Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Attached Parenting/ Exterior Gestation

Clearly, at this point and for the next six-ish months I am 100% attached to this baby, and this baby to me. I rely on him/her to make me feel nauseous, to crave something that just makes me puke, to bring me really weird dreams (like the CPS lady showing up asking me where my baby is and upon telling her baby is still growing inside me, I get 'taken in' for losing my baby...) and to make me constantly touch my lower belly, dreaming of our future, of our family, of the amazing love I already feel and how it is growing exponentially daily. Baby, on the other hand clearly relies on me for safety, nourishment, temperature regulation, and plenty of other life-giving stuff. It is obvious that both of us are significantly impacting each others lives. We rely on each other. We are basically one.

Unfortunately for many, many babies, this whole attachment parenting ends when it is no longer obvious that mom and baby are attached, namely, when baby is born. Nursing babies tend to stay more closely attached, strictly due to the round the clock body sucking they need. Our baby, however, will maintain attached to me. Yes I am planning on breast feeding, and no I am not planning on keeping this little sea monkey in me longer than the 9 months. But I have been doing research (really, Kristin researching? Thats odd. Not.) that shows the immense benefits of attached parenting and something that was entirely new to me called Exterior Gestation, or exterogestation. (Apparently this is new to blogspot, too, as it is telling me its spelled wrong...)

The whole idea that the closeness ends after birth is something us crazy westerners and Anglo-speaking people came up with. Around the world babies are constantly attached to their parents until they are completely mobile. We're talking baby wearing here, folks. Around here, though, we have all these nifty products that are made with the express purpose of ease, and keeping baby occupied and out of the way so mommy and daddy can get stuff done sans baby. But the research that has been done on babies that are constantly in physical contact with their parents is pretty amazing.

Here is the deal. Human infants are born more immature, mentally and physically, than any other mammal. Most mammals are already mobile (we're talking walking or crawling) within a few hours after birth. Not so much with the human infant. Something interesting, though? The average number of days a baby is born from the day of conception is 266 1/2. The average number of days it takes for a baby to crawl (like really, actually crawl) from birth? 266 1/2. Therefore, if a human were the typical mammal, our gestation period would actually be about 18 months. This also falls in line with the fact that most mammals are born with 50% of their adult brain, whereas humans are born with 25%. And how long do you think it takes for humans to be at 50% of their adult brain? Thats right. 9 months after birth.

But because we are superior (I'm not being all GO HUMAN! here, just stating the facts) than these other mammals, it has proven to be extremely beneficial to be born so immature. "The infant is not a passive creature who is shaped by his environment, but is constantly exploring, trying to learn, and bring the environment under his control." (Karen, Ph.D, R.) Long story short, humans shape their environment, more so than the environment shapes them. The critical first nine months after birth, when the baby is still extremely immature and developmentally incomplete, are vital to the baby's development. Think how much more the baby learns while his brain is growing faster than it ever will again, being outside of the womb with all of the sights and sounds and smells and tastes of the world around him.

We are one of the few societies that isn't constantly attached to our babies. We are breast feeding less and less, working more and more, and plenty of us consider picking up a crying baby spoiling it. (Post on this for another day. I'm sure your retinas are already bleeding.) The fact of the matter is, throughout most of history, if we took care of babies as we do today, bottle feeding, leaving them for work, sleeping in different rooms, etc, we would not have survived as a species.

"Nature intended for babies to be with their mothers, especially at a time when their brains will grow more than any other time in their lives. Babies could not have been born developmentally incomplete and left alone most of the day or separated from their mothers if we were to survive as a species. No matter however numerous its advantages, however, retardation of growth rates and birth at an earlier state of gestation could never have occurred had there not been compensating care taking behavior on the part of the mother."

So what does this mean for us as a family? It means we'll be sleeping together for awhile. It means I'll be staying home as a mommy. It means I will do everything in my power to breastfeed, and will go into thinking and KNOWING I can do it. It means this little love duck (love duck? Really, where do I come up with these names?) of ours will be attached to me. A lot. Thanks to this:

Enter: The Sleepy Wrap. Weird name, but from all of my research, this is one of the best wraps out there, and wraps are one of the best carriers out there. Once the little tyke gets to be about a year, we'll switch to a Mei Tai of the BabyHawk Brand.

So there you have it. Part of our plan to be the best parents we can be. Part of the whole 'best parents we can be' thing, though, is knowing that every child is different. That plans can change, that life can throw curve balls and that things may not end up exactly like we'd like them to. But this is what we feel will best suit our family and our baby and so this is what we're aiming for. And we'll try are darnedest to make it work.