Monday, November 8, 2010

November Carnival of Natural Parenting: Nurturing through touch


Welcome to the November Carnival of Natural Parenting: What Is Natural Parenting?

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our Carnival coincides with the launch of Natural Parents Network, a community of parents and parents-to-be who practice or are interested in attachment parenting and natural family living. Join us at Natural Parents Network to be informed, empowered, and inspired!

Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.






When my son, Mikko, was born nearly three and a half years ago, he was pulled up to my chest. I hiked up my shirt, unashamed, so he could lie there, skin to skin. We gawked at his size of nearly twelve pounds and laughed in exuberance that the long labor was over — he was here, he was so big, I did so well! He scrunched up his Neanderthal face and let the nurses rub him down with towels as he lay, curled into me and uncertain of this new world he could half-glimpse out of his gritty eyes. I touched his hair, matted still with blood and birthing fluid, Newborn cuddled in wrap with mamaand put my finger into his hand, marveling at the wrinkled skin and tiny nails of the fingers that surrounded mine.

When it was time to birth the placenta, it was Sam's responsibility to hold him. When he heard his turn called, Sam ripped off his own shirt, eager to hug this newborn to his warm chest, to keep him cozy under his tent of blankets and towels.

Mikko slept at my side that first night in the hospital — and every night since. As if fearing hidden cameras, the nurses outwardly tsked and reminded me of the rules that he was supposed to be sleeping in his plastic bassinet — all the while they arranged pillows behind my back and guided him into a side-lying nursing position and then left without removing him from my bed.

We responded to his cries that first night and day by holding him close to let him know we would be there to soothe him.

We were required to carry him out of the hospital in his car seat, which was a doozy of a task since we had a convertible seat, not an infant bucket with a handle. But we complied with the inanity, and that was the last time Mikko was held in a car seat when not in the car. As soon as we arrived safely home, we took him into our arms and then into a wrap, for an inaugural walk on the beach. I loved the feel of him against me, swaddled under cloth, our heat blending and our breathing in sync.

It's been over three years, and Mikko still knows our touch, all day and night.

We hold him less, but we still hold him. He prefers being carried to walking, for one thing, and he'll still agree to a ride in the Ergo.

He breastfeeds less, but he still breastfeeds. There's a special, unavoidable closeness that comes through nursing — a necessary skin-on-skin experience, multiple times a day and, for us still, during the night.

We still sleep next to each other, and although he's less likely to wake up often during the night and turn into me, he still knows our presence and we are all comfortable together.

There are still many opportunities in the day or night to respond to him with sensitivity and a hug when he's upset or needs cuddling — or purely attention.

But I know that even when these elements diminish and end, those marks of baby- and toddler- and preschool-hood, the nurturing of touch can continue. As he clambers into our laps, as we smooth back his hair, as he hands us offerings of food he's bitten in half, as we help him wash his hands afterward, I am aware of how sweet it is to have someone I feel so comfortable with — and who feels so comfortable with me. I remember feeling the same with my little brother, who was nine years younger — a sense I could take his hand and ruffle his hair, even if I felt too shy or constrained at the thought of touching anyone else. I didn't grow up overly demonstrative in physical terms, so it's a constant delight to me to mother through touch.

At some point, I had to refrain from taking my little brother's hand spontaneously — he's in his mid-twenties now and might find it odd! — and I realize the same might happen with my sweet baby boy. But I hope there are always opportunities to give him a quick backrub, to squeeze his hand in appreciation, and to receive one of his unprompted and enthusiastic hugs.

Part of nurturing my child through touch also means not touching him in ways he would find objectionable. I've chosen to minimize my son's unnecessary association with pain, for instance, by refusing circumcision and other unneeded procedures at birth. And as we discipline, we've chosen a gentle style that honors his body and his spirit.

Even though those elements, too, are short-term in the lives of our children, I trust Mikko will carry the results with him his life long.

