t need propaganda coming at you. Dump people-pleasing and co-dependency. You don’t have to justify or explain your parenting choices; don’t discuss birth and parenting with people who make you get your defenses up or otherwise upset–only share with people who think you’re awesome or are like-minded (this will save you so much grief and pain!) Don’t expect empathy from those who can’t give it. Don’t complain to people who aren’t supportive of attachment parenting.
Do not let anyone make you feel like crap for caring for and about your kids and your family.
Keep Your Choices Sacred: Save your ‘Natural Parenting Ambassador’ role for people you sense are open; it helped me to believe that everyone is on a different journey in this life and I really have no idea if a kid crying in a crib all night is part of that family’s journey–but I certainly don’t need to stick around that sort of thing. The book called The Power is Within You by Louise Hay is so good.
Nutrition and Cooking: Stop dieting to get ‘skinny’, and start eating to prepare your body for making a baby and breastfeeding. Weston A. Price Foundation has a great list called ‘Diet for Pregnant and Nursing Mothers‘.
Also, come up with seven simple and nutrient-dense meals to make all the time even if you’re used to eating out. Come up with about seven hearty, energy-boosting snacks to make all the time as well. The meals and snacks should be so predictable and easy—no-brainers. Make sure you both know how to make the meals and snacks so whoever has the energy for it can do the cooking. Meal plan with an accompanying master grocery list, organized by the layout of your grocery store.
Make enough food in a meal so you have leftovers to freeze. Store leftovers in individual servings. Also, Amy’s Organic and Evol make decent frozen meals in a pinch.
Having your food prep and choices set in place well-before kids will make things so much easier later. As a couple, start working together in the kitchen, cooking together and cleaning up together–this will help your learn to enjoy these necessary tasks together and to get bonding time no matter what you’re doing (a must in parenting).
Along the lines of eating, baby food isn’t necessary until your little one starts grabbing your food. I kept my baby and toddler on my lap, so that transition was totally natural. And I let her taste anything except cow’s milk products and honey (neither are good before age 1).
Remove mercury fillings before getting pregnant.
Exercise: Start some sort of movement every day. Walking can be done during pregnancy as well as after the baby is born with baby in a sling/pouch/wrap. Practicing squatting and other stretches will help you in childbirth and beyond (check out this stool for proper toilet posture). Good posture and doing a lot of hands-and-knees poses helps to make sure baby is in the right position for book (See Spinning Babies).
- Laps in yard or playground with stop watch to break up walks
Stretches with kids climbing/nursing on you
- Give up pre-kid hardcore workouts.
Natural Childbirth: Read every book you can get your hands on about natural birth. The books should get you excited about birth, not afraid of it. Educate yourself. Forget what you see in movies about birth and being told you need to breathe a certain way. (Look at these photos!) Plan on being in whatever position your body tells you to be in during labor. Have your partner shake your hips during contractions (called ‘Shaking the apples’ by Ina May Gaskin); and have someone else massage your shoulders to keep you relaxed. Plan on feeling powerful and for birth to change you. The book titled Hands of Love : Seven Steps to the Miracle of Birth by Dr. Carol J. Phillips is a great place to start.
Birthplans: After doing some reading about childbirth, you will be able to start writing your birth plans. Here are my birthplans which I created from doing a lot of research–please feel free to use these, editing to your own preferences. Even with a homebirth, it’s a good idea to have hospital birthplans for your own peace-of-mind. Here’s a copy of my Baby Moon sign for my front door.
Homebirth Midwives and Doulas: Here is a list I compiled for interviewing midwives. Note that if you hire a licensed midwife, they are legally-tied to protocols not unlike some of the hospital protocols (this is the main reason I chose a lay midwife instead of a licensed midwife). There’s a chance that your insurance company will cover the fees of a licensed midwife, but not a lay midwife. To me, it was worth the $2,000 to have a lay midwife and to keep my insurance company out of my business. By the way, I know people who have had amazing unassisted homebirths. My metro area has monthly meetings for parents to meet doulas and to talk about childbirth; see if your area has anything like this. There are also post-postpartum doulas for after-birth help.
