“Over Importance” placed on Parenting Choices - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 18 Old 10-02-2003, 07:19 AM - Thread Starter
 
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So, I’ve been thinking about this for a long time. Please take it easy on me because this is my first “food for thought/discussion” type thread.

I’d like to start a dialogue on the “over importance” placed on parenting choices. I really don’t know if “over importance” is an accurate description for what I mean at but it’s the best I can do right this second. I’ve thought a lot about what I mean but not so much about how to say it. I’d like to describe what I’ve been thinking about.

The origins of what I want to discuss come from two places. 1st is from the mind set of a potential adoptive parent and the 2nd is from an adult with wonderful family & friends who have all been raised much differently from how I’m raising my child.

(Some also comes from a firm belief of mine that there are many correct choices when it comes to parenting choices and I feel that sometimes I'm looking for 'THE' right rather than 'A' right choice"

When I think of adopting a child, which was my definite plan – before I had my first child, I worry so much about the things that would not be in my control. You see, with the pregnancy, birth and early childhood of my daughter, I took/take so many things seriously. I worried about my emotional state during pregnancy, my diet, my drug history, my family history, I wanted a peaceful homebirth and etc. After the birth, I worried about bonding, breastfeeding, organic cotton clothing, cloth diapers and a whole host of things that I would not be in control of with an adopted child.

I’m wondering if any of you have thoughts on this from an adoptive (or potential) parenting perspective?

The other reason that I've been thinking about this is because I know many adults and children who are wonderful people that I would have been happy to have raised. Many…most of these people were raised much differently from how I would like to raise my child. My father is the best example of this because he was really raised and the typical 1950’s/shipped of to boarding school way yet he talks so highly of his childhood and is a successfully happy man.

Does anyone have any idea what I’m talking about? Could we have a dialogue about this? Perhaps someone could help me articulate what I’m thinking/feeling.

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#2 of 18 Old 10-02-2003, 07:55 AM
 
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Well, I think there are some aspects of parenting that are much more important than others. I believe Debra Baker said this in another thread: it's most important for children to know their parents love them.

Put another way: many researchers think that successful child-parent attachment is the key to later resilience.

Attachment parenting, as I understood it, is meant to intentionally promote attachment. But anyone whose parents or caregivers demonstrated an adequate closeness to them in infancy seems to come out attached, and therefore emotionally healthy. My dad is a model of caring and ethics, even though my grandmother kept him on a schedule, in a crib, only bf'ed one month, etc. (He's not an all-around paragon--sometimes he gets depressed and anxious--but he is a very kind and compassionate person.)

But since my grandma is still around so I can see how affectionate she is with my infant son. Hugging, kissing, eye contact, affectionate talking. These are key! The physical closeness that AP promotes seems to me like an insurance policy. It's love and loving care, however expressed, that make a person grow up loving and resilient.

Divorced mom of one awesome boy born 2-3-2003.
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#3 of 18 Old 10-02-2003, 08:48 AM
 
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I know exactly what you are talking about because I am an adoptive mom. And yes, if you are going to adopt, you have to let go of a lot of things that you might have once believed were terribly important. Especially if you decide to adopt an older child, a child in foster care, or a child through international adoption. Sometimes I have to shake my head when I read people's signatures here - you know how people list their AP "qualifications" - "home-birthed, water-birthed, conceived under a new moon, I rubbed herbs into my belly every day of my pregnancy, exclusively breastfed for 2 years...yada, yada, yada" : I realize that these things are important to people, but once you've made the decision to adopt you realize these things are not quite as important as you once thought, ya know? Attachment Parenting is about more than giving birth and breastfeeding!

