Undoing: Attachment Parenting an Unattached Toddler

Attachment Parenting

By Lindsay Karns

I spent the majority of the pregnancy with my first child in a state of complete stress.  I went the OB/hospital route, and I viewed everything that my doctor said as the Written Word.    It was at the height of the H1N1 outbreak, and I agreed and received the vaccine.  I didn’t know.  I had every test and genetic screening performed.  I ended up with a positive screen for Down’s Syndrome.  I didn’t know.  I feared the pain of labor and birth and decided when I first discovered I was pregnant that I would be getting an epidural.  I didn’t know.  I trusted a male surgeon to deliver my child more than I trusted my own body which grew and nourished her.  My own body which was designed to give birth.  I didn’t know. 

My daughter was vaginally born, medicated, at 36 weeks and 6 days.  A healthy 7 lbs of pink perfectness.  Since she was one day shy of the hospital’s magic 37 week mark, NICU was present during the birth.  When my sweet angel was pulled from me by a resident doctor, she was  handed off immediately to the NICU nurse to be examined.  I couldn’t see her face.  I wanted to feel her on my skin … to put her to my breast.  I wanted to count her fingers and her toes.  I knew she was healthy.  I knew she was OK.  And she was.  But those first moments, those first vital, monumental moments were stolen from me.  I didn’t know.

From day one I was determined to make her a good sleeper.  I devoured Babywise and The Baby Whisperer and sleep trained my new baby … because, a baby who sleeps through the night is a sign of good parenting, or so I believed.  I watched the clock, lived by the clock.  The clock told me when she was hungry.  The clock told me when she was sleepy, and when she could wake.  Not my child.  I shoveled baby food in her mouth at 4 months old, and meticulously calculated how many ounces of each fruit and vegetable she was getting a day.  I didn’t know.

She was worn a few times in a stretchy wrap, but was mostly set in her swing or buzzy chair.  She never shared a bed with us.  She slept on her own, in a room all by herself.  I didn’t know.

She is 2 months shy of 3 years old now.  She has been power tripped and shamed, scolded and screamed at, spanked and punished.  Over food, over sleep, over tantrums, and over me believing my child needed a “healthy fear” of me.  She has been pushed to reach milestones and pushed to try things she isn’t ready for.   I wanted to be a good parent so desperately, that I controlled every aspect of my sweet daughter.  To try and fit her into some mold that I deemed “well-behaved” or “advanced”.  I didn’t know.

I was trying to look like a good mother to the rest of the world, instead of being a good mother to my child.  I know better now; and when you know better, you do better.

I am undoing my mistakes, every day.  I am building her trust, every day.  I am finding ways to attach us now, even though we were anything but attached during her first year of life.  I listen to her, actually listen.  I don’t punish, or scold.  I say “yes” more.  I say “yes” much, much more than I ever say “no”.  I respect her as an individual, with her own ideas, her own feelings, and her own desires.  When she cries, I hold her, and tell her it’s OK to feel sad sometimes.  When she is angry, I hold her, and tell her it’s OK to feel angry sometimes.  I am done with the manipulation and power struggles.  I am building confidence inside her with every hug, every kiss, every word of praise I give her.  I am teaching her that all that she is, everything that is inside that body of hers is loved, accepted, and perfect.

And my daughter?  She is teaching me forgiveness.  She is teaching me unconditional love.  For all the mistakes I have made, all the mistakes I continue to make, and all the mistakes I will make in the future … she looks at me, at the core of me, and forgives me … wholly.

I gave birth to her sister at home 9 months ago, and we know better this time around.  We practice attachment and peaceful parenting in our home, and to be honest, it has saved our relationship with our first child.  All is not lost.  I see her transforming.  I see her opening up.  I see her happier.  I can’t take back her first year of life.  I can’t do it over.  But I can say, “I am sorry.”  I can do better.  I can move forward, pick up the pieces, and heal with my child.  We are healing … And the joy that is exuding from my daughter tells me that I am a good mother.

Photo Credit:  Shutterstock

About Lindsay Karns

Lindsay Karns is a work-at-home mother to two daughters, Lula and Olive. She is a writer, massage therapist, wine and food lover, activist, and passionate about all things attachment parenting. Author of This Woman’s Work, she started her blog when she found out she was pregnant with her 2nd child, and wanted to chronicle her journey through her natural pregnancy and home birth. Over time, it has evolved into much, much more.

Lindsay runs Traditions Wellness Center with her mother, where she practices massage therapy.

When Lindsay isn’t busy writing or treating her clients, you will find her stuffing cloth diapers, cleaning up after Hurricane Toddler, and trying out new vegan recipes.