Breastfeeding: Go to La Leche League meetings to learn all you can about breastfeeding. Additionally, you can establish relationships with the leaders and other moms so when you have your baby, you will feel comfortable calling them for help. Also, ask the group if anyone can help you with babywearing (I had my La Leche League friend come to my house to help me with wearing my newborn.).
Sure, the first time breastfeeding might seem difficult. Bleeding, painful nipples don’t last for forever. Painfully-full breasts work themselves out based on the baby’s demands. Yes, for a little while, you might leak milk all over your bed and clothes; wear sports bras with washcloths stuffed inside the cups.
Nursing is a round-the-clock event and is for comfort as much as it is for nourishing baby. If your baby barely moves, hardy makes a peep or if you even think about nursing, try nursing first.
Nurse while laying on your side in bed, with baby laying on or next to you. (I would have saved a lot of back aches the first time around if I would have done this.) To switch breast sides, you just adjust your body without even having to lay on the other side of your body; plus moving baby from side to side is easy (baby doesn’t break from this). Have your nursing basket, see below, next to your bed so you don’t feel the need to rush on with your day, you’ll have what you need all in one area. Install a corded phone in your bedroom so you can talk whenever you want.
It’s helpful to have a nursing basket which you can bring with you where ever you are, filled with nonperishable energy snacks, drinking water, cloths (for squirting and dripping milk) and a book or magazine–keep technology away from your baby and you. A breastpump is unnecessary for at-home moms. You can breastfeed where ever you want to; no, you don’t have to hide it!
Attachment Parenting Books: Read some books which are supportive of attachment parenting. The book called The Continuum Concept by Jean Liedloff is a must–it changed my life; there is also a discussion board for readers of the book you might be interested in joining. I’ve own the books Your Competent Child and Hold On to Your Kids. The book titled The Attachment Parenting Book : A Commonsense Guide to Understanding and Nurturing Your Baby is a nice ‘beginner’ reference book to have on hand. The Natural Child Project with coach Jan Hunt and parenting coach Scott Noelle are great resources. Natural infant hygiene (also known is ‘elimination communication’) is amazing for bonding and so babies don’t have to deal with sitting in their excrement.
Co-sleeping: Invest in a second mattress or futon and put the mattresses together (on the floor or in a frame) so your child, partner, and you can all sleep in the same room. Most babies and toddlers can sleep with noise around them. Scheduled naps are unnecessary; my kids fell asleep in my arms where ever we happened to be whenever they were tired.
Prepare for Many Starts-and-Stops: One thing that was really hard for me to get used to when becoming a parent was not being able to do projects, anything really, from start-to-finish without stopping. If you have any lingering projects you want to complete, do them before kids. Practice minimizing your to-do lists to the bare essentials, and learn to be at peace with just being. Parenting works best when you can just be in the moment, without thinking you need to accomplish a bunch of tasks or get onto the next (more ‘exciting’) thing.
Lower Your Standards: Raise your standards for your relationships and what you have to give your child. But lower your standards for what you accomplish in a day and what image you’re portraying is. Especially the first months after birth, consider sleeping, eating and breastfeeding to be big accomplishments!
Routines and To-Do Lists: Come up with morning and bedtime routines for yourself. Ideally, get used to going to bed early and waking early–while getting as much sleep as your body needs. Babies wake around-the-clock to nurse; but if you are used to retiring to bed early, rather than late, this will help you ensure you get enough sleep with many wake-ups (especially when nursing half-asleep in bed with baby). Make chore, errand, and shopping-supply lists so it’s obvious what needs to be done. Make sure you don’t have Martha Stewart/Suzy Homemaker expectations of yourself–keep it simple and easy and streamlined. Developing these household habits now, to the point where you don’t even think about it, will help so much later: pick up immediately after you take something out, pick up on the way to another room in your home, and do daily scrub cleaning so you really never have to dedicate hours at a time to deep-cleaning. I’ve found, when becoming a parent, it has been so easy for me to procrastinate the boring tasks to ensure I get at least a little bit of personal pleasure (reading a chapter in a book, for example); I wish I would have established habits when I pretty much had no responsibility (in comparison to parenting responsibility).