If you really do plan to adopt, it's important to recognize what you have to let go of to do so. You have to mourn those losses, whether you are giving them up by choice or by necessity. And you might realize that some things are very important to you - such as breastfeeding - so that might shape your adoption choices. On the other hand, you might feel that the most important thing is to just find a child that you love, and to give a child a home. So maybe you'll find that it's not so hard to let go of your ideas about pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding and cloth diapers - and start preparing yourself for the challenge of parenting a child who needs AP more than most kids.
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#4 of 18 Old 10-02-2003, 09:39 AM
 
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I think that some things(choices to make) are more important than others. That being said I think there IS an overimportance placed on parenting choices, because if I do one slightly stupid thing as a parent it isn't going to damage Morgan for the rest of her life- she probably won't even know I did something different. I also don't think there is a "Right" way to do stuff, because every family and every situation is different!!!
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#5 of 18 Old 10-02-2003, 09:41 AM
 
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Hey Dragon--I saw at apc board that the december and january referrals are supposed to be coming together this month--I bet you're SO ready!

Adoptive mama here. I could second a lot of what is being said, but that's just boring, and takes up space! I will say that I think the parenting choices we make have to be the best ones for parent and little one from the first moment they have together, whether that starts at conception, at 6 weeks, (when we first met Elliott) or at closer to a year (when we think we'll meet our daughter from China). I had strong ideas about the need to AP, especially with this adopted baby who missed out on a great deal of this early on, but you know, Elliott had different plans. WHile I know now that I was practicing AP, we couldn't sling, cosleep, or BF. Elliott just couldn't stand the overwhelming closeness of the first two, and BFing wasn't possible. Still, we met him at his comfort level, provided reassurance and security, (and of course, abounding love) and our relationship really blossomed. Would I have made the same pre-natal decisions that his mama did? Nope, but you know, I wasn't there and I can't changethe choices she made. BUT, now that Elliott is with me, I can make choices I think best, and not compound earlier deficits by giiving him koolaid while he watches WWF, you know? (again, my values, i'm sure there are mamas here who find that koolaid and or the WWF have a place in their homes).

Make your plans Hannah, to be the kind of parent you want to be. It's the best place to start for any of us, but especially for adopted mamas who have a delayed first meeting with their treasured little one.
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#6 of 18 Old 10-02-2003, 11:13 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks everyone. I’m glad I got some dialogue going, especially from some adoptive parents. I guess this would also apply to parents who have found their preferred parenting path after already being a parent or to parents who for whatever reason were forced to parent differently than they wanted.

I would also love it this thread would touch on the idea that the things that so frequently divide us as parents (even some big ones) are perhaps not important enough to break the community of motherhood/parenthood.

You’re right, Dragon, I did start thinking of how this applied to adoption when I met a family who had adopted their first child when he was 7 years old. This boy, despite some challenging circumstances, is a great kid. I guess that’s what I’m getting at.

I should mention that I’m not fishing for a way out from my parenting choices. I’m not thinking that the choices I’ve made don’t make a difference, I’m just feeling that it’s more about a big/huge picture and I don’t want to be hung up on the little details.

Edited to add:

I just thought of something else that might be underlying my feelings, which is that I chose the parenting path that was easiest for ME. Honestly, I didn’t always just choose the path that I thought was best for my child. Luckily, what was best for me and what was best for my child was the same except for one time.
On second thought, this may be more than 6 degrees separated from my original thought but I’ve already typed it out so…

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#7 of 18 Old 10-02-2003, 11:30 AM
 
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I love this discussion HannahSims and I think you did a great job of expressing yourself. I think it is really great to have strong ideas about parenting and follow them but I think it is equally important to be flexible and accepting of others' choices. Things happen and we can't always do things the way we planned and it isn't worth beating ourselves up over it or thinking our children are ruined! For example, I work full time and my dd is 8 months old. I have been ebf and pumping non-stop since I came back to work. It has been so hard and despite my best efforts, I ran out of milk this week--freezer supply gone and I couldn't make up enough over the weekend and my dd had her first bottle of formula on Tuesday. At first I was very depressed--I had failed. I got over it really quick for a number of reasons: I am doing my best and there are a number of wonderful, healthy people out there that had formula!