The foundation of nurturing touch begins before birth, when we surround and carry our children. When I think of the ways I parent naturally, a thread of gentle, loving touch runs through it all.




Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaStop by Natural Parents Network today to see excerpts from everyone's posts, and please visit a few to read more! Visit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants. Three of the participants below will instead be featured on Natural Parents Network throughout the month, so check back at NPN!

This list will be updated by afternoon November 9 with all the carnival links. We've arranged it this month according to the categories of our NPN resource pages on "What Is Natural Parenting?"

Attachment/Responsive Parenting

Attachment/responsive parenting is generally considered to include the following (descriptions/lists are not exhaustive; please follow each link to learn more):
  1. PREPARE FOR PREGNANCY, BIRTH, AND PARENTING:
  2. FEED WITH LOVE AND RESPECT:
  3. RESPOND WITH SENSITIVITY:
    • "Attachment Parenting Chose Us" — For a child who is born "sensitive," attachment parenting is more a way of life than a parenting "choice." Dionna at Code Name: Mama shares her experiences. (@CodeNameMama)
    • "Parenting in the Present" — Acacia at Be Present Mama parents naturally by being fully present.
    • "Parenting With Heart" — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment parents naturally because healthy attachments early in life help our little ones grow into healthy, functioning adults.
  4. USE NURTURING TOUCH:
  5. ENSURE SAFE SLEEP:
    • "Sometimes I Wish We Coslept" — Sheila at A Gift Universe has started to add cosleeping into her sleep routines and has found frequently unspoken benefits. Watch for her post, which will be featured on Natural Parents Network on Tuesday, November 30. (@agiftuniverse)
  6. PROVIDE CONSISTENT AND LOVING CARE:
  7. PRACTICE GENTLE/POSITIVE DISCIPLINE:
    • "Unconditional Parenting" — The philosophy of Alfie Kohn resonates with Erin at Multiple Musings, who does not want to parent (or teach) using rewards and punishment. (@ErinLittle)
  8. STRIVE FOR BALANCE IN PERSONAL AND FAMILY LIFE:

Ecological Responsibility and Love of Nature

Holistic Health Practices

  • "Supporting Natural Immunity" — If you have decided against the traditional vaccination schedule, Starr at Earth Mama has some helpful tips for strengthening your children's immune systems naturally.

Natural Learning

  • "Acceptance as a Key to Natural Parenting" — Because Mrs. Green at Little Green Blog values accepting and responding to her daughter's needs, she was able to unravel the mystery of her daughter's learning "challenges." (@myzerowaste)
  • "Let Them Look" — Betsy at Honest 2 Betsy makes time to look at, to touch, and to drool on the pinecones.
  • "Why I Love Unschooling" — Unschooling isn't just about learning for Darcel at The Mahogany Way — it is a way of life. (@MahoganyWayMama)
  • "Is He Already Behind?"Ever worry that your baby or toddler is behind the curve? Danielle at born.in.japan will reassure you about the many ways your little one is learning — naturally — every day. Watch for her post, which will be featured on Natural Parents Network on Tuesday, November 16. (@borninjp)
  • "How to Help Your Child through Natural Learning" — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now offers tips on how to understand and nurture your child's natural learning style. (@DebChitwood)

Healthy Living

Parenting Philosophies

Political and Social Activism

25 comments:

Momma Jorje said...

So very beautifully put, Lauren. As always!

We plan to try to conceive a son next year. Part of me dreads arguing against circumcision, but a part of me knows that I don't need to cross that bridge until we actually get sex determination. If we get another girl, it will be a moot point.

But yes, I do plan to argue it, should the situation arise.

Luschka @Diary of a First Child said...

Lauren, this post is a shining example of why you are one of the women I look to as a mentor and an example when it comes to the raising of my child. I am not foolish enough to think your life/parenting is simple and peaceful all the time, but what you strive for in your home is precisely what I want in mine. I love this post. Thank you for being such an awesome example.