Minimalism: Along the lines of downsizing to one income and streamlining your to-do lists, come up with a very simple wardrobe. Own a few of each type of clothing items, mix-and-match, which are comfortable and make you feel good while wearing–both around the home and in public. This will make getting dressed a breeze. Get rid of any extra items in your life which bog you down and use up a lot of your energy.
See Project 333, My Green Closet and Light by Coco
Quit Your Addictions: It will be a whole lot easier to quit your addictions before becoming a parent, a time when ‘escape’ will be all too appealing. Untie yourself from the twitch of the internet, social media, and texting; and start using the landline corded phone (no electromagnetic fields and radiofrequency radiation for baby or you) and seeing people in real life.
Parenting Is Not a Race: Parenting is enjoyable when you focus on being in each moment and being curious about what is unfolding and how you are unfolding right along with it. There’s no hurry to get past any age or developmental stage. Your child will learn to walk and read all in due time. Your child will be an adult just like the rest of us. It’s not a race. Relax, breathe and appreciate.
Don’t plan on lots of driving with baby. Not all kids like to be in the car. When you do travel by car, have mom in back to nurse while riding (lean over car seat to nurse).
School Readiness and Separation Anxiety: The trend these days is to have infants trained to get ready to be in school. Nothing gets children ready for school better than having a strong bond with their parents. Kindergarten should be for fun and games–not for learning to sit still and reading before children are ready (they are busy learning millions of other things without coercion). Check out the books by John Holt, especially How Children Fail. Don’t worry about not attending community education ‘baby-and-me’ classes which usually want to try to get your kids to learn to be away from you. My older child wouldn’t leave my side until around age five; years later, she’s very independent and competent and we still have a loving, close relationship. Let your children cue you as to when they are ready to be with someone besides you and your partner.
Give Yourself a Massive Permission Slip: Absolutely have a homebirth waterbirth. Absolutely co-sleep with your children until they don’t want to anymore. Absolutely nurse to, or beyond, age 2 years. Absolutely hold your baby all the time. Absolutely follow your toddler (or older) kid’s cues for when they are ready to be away from you; and if they don’t want to be away from you, then don’t make them. No, crying isn’t healthy for babies. No, your baby doesn’t need to learn to be without you or to be okay with someone else holding them. No, you don’t need baby-and-me classes or preschool or all the little kiddy programs and play-dates during the week. No, you’re not lazy if you aren’t running around town, or otherwise staying busy, all day long. No, you don’t need to dress your little ones in the expensive, cutesy, brand-name clothes. No, you don’t need to bathe your kid every day. No, you don’t need to bring your kids to the doctor for every little ailment; find natural care books and maybe a good herbalist, chiropractor, naturalist, homeopath and/or cranial sacral therapist. Research vaccinations, whether you want to delay or spread out vaccinations (differently than the conventional cram-em-in schedule) or not vaccinate at all. Let your son keep his foreskin. No, you don’t need date night (or a vacation) with your partner, away from the kids. No, not all women want sex while caring for young kids. Yes, your house is going to get messy and you don’t have to spend all your time cleaning it. No, you don’t need to save for your kids’ college if you don’t want to. No, you don’t need to learn to be crafty and knit and sew your family’s wardrobe. Yes, women can be intelligent, powerful, and admirable as stay-at-home moms–without the career and business suits. Yes, it’s a challenge to stay at home with kids; and, yes, you’re going to have to give up on your pre-kid dreams for a long time. If parenting is nothing else, it is a time to learn about yourself and your life and to give–in ways you never thought were possible.