Adopting children is so important--important doesn't even come close to describing it. To give a child a loving home is an amazing gift. If those children didn't have the start in life you would have given them (which we can guess that most of them have not), it is all the more reason to take them in and love them! Love and respect, from before birth or after birth, is what matters most.

Good luck and thanks for starting this discussion.

Mama to two wonderful daughers: 02/03/03 and 10/19/05
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#8 of 18 Old 10-02-2003, 12:27 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Hey, Haper

I’m glad you get where I’m coming from. I didn’t want to bring up formula from the beginning because of the complexity of the politics involved with formula feeding but it definitely is something I was thinking of when I started this thread.

BTW, my daughter’s first (and only) formula bottle when she was a day old because I lost control of the hospital situation after an emergency transfer from my planned homebirth. I was really upset the situation until I snapped out of it and realized that there are simply more important things.

Talking about formula feeding is getting me nervous, though. It’s such a mixed up issue because of our culture. I’m really scared to be the one to say, hey…formula…what’s the biggie, KWIM? I don’t think, “What’s the biggie” because I think the politics are huge issues BUT…I think I’ll have a coffee before I say more…any help?

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#9 of 18 Old 10-02-2003, 12:42 PM
 
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Great thread, Hannah!

I think where people get hung up on individual parenting decisions is not recognizing that the emotional health and well-being of your child is not dependent on each thing individually, but as it all adds up.

I can eat French fries once in a while, have a cigarette once in a while, drink a beer once in a while...at one end of the spectrum these actvities are harmless, but there does come a point where they start to add up based both on the number of adverse activities and the frequency at which they occur. I believe parenting interactions follow the same behaviour.

I think a child's ability to grow up with their person intact, with dignity and self-respect, depends on the frequency and type of both negative and positive interactions, and the balance between them. At one end of the spectrum, the attachment is broken and the parent/child relationship suffers, as does the child. On the other end of the spectrum, the attachment is nurtured and the child is allowed to flourish. How we find our own place on that spectrum is up to individual families. While I strongly believe that babywearing, cosleeping, breastfeeding, gentle discipline, etc. are going to greatly up the odds in my favour, one can certainly achieve success without having to do ALL those things, by making up for it with other positive, attachment-fostering behaviours. Thus each family finds their balance.

Finally, I would like to say that I think advocacy for certain parenting practices is a Good Thing, because SOCIETY as a whole benefits greatly, even if the effect on an individual child is not significant. So while not everybody can BF, I think it's important that we all advocate BFing for society. Same with cosleeping and other aspects of AP: not everybody can or does, but I still believe that we should act as advocates for it, because on a societal level I believe the positive benefits ARE significant. I think that's where we fall into trouble on this board: when one advocates a certain parenting practice, those individuals who don't practice it feel attacked/unwelcome/criticized when really, it's not about picking apart individual parents and their choices, it's more about educating and advocating for the greater good of society as a whole. I hope that makes sense!

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#10 of 18 Old 10-02-2003, 12:51 PM
 
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Hannah, caught your last post while I was posting.

The topic of formula falls into what I said above. As an individual parent, the risks of your baby having formula vs breastmilk are not something worth feeling guilt and dread over, kwim? But on a societal level, the risk and the statistics become quite important. The overall cost to society of a majority of FF babies is clear. Thus we should all be advocates for breastfeeding. But that doesn't mean that a mother who has to supplement or use all formula should feel either scared to death for their child, or that they are "bad parents".

There's nothing wrong with saying "your FF baby will be okay". But there is something wrong with using that as a justification to dismiss the importance of BFing and the need for strong advocacy.

It is my hope that one day, when breastfeeding is accessable to every woman and when it becomes the de-facto standard for infant feeding, that those who must use formula will finally get the support and love they deserve for doing the best they could in their circumstances, rather than the judgment and criticism that comes with assuming "you deliberately chose not to BF".

