I'm not certain when exactly I became convinced that I would be attempting Attachment Parenting. I do know that I started out by researching obsessively. I researched whether to have a kid. I researched how to get pregnant. I researched how to best take care of myself when I was pregnant. I researched my birth options. So, of course, I researched how to take care of a baby.
I've always been the kind of person who is afraid to do things "wrong," and having a kid seemed like the most important thing in life not to mess up. So researching seemed like the best way to keep moving forward, rather than being paralyzed by fear. Yet, it turns out that research doesn't exactly secure the future.
I didn't get pregnant until the second month of trying (yes, I did cry, but please laugh instead of hating me!). Then, I ended up with high blood pressure despite my perfect diet (eye roll) and regular pre-natal yoga practice. Then, I was kicked out of my birth center and sent to the hospital where I asked them to please just disregard my short-sighted, idealistic birth plan.
"Ok, fine," I thought, "but I am still going to raise my baby according to the advice of my friends Dr. Sears and Dr. Greene." I'd watched all the videos on breastfeeding and felt thoroughly confident that it was going to go smoothly for my newborn daughter and I. By now I'm sure I don't need to tell you that it didn't go smoothly at all. Short version: poor latch, bloody nipples, multiple lactation consultants, nipple shields, pumping, finger feedings, leaking bottles, and lots of crying.
It got a little easier, but it never got easy. We also planned to co-sleep. My daughter would toss and turn, grunt and groan, all night. Nobody got any sleep. When I moved her to a co-sleeper next to the bed, she slept a little better. When I moved the co-sleeper to the next room over, at eight weeks, she slept much better. I felt terrible guilt. The books said she would want to sleep next to me, skin to skin, but she obviously didn't.
The books said that I could nurse her side lying and practically sleep through it, but it just wasn't working for either of us. At about three months she only woke around 4-5am to feed and otherwise slept through the night. Instead of being overjoyed at my luck I was drowning in guilt. I got my period back and my milk supply dipped, as if to affirm my failure at co-sleeping and nursing through the night.
Ah, and then there were the baby carriers. I was so sure that the Moby Wrap was going to work out that I didn't even try anything else. But every time we put her in it, she wailed. And yes, before you ask, we tried it every which way. Different holds, different tight-nesses, different positions, different times of day, different clothing, different levels of wakefulness, different ages. We really, really tried.
So, what did I do? I researched, of course. I started blaming my choices around her birth. Maybe if I had done hypnobirthing, maybe if I had hired a doula, maybe if I had stuck with my resolve to refuse an epidural, then maybe she'd be properly attached to me. New mothers, please do not do this to yourself! Step away from the internet forums if they start making you feel like you're doing it all wrong.
Then, at around three-and-a-half months everything started to turn around. It became apparent that my daughter was quite happy, healthy, and well-adjusted. She still didn't like to do any of the things Dr. Sears said she would most certainly like, and yet she was fine. Over the next few years, my guilt would come and go, but my daughter never showed any signs of being "improperly attached."
She was happy to breastfeed or take my milk from a bottle for the first year, and easily transitioned to goat milk after that. She never cared much for a carrier and refused the stroller as soon as she could walk on her own. She's always loved having her own sleeping space and was over the moon with excitement when we bought her first twin-sized bed at 20 months. She's been sleeping through the night since six months.
She potty trained easily at two years. She's very open-minded about new foods and eats a balanced diet. She's confident, outgoing, and very clear about her likes and dislikes, though still open to negotiation. By any standard, you could call her an easy kid to parent. It turns out that nothing was wrong besides me expecting her to conform to some ideas I had read in books and on the internet.
I share my story because I don't want other new parents to go through what I went through. My advice is simply to trust yourself and trust your child. You know what's best for your family and your child knows what they need. Babies are born with personalities and preferences that can't be accounted for in a one-size-fits-all parenting philosophy. Children are more resilient than we think. If Plan A doesn't work, keep trying until something does.
Based on reader feedback, the title on this post was updated.