Catholic Hippie Mom, Part II: Natural Parenting, Self-giving, my Transition into Mommy-hood

Little ones playing

As someone raised to be strongly feminist, becoming a mother was a bit disorienting for me. In my mind, a good mother was a working mother. The intense feelings of joy, love and attachment that swept over me within moments of Baby W’s birth caught me completely off-guard. Here was not a burden or an inconvenience to deal with and get through so that I could go back to doing important, grown-up things like making money. Here was a tiny, blessed creature that knew nothing other than to trust me to support and care for him. This miniature angel belongs more to God than he does to me. He was not a task to be struck from a to-do list; he is a gift to embrace and welcome. (Not saying that working moms feel babies as burdens—it’s just how I thought I would feel. Even when I was pregnant, I thought to myself “Gee, I hope I like my baby”).

So totally against everything I had said and felt before, I quit my job. Though I loved my son, this was painfully ambivalent for me. I had viewed my value through the lens of my career and education; now those stopped (though education, in a way, always continues). It was a type of identity crisis.

Of course, it was my own hang up not to respect  child-rearing as equally valuable to vocations outside the home. Though I was Catholic and gave lip-service to the value of motherhood, my heart lagged behind and in some ways still does. Occasionally, I have trouble respecting myself when I compare myself with other women. This is a problem and a struggle. (I know comparing is deeply harmful; and I know that true feminism, which simply affirms the value of women, does not disparage the choice to stay home).

Enter natural parenting. For me, it’s a philosophy that helps me give identity to my new role. Continue reading

Catholic Hippie Mom, Part I: What Natural Parenting Is and Some Practices I Enjoy

Me babywearing with my son at 2 months old.

Me babywearing with my son at 2 months old.

Natural Parenting is the parenting philosophy that includes things generally under the umbrella of responsive (aka attachment) parenting (no crying it out), breastfeeding, natural birth, BABYWEARING, co-sleeping, gentle discipline, cloth diapering etc and sometimes includes homeschooling, mindful eating, and typical earthy, green hippy-ness.

And I am A HUGE fan! (Note: that doesn’t mean  I agree with or follow all of these practices). But my favoring of hippie-parenting is quite surprising in many ways since hippie-ness tends to correlate with liberal political and social views, and I am definitely not that. Rather, I am a solidly-Catholic in social views and Aristotelian in political views, with added Catholic Social Teaching, of course. To sum it up quickly and roughly, I’m conservative.

So why do I love hippie-parenting?

Because to me, “natural” or “mindful” parenting is about enjoying the process of being a mother and raising children. It doesn’t race to end-goals or rush to milestones. Instead, natural parenting enjoys the steps on the path. I don’t breastfeed just to get food into his body; it’s also a time for connecting with him and enjoying him.

I was attracted to the idea of it even before I was pregnant. Reading about babywearing got me excited because it promised to allow me to go about most of my usual business. But once my son was born, I wanted to babywear because I wanted him to be close to me all the time. It comforted him and it comforted me. And there is just a darling, magical quality about seeing a baby swaddled dreamily with his mom.

I babywear (carry him close in a ring sling) because it’s pleasant for me and for him. Baby can feel my warmth and is almost always happy to next to me. I don’t worry about “spoiling” him. It is not a chore to hold my baby; it is a pleasure. I wasn’t counting down until he could sit up so I could leave him on his own. And he isn’t stunted. Baby W crawled and stood up right on schedule. He won’t always be small; he won’t always want to be carried. I am grateful for it now.

I was attracted to gentle discipline and guidance because I hate to see parents yell at their children. Granted, I don’t judge parents because I know we all have our off-days and that I didn’t see the circumstances leading up to event. Also, let’s be real: I have a temper too and someday I will probably have a meltdown when my child begs for candy AGAIN at the grocery store and writhes in tears on the floor because he can’t have M&Ms. But still, avoiding volume-contests and power struggles is my goal.

I respond to him at night and sometimes I put him in our bed because I’m so-gosh-darn tired. Is night-time really a time for connection? Not for me, I just do what helps everyone get the most sleep!

I respond to Baby W in the day too. If he’s crying, there is a reason, and I want to help meet his need whether it is hunger or just a desire to snuggle momma. Yes, there have been times when I have to put him down and he cries. There have been times when he was so fussy that I put him in the crib so I could eat in peace. But those aren’t most days. Most of the time, I try my best to find a way to do what I need to do and at the same time ensure that he receives what he needs too. After all, babies and children bear the image of God just like I do and are worth just as much to God as I am (and probably even more).

Yes, I had a natural birth. No, it wasn’t pleasant. But it was meaningful for me not just to dash to the finish line. Each contraction massaged Baby W and moved him closer and closer to the outside world. Also, going through birth class and labor was a deep bonding experience for my husband and I, and I was SO grateful for his love and support throughout the whole process. Having a natural birth kept him involved and made pregnancy and birth a family experience, not just an experience for me. And for the Catholics, I tried to focus on the pain as penance both for my sins and especially for Original Sin, which brought pain in childbirth upon us in the first place. My plan is to go natural with future babies too.

So these are some of the natural parenting practices that I like. Part II will examine how living it has smoothed my transition into full-time motherhood.

[Let’s be clear, though: I am NOT saying that only natural parenting is joyful or the only way to love and enjoy children. I believe most parents with their myriad philosophies are joyful and loving. This post is not intended to knock or disparage others who may not do what I do. I’m not even trying to say that natural parenting is better or best for everyone; parents need to do what works for them. My only goal with this post is to explain why I enjoy a parenting philosophy that can seem unusual given the other pieces of my worldview.]

Are you familiar with natural parenting? Does it sound crazy?

Book Review: Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

The bus in Fairbanks, Alaska that served as his base camp.

The story of the life and death of young Chris McCandless, his renunciation of wealth and human contact, and his fatal naivete is quite reflective if we don’t dismiss it.

It’s easy to dismiss him as an idealistic idiotic who got his just deserts for not playing by the rules. And that is partially true.

But his story, his death in the Alaskan bush, I think tell us about ourselves and about human nature.

McCandless was driven by a desire not to be hypocritical, to live life truly and freely–and most importantly, to find meaning.

These ideals, I believe, claw at all of us, and usually young people are most conscious of it. For a large segment of people who feel this, it is expressed as a desire to live freely in nature and to test our existence against that of the earth.

And I think these are the same desires that C.S. Lewis was talking about when he said, “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.” Continue reading

Beautiful Things

The Six Most Beautiful Sights

1. Light

2. A Child’s Smile

3. Water

4. the Human Form

5. Arches, particularly in cathedrals

6. Flowers

The Four Most Beautiful Sounds

1. Flowing water

2. A child’s laugh

3. wind chimes

4. the human voice, singing

God gives all created things Truth, Goodness & Beauty as co-extensive with their being, and he is the ultimate source of these things.

Reflecting on the goodness and beauty of creation (despite the evils that mar it because of Original Sin) helps me to start to imagine the beginnings of the grandeur of God.

What else is beautiful?