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#11 of 18 Old 10-02-2003, 01:07 PM
 
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I wanted to chime in too--because I did sort of go by the AP handbook when it came to my first 2 kids, but we adopted our 3rd child when she was just about 1 year old.

It is from this dichotomy in parenting experience that I grew to have a broader understanding about the importance and subsequent non-importance of certain parenting choices that I previously considered non-negotiable.

I think this is one case where "life teaches us lessons", as opposed to us always being in the driver's seat trying to control everything. Our daughter was in an orphanage for the first year of her life--that is about as un- AP as you can get, yet she is just as bonded to me as my other 2 kids...and people often remark to me how confident and happy she is. She IS a happy camper in every sense of the word!

I also learned some things after having my first 2 kids. I learned with my second child I *could* have an epidural and actually have a better birth than my first, with a easy pushing stage and wonderful health for me and my baby. I learned that despite I was told by lactation experts that I could not supplement my low supply of breast milk with formula and still breast feed successfully--I did it very temporarily for each of my first 2 kids and went on to breast feed them both for 2 and 3 years respectively. So there were paths that I thought I *had* to follow to be a successful AP parent--and I have learned that learning my own lessons in life and making my own path is more important.

Overall I am still a very AP styled parent, and proud of that. But it is the "finding my own style" and confidence to make my own choices based on my children's individual needs to be my much bigger accomplishment.

When I opened the home page of Mothering and read Peggy O'Mara talking about her new book Having a Baby, Naturally, stating "Birth is a peak experience that deeply transforms a woman's life"....I thought---

"Okay, yes, it *can* be a peak experience---unless it is not and other experiences of equal importance take place." I did not give birth to Emma, but the experience of adopting her has been just as "peak" in terms on the impact it has on my life than birthing her myself. In fact, the fact that I did not birth her makes not one iota of difference. My 2 births of my first 2 kids did not transform my life. Being a mom and living my days dedicating myself to my children is what has changed my life. Making the decision to adopt Emma and loving her every day beyond belief is what changed my life.

So I agree with you, Hannah--I think that sometimes the importance of certain aspects of parenting are placed on "milestones" or the correct style parent rather than the nitty gritty day to day love and care that are required for caring for our kids.

Hugs,
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#12 of 18 Old 10-02-2003, 03:00 PM
 
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Interesting thread!

I recently saw "The Sacred Balance" on PBS, which included a segment about children from Romanian orphanages adopted into the U.S. There was footage of these babies and toddlers in the orphanages, sitting in row upon row of cribs, each alone and with no toys or anything. They all had the same heartbreakingly vacant look in their faces--like people who've been waiting at a bus stop for hours in the cold and have realized the bus is not coming but don't have anywhere else to go. Then they showed the kids after they'd been in their adoptive homes for a couple of years. They were thriving! One mother who was interviewed said that when her daughter first came to them at 22 months (not walking or talking at all), it was very clear that her only concern was getting fed and cleaned and kept warm, but after a short time, "then WE became important. She saw that we weren't going away, that the same people were going to stay with her and enjoy being with her." and she began to respond with love. It was SO wonderful seeing how this little girl had blossomed!

That, like many other stories about adoption, is evidence that a child can recover from less-than-perfect nurturing in her early life. That doesn't mean there's no point in trying to raise our children the best way we can from the earliest possible stage--it just means that if we do make mistakes, the consequences are not necessarily dire. Young children are very resilient, and older children are less vulnerable, and the effects of some things can be overcome entirely. Other things, while they may have a permanent effect that is in some way negative, don't have to ruin a person's life; nobody is perfect, and our weaknesses may lead us to develop strengths in other areas.

