When I was pregnant with Abby, suddenly everyone around me became an expert on parenting, even if they didn’t have kids of their own. I took everything with a grain of salt, because I, like those other childless experts, already knew how I was going to raise my children. As an education major, I’d taken child development and other classes that, once I was done with them, left me with my own firm beliefs on the Right Way to parent.
Time in the church nursery helped me reach those opinions as well. I vividly remember one couple dropping off their nine-month-old for the first time and requesting that we page them immediately if she started crying. I assured them that we always call parents when we’re unable to soothe a baby, but that apparently wasn’t enough. They were of the belief that she’d only be calmed by being nursed, and that the attachment they were fostering with her would actually help her becoming more independent later on. I pitied these poor people. Once they were gone I rolled my eyes and almost hoped the baby would get fussy so I could prove them wrong.
Fast-forward to the birth of Abby. She was a dream–until she turned 4 months, at which point she stopped going back to sleep in her Arm’s Reach crib beside our bed after nighttime feedings and began to fight naps, too. With both of us exhausted, one night I finally just pulled her into bed beside me to see if she’d nurse to sleep. She did. Fearing that she’d wake if I moved her, I decided to let her stay next to me–just this once.
It worked. We both slept. The next night we fought the same battle, and again I pulled her into bed. Again we slept.
I was a little appalled. Babies were supposed to sleep in cribs. I told no one, save Dan, that she was sleeping with us, because I feared the criticism I was sure we’d get. But the longer we co-slept, the better we both slept, and I finally decided that maybe, on this one thing, I’d been wrong.
Dan and I started leaving her with my parents so we could go to Bible study. After a few nights we noticed she was always crying when we got back, or that she’d cried herself to sleep. You could tell because she’d do that little post-sob shuddery sigh every now and then. Mom assured me they played with her and held her the whole time, but she cried anyway. I knew I was supposed to chalk it up to her learning that she can’t always have mama when she wants her, and that he had to get used to being held by other people–but I couldn’t do it. We started taking her to Bible study with us.
I started to worry that I was becoming one of those awful permissive parents, the kind of mom who is wrapped so tightly around her child’s finger that she can’t break free for a half hour coffee date with a friend and has no hope of ever ridding her bed of the baby.
And then, when Abby was 9 months old, I found Gentle Christian Mothers.
GCM is an online community for, well, gentle Christian moms. Moms who raise their children through attachment parenting. Moms who discipline with firm boundaries and consequences, but never a spank or a smack. They nursed past 6 months, they co-slept, they wore their babies when they were fussy rather than leaving them to cry on their own. The relief I found was indescribable. I wasn’t the only one, and I wasn’t a bad mom.
Then PJ came along. We homebirthed with the only midwife we could find in Southern California who would take a mom whose previous birth had been a cesarean. We tried the Arm’s Reach crib again and, just like her sister, she loved it until she was 4 months old, and then joined us in our bed. I wore her, I nursed her whenever she wanted to, and when she cried, I didn’t hesitate to pick her up and show her that she could trust me to take care of her.
God has used Gentle Christian Mothers in more ways than I can recount to change me as a mom, as a wife, as a friend, and as a Christian. I shudder to think where I’d be without it. If you’re the kind of mom who can’t imagine leaving your baby to cry himself to sleep, or who wonders sometimes if you’re damaging your baby by not pushing solids sooner and acquiescing to her strong desire to simply nurse, or who cringes whenever you hear someone say that children have to be spanked or else they’re going to turn into holy terrors, I hope you’ll join me there.
I’ve been wanting to blog more about grace-based discipline and attachment parenting lately, and today’s post is going to kick us off for a few weeks on those topics. If you have any questions or issues you’d like to see me address, please feel free to contact me through the site or put them in the comments. Fair warning, however: this isn’t a forum for debate. Sincere questions and concerns will be addressed with complete seriousness, but don’t expect your comment to stay up long if you try to blast my parenting choices or try to steer readers to websites that promote spanking, baby scheduling, or other non-gentle practices. Feel free to write at length about those topics on your own blog.