Forgive me for being a bit obvious here: Natural Parenting came pretty naturally to us. When I look at the list of principles that make up the natural parenting philosophy, I identify with so many of them that it’s hard for me to think of just one that might resonate more than another. I can’t even really pinpoint how or when I came to incorporate them into my life. Sometimes I end up in a situation (like the sign-in sheet at La Leche League meetings) when I am asked where I first heard of La Leche League or co-sleeping, or when did I first become interested in homeschooling or midwifery, or when did I decide to breastfeed and to leave my son intact, and I just can’t say. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t know about those things, yet the truth is that somewhere in my twenties I must have started absorbing the Natural Parenting principles from somewhere, little by little. I have a feeling that the process was very organic, each of these ideas meshing with some part of who I was already. There were no epiphanies; just a feeling that “hey, this makes sense—how could I do it any other way?”
If I had to say what opened the door for natural parenting in my life, I’d have to start at the beginning, and for me, that is homebirth.
I was born at home and thus, all my life I’ve understood homebirth as a legitimate option. In grade school, I was more interested in the fact that I could wow my classmates as the only one not born in a hospital. I didn’t give much thought to the significance in terms of birth options or maternity care reform, but subconsciously I must have realised that I was proof that hospitals were NOT a vital part of the process of birthing a baby.
In University I took a class on the Psychology of Health where one section looked at maternity care around the world. I was instantly enraptured by the system in the Netherlands. In the Dutch system, prenatal care is delivered by midwives and general practitioners, unless the patient is deemed high risk and transferred to the care of an obstetrician. Thirty percent of Dutch births take place at home and every new mother receives free daily in-home post-natal care visits by a nurse who helps with chores and gives assistance establishing breastfeeding. Sitting in this class in my early 20’s I knew that I would be seeking midwifery care for my own pregnancies.
Midwifery care was attractive to me in the beginning primarily because the midwifery model of care is so strikingly different than the medical model. For a really in depth explanation, I highly recommend Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Childbirth, but in a nutshell, the midwifery model of care views pregnancy and childbirth as normal, natural parts of life. The midwifery model believes that birth unfolds best when left alone and that the fewer the interventions the better. Even though I’d never been pregnant before that rang true for me; I didn’t believe that pregnancy was a disability or that birth was an emergency waiting to happen. I guess what it came down to is that midwifery validated what I’d known deep down my whole life—that birth is a safe and normal part of life.
Nevertheless, when I was pregnant with my first my attitude toward homebirth was “we’ll see.” I thought we’d explore it, talk it over with the midwives but that it was more likely we’d have a homebirth with our second baby. I thought back to my mom saying that one of the reasons she had me at home was because she’d already given birth twice before. She talked about it like it was no big deal, but there was always the underlying explanation that she had experience. And me? In my first pregnancy? Of course, no experience.
Over and above the fact that many studies have been done recently that verify the safety of homebirth, a few things helped convince me to have my first baby at home. The first was that in my family it was treated like a normal and acceptable choice. I had support for my decision and it was something I’d known about my whole life. Aaron was also on board as soon as we started talking about it, partly because he generally believes that the natural world knows what it’s doing and that when humans get involved we often mess things up. The second factor was the trust I had in my midwives. When I told them that I thought maybe a homebirth the second time around, they were able to put whatever nebulous fears I had to rest. I remember quite clearly when I asked when I would need to make a decision about homebirth and one of them answered with a cheeky smile, “around 8 cm.”
And so we had a homebirth. And then we had another. And we are now planning our third and final homebirth. We are doing this because it makes sense to us. It feels natural and instinctual and rings true to who we are as people. Homebirth is an important aspect of our life as parents but I couldn’t say it was the most important of the Natural Parenting principles. It is only the first of the Natural Parenting principles that we were exposed to. Next came keeping our son intact, breastfeeding, cloth diapering, co-sleeping, responding to our babies’ cries, eating home cooked local food as much as possible and now, homeschooling and making valiant efforts at gentle discipline. Each of these things is as important to us as the next and we discovered each in much the same way as we did our love of birthing at home. We picked up a little here and a little there and each one spoke to who we were and how we want to live our lives as people, not just as parents, so that in the end, we just did what came naturally.
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!
Stop 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!
We’ve arranged it this month according to the categories of our NPN resource pages on “What Is Natural Parenting?”
Attachment/responsive parenting is generally considered to include the following (descriptions/lists are not exhaustive; please follow each link to learn more):