For example, I was thinking just last night that my parents "should have" taught me to jump rope when I was little and/or made an effort, after I discovered that I was very poor at jumping rope, to encourage me to practice and improve. I have a skeletal deformity of the hip joint (first detected when I was 5) that makes it difficult for me to jump with both feet, but I did manage to learn when I was about 14 and had finally gotten enough practice at it. Jumping rope is important socially for girls. Because I "couldn't" do it (and, due to the unfortunate coincidence of being poorly coordinated and slow to learn physical techniques in general, also "couldn't" play those handclapping games or anything with a ball) I was excluded from much of the social activity at recess. My parents' failure to help me develop jumproping and other physical skills had a profound impact on my physical and social development.

Okay, but: Because I was excluded from the other girls' activities, I spent most of my recess time wandering around observing the other kids (both sexes) and learning a lot about them. Watching social interaction as an outsider made it easier for me to see the larger patterns of how people think, behave, and interact. I also gleaned a lot of inside information about people's opinions and plans, because they tended to treat me as invisible and not realize I was listening! Something my parents DID encourage was my anthropological theorizing about my peers, which we discussed over family dinners. I grew up to become a sociodevelopmental psychologist. Had I been better at jumping rope, I might've had more fun and been less lonely in elementary school, but I would've missed this opportunity to hone my observational skills and my imagination--when I got bored with just observing, I'd think about how what I was seeing would be different if we lived in Japan, or 100 years ago, or on Mars....

Many of my friends from college also were "unpopular" as kids, for various reasons. Most of us can think of things our parents could have done differently to enable us to function better in the school environment. But every one of those things comes with trade-offs, and the one they all have in common is this: While we might have been "happier" as kids, we would have missed out on the inner strength, the willingness to accept nonconformity, and the motivation to hone individual skills that come from being an outsider.

I do believe that there are experiences one can have in early childhood which, especially if prolonged, CAN ruin a life. Few of them will ruin everyone, because individuals vary in their ability to rebound from various types of harm. But it is possible for the wrong combination of innate temperament and early experiences to produce a psychopath. Fortunately, it doesn't happen very often. Most parenting choices are not 100% good or 100% bad.

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#13 of 18 Old 10-02-2003, 04:46 PM
 
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Becca,
What a great perspective! Thank you for your post.

You are right--many times it is finding that right balance. I LOVED nursing my first 2 kids--and it was one of the most significant things I ever chose to do...for me and for them. So I had to try to reformulate (ha! how's that for a pun) my M.O. as a mom when we adopted Emma...which up to that point had been whipping out the boobie for sickness, boo-boos and just all around closeness with my first 2 kids. Emma also hated co-sleeping, which had been another one of my big mothering tricks with my first two--so I found that I really had to grow a person and find alternative ways to connect with her. We did not have the pregnancy/birth/nursling phases with Emma--and it was an all new way for me to learn to bond with her.

I think the important part is that bulk of what we do for our kids is loving, respectful and kind towards them--loving them into good grown people. Obviously all of that IS undeniably important.
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#14 of 18 Old 10-02-2003, 09:00 PM
 
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hi. i am lurking here. crying happily about all these adopted kids. i am passionate about ap, but also, as someone who has done lots of volunteer work with kids who need adoptive and foster families, i feel like hey, whatever works for everyone is super. you guys rock. piglet, your posts were fabulously stated.
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#15 of 18 Old 10-03-2003, 04:18 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Quote:
Originally posted by Piglet68
Hannah, caught your last post while I was posting.

The topic of formula falls into what I said above. As an individual parent, the risks of your baby having formula vs breastmilk are not something worth feeling guilt and dread over, kwim? But on a societal level, the risk and the statistics become quite important. The overall cost to society of a majority of FF babies is clear. Thus we should all be advocates for breastfeeding. But that doesn't mean that a mother who has to supplement or use all formula should feel either scared to death for their child, or that they are "bad parents".

There's nothing wrong with saying "your FF baby will be okay". But there is something wrong with using that as a justification to dismiss the importance of BFing and the need for strong advocacy.