Meghan said...

Almost all of these links are broken. I get that some say the posts won't up until later this month, but even others are broken. I've noticed this in past Natural Parenting carnivals too. Could you please fix them?

Lauren @ Hobo Mama said...

Momma Jorje: I hope if the arguing happens that it goes better than you expect! Did you ever read Navelgazing's guest post? Fortunately, Sam was always on board, and it turned out the pediatrician at the hospital breathed a sigh of relief when we said we didn't want to circ.

Luschka: Oh, thank you! You've uplifted me with your comment. I definitely don't feel simple and peaceful a lot of the time, but it's good to know my goals at least are what I wish.

Meghan: Participants have until 9 a.m. Eastern to post their articles, and then we update the links by noon. It's just too early still on Nov. 9, so check back later if you can! :)

mrs green @ littlegreenblog said...

Gorgeous post - thank you so much for writing something so beautiful that resonates with my heart.

My daughter is now 9 and touch is still as important as ever. As you say, things move into a different level and at this age 'inappropriate' touching has to be taken into account too.

But I'm so blessed in that my daughter is still very huggy and loves a massage after a bath, she likes to be tickled or likes me to rub her feet. She says "Will there be a time when I'm too old for a cuddle" and of course, that answer is an emphatic 'No!'

the grumbles said...

beautiful. yes, this is it exactly. loving touch is so important in our lives. i think about when i've had a hard day and i go home and my husband holds my hand, or puts his arm around my shoulders, and the peace that it brings me. why would we not want that for our children?

and i LOVE that picture of you and Mikko, so sweet.

Olivia said...

This is a beautiful post! The amount of touch that is needed and required once you have a baby is amazing. I was single for about 9 years (a few dates, but nothing long term) when I met my husband. I remember thinking how wonderful it was that I could give/receive a good long hug whenever I wanted. And now with a child I get so many more hugs and kisses.

I'm laughing that the hospital made you carry Miko out in a convertible car seat! The hospital I birthed at didn't have that rule. I think someone checked our carseat in the car and we had to watch a video about proper installment.

Amyables said...

I never thought about touch in exactly that way before. This was a very interesting read. I am used to promoting babywearing and co-sleeping for the benefit that they provide for a nursing relationship and as something that an infant needs biologically - but I hadn't really thought about touch as being an element of life before. Though, in our lives, just like in yours, it is definitely ever-present.

Actually, as I type, my two-year old girl has made her way up into my lap and put her head in the crook of my arm. She doesn't mind that I'm doing one thing and she doing another . . . she just didn't want to read her book away from me in another room. She wanted to be in lap, in my arms. LOL

Dionna @ Code Name: Mama said...

I love how you've woven the concept of nurturing touch throughout the other aspects of natural/attachment parenting. Beautiful (and I'm sniffling over here)! It particularly hit home that the choice to use gentle discipline is continuing the concept of nurturing touch. Thank you for making that connection for me!

Erin said...

This brought tears to my eyes.

Touch is so important to everyone, at every age. I'm reflecting on how we don't touch one another enough as adults. It seems like our culture doesn't encourage it, in fact it is frowned upon and so seems strange. My husband and I used to hug more often, it's time to up the hugs.

Kat said...

I love the part where you were in the hospital and the nurses encouraged keeping Mikko close!

Beautiful post. Like Dionna, I really agree with the part of gentle discipline being the natural extension of nurturing touch during infancy. Just lovely!

MomAgain@40 said...

Such a sweet post!
Something as natural as touch, and we need to articulate it...
Thanks for sharing!

Melodie said...

What a beautiful post. I am happy that I too have fostered a loving physical touch bind with my kids. We love to hold hands and give hugs and kisses throughout the day and my little one still sleeps with me for half the night, nestled against my back. One day it will be over and I will miss it so much!

Lindsey Muth said...

Your post is, simply put, beautiful. Thank you for it.

Somehow with my own mom I've lost the comfort of touch and feel so distinctly UNcomfortable at the smallest caresses. And even though it's me who feels this way, it breaks my heart. I never want that for my relationship with my son - I want to hold him forever. You are so right about the thread that runs through every part of parenting. You cannot be peaceful, reassuring, and physically present in only some areas of parenting - it's a commitment to bringing that philosophy into every area of parenting. You obviously get that. I wish more people did. It is our goal with my son as well, to always be there, open, reassuring, both physically and emotionally so that he can be confident in his world.

Lovely, lovely post, mama.

-Lindsey

BluebirdMama said...

Very beautiful post Lauren!

My son is 5 and every morning we have "daily cuddles" for about 15 minutes, usually in bed. The day never goes very well when we forget and Rain will often realize this partway through the day: "we forgot daily cuddles!"

I've told him that I hope he'll still let me cuddle him when he's grown up like his dad!

Deb Chitwood said...

Lovely post! How wonderful you've given lots of nurturing touch from the beginning! I like the concept of love languages, and both my children's primary love language is physical touch. Even though I grew up in a loving but not physically affectionate family, it always felt natural to give my children the physical affection they needed. I love that it's taught as a concept now in natural parenting.
http://LivingMontessoriNow.com

Lisa C said...

I will say that staying physically close to my son during his infancy strengthened our bond probably more than anything else. We both needed this. I am certain this is why we have such a close and comfortable relationship with each other.

Kristin @ Intrepid Murmurings said...

Ah, I love this too! Gorgeous writing and thoughts, I love how touch threads through everything and also the connection between nurturing touch and gentle discipline.

And yeah, I'm laughing at the thought of you carrying that carseat through the hospital. Ha! Pretty ridiculous!

Michelle @ The Parent Vortex said...

Lovely post, Lauren. Every time I hear people talk about how important touch is, I think of those poor monkey babies in a psych experiment that got either a fake mama made of wire or a fake mama made of wire with a soft, fleecy covering. The monkey babies with the fleecy mama cuddled up to her and fared better.

Loving touch is a Need, like air and water and food. Thanks for pointing this out the nourishing touch in your life in such an eloquent way.

Stacy (Mama-Om) said...

I just can't get over those baby cheeks in that picture! You both look so beautiful, and cozy. :)

As my boys get older (now 7 and 4), they love when I draw "trees" on their backs (roots at the base of their spine, branches, leaves, fruit, fruit dropping to the ground, water coming roots, it can go on and on!). It's something we've done since they were little, and we all love it.

Thank you for hosting this carnival!

Blessings,
Stacy

Monica said...

beautiful.
i believe very much in the power of touch. not every child's nature will predispose them to copious amounts, so as long as we remain tuned into our individual little ones.
my own girl can't get enough.

Rachael @ The Variegated Life said...

Beautiful. I'm a little weepy now. And I have an ill little Critter on my lap, too. All he's wanted since we woke this morning is to be held and held and held. I don't want much else myself right now.

Amy said...

Beautiful, Lauren. Nurturing touch is such an integral part of parenting with love and presence. Kids need it, parents need it. We all appreciate the love inherent in gentle touch. Thank you :)

kari b. said...

The part about the nurses tisking and then helping you keep him in your bed is exactly how it was after my son's birth. I had an emergency c-section and initially they didn't even want me to have him in my room, but I promised to call for help when I needed it. When they came back after a 'feeding' to put him back in his bassinet he was fast asleep and I was NOT letting go! The nurse said no way but then pulled the sheet up over us and tucked me in tightish with baby on my chest and let us be. I was so thankful for that moment and the many, many, many moments afterward sleeping with my little man.
Thank you for sharing :)

Darcel @ The Mahogany Way said...

Gentle touch is so important. If we as parents are anything but gentle with our kids... they learn it is ok for someone to handle them any kind of way.

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