It is my hope that one day, when breastfeeding is accessable to every woman and when it becomes the de-facto standard for infant feeding, that those who must use formula will finally get the support and love they deserve for doing the best they could in their circumstances, rather than the judgment and criticism that comes with assuming "you deliberately chose not to BF".
How do you do that clapping thing because, BRAVO, Piglet! Thank you for putting into words exactly what I was thinking about concerning the breastfeeding/formula feeding issue. I think you are so right in saying that once we over come the corruption of the politics with formula than, YES!!!!! It will be so much easier for everyone to embrace formula for the great good that it serves as an option when breast milk is not.

This is also how I feel about all the interventions during birth. Most medical interventions are necessary tools when a “normal” birth is not an option. I yearn for the day that we can be thankful for the availability of c-sections, for instance, as a wonderful knowledge and possibility when medical need presents it’s self.

When you all have mentioned “LOVE” and how important love is in the parent and child relationship, I have been inclined to include one more absolute in my list of “non-negotiable” parenting issues and that is enjoyment. I don’t have to try to love my child and I’m lucky that I don’t really have to try hard to “AP”. But, I do have to make joy a priority and I have to focus on enjoying being a parent, sometimes daily. Because this is a priority for me, I have to let go of some things that I feel are less important. I guess that, for me, enjoyment goes hand in hand with letting go of the “little” things, giving myself and my mother community a break, and relaxing into being a mother.

Thank you all for helping me think about this, for helping me put it into words and understanding along the way.

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#16 of 18 Old 10-03-2003, 07:26 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally posted by HannahSims
...I have been inclined to include one more absolute in my list of “non-negotiable” parenting issues and that is enjoyment. I don’t have to try to love my child...But, I do have to make joy a priority...
Very good point. I was thinking while reading all these posts that while love is important, I don't think it is enough. Most mothers, if not all, love their children. Biology pretty much sees to that. Even abusive parents can truly love their kids, albeit in a dysfunctional way.

I couldn't put my finger on what the extra bitt was. I agree with you that it must be "joy".

(now, where do you and I sign up for our mutual admiration society? :LOL)

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#17 of 18 Old 10-05-2003, 06:17 AM - Thread Starter
 
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mutual admiration society?[/B]

Yea, I'm in...anybody else...

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#18 of 18 Old 10-06-2003, 12:38 AM
 
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This is a wonderful thread! I don't have too much to add, but as an adoptive mama, I can really relate to a lot of the thoughts that have been expressed. In some ways, I think it is good to be forced to have a few "failures",(for lack of a better word)--it keeps you humble and gives you a better perspective. It always helps me to remember that there is *no* parent on the face of this earth who can give their child *everything*--life makes sure of that. There is no such thing as the perfect parenting experience. I've been grateful to experience some loss of control because it's helped me to remember that no one really has complete control--if they think they do it's only an illusion. Of course, it's still good to have ideals and strive for them, but I think it's important to have flexibility too.

We ended up having a pretty ideal adoption situation as far as AP was concerned. We received a 2-day-old baby boy who had been nursed in the hospital by his birthmother, who took to co-sleeping instantly. The sling took awhile longer, but now he loves it. Adoptive nursing didn't go as I'd hoped, but I was able to do it for about 4 months, which I'll always treasure. There have been times when I've stressed over some of the "lacks" and their impact on him, like wondering if ff was causing his ear infections. But I've learned not to dwell on those things. That's the reality of our life, and we just deal with what comes up. Every parent has to do that, and just because someone can give their child breastmilk doesn't mean that they won't someday be faced with a less than ideal situation regarding some other very important aspect of their child's well-being.

I do think that when adopting, it is important to sort out what's really important to you that you don't feel you can compromise. If you truly feel you can't go without the traditional AP things, then I'd seek to adopt an infant, realizing that even then there are no guarantees, but that's also true of bio children.
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