Natural parenting erases women’s needs

Eraser deleting the word Selfie

There’s a new kind of confessional essay making the rounds: “natural parenting destroyed me.”

Often it focuses on breastfeeding — how trying to maintain exclusive breastfeeding in the absence of adequate breastmilk make me and my baby crazy — but sometimes it concentrates on childbirth or attachment parenting.

Rachel Meyer hits all three in her essay A zen yoga teacher gets real about postpartum depression. Sadly she doesn’t get real at all about her postpartum depression, what might have caused it and what might have relieved it. Meyer became depressed that her personhood was erased by parenting without any insight into the fact that the type of parenting she chose is designed to erase women.

The three ideologies that sail under the natural parenting flag were created explicitly as anti-feminist projects designed to force women back into the home.

Meyer’s descriptions are searing.

On childbirth:

Labor was awful. Quick, brutal. The contractions rolled relentlessly, one after another, my body dehydrated from the vomiting.

I thought of my farmer grandmothers on the Nebraska prairie, popping out babies and heading back out to weed the rhubarb. I thought of my mother laboring in a Minneapolis blizzard, 35 years ago to the day. I thought of the magnolia tree blooming in our front yard, certain my pelvis would fracture.

On breastfeeding:

The first few months descended into a weary haze. My world had turned upside-down. Duke was sleepless, always-hungry, colicky, wanting only to be in my arms. I sat in a rocker and nursed for 20 hours a day, my shoulders and neck aching, head spinning, nipples cracked.

I couldn’t lay him down. I couldn’t take a walk. I couldn’t escape to the living room for 10 minutes to get back into the asana practice I’d missed so much during my pregnancy…

I pumped in the parking lot between classes. Nursing had taken over my life. Mantra-like, in time with the whirr-suck of the pump, I repeated to myself: Joan Didion did this. Ruth Bader Ginsburg did this. Hillary Clinton did this. They managed to salvage their intellects, their ambitions. Surely I can, too.

Attachment parenting:

That first year, Duke only slept well when he was connected. Curled up on my lap, sprawled on Robb’s chest, tucked in under my elbow. He’d reach his big Paul Bunyan paw out and land it square on my sternum, grabbing a chunk of my shirt in his little fist, burrowing his head into my armpit. It was like he sensed, he knew, somehow, that he needed to stay extra close to me, to remind me, to breathe into me, that truth of relationality.

The result?

Desolate with postpartum depression, I drained my breasts, slathered on nipple butter, nursed-finger-fed-pumped in an insomniac cycle and dreamt of getting on a plane to Paris and never coming back…

No wonder every mother is bitter and resentful, I thought. My life is over. Everything I loved is gone. Every moment, every breath, lost to this barely-sleeping, always-hungry little boy.

But every mother is not bitter and resentful. Meyer doesn’t seem to realize that it was natural mothering that destroyed her, not mothering itself.

What is natural mothering (more commonly called natural parenting though its burdens fall nearly exclusively on women)? It is a package of ideologies — natural childbirth, lactivism, and attachment parenting — that are thought to both recapitulate mothering in nature and be better for babies. Neither is true. Indeed all three ideologies that sail under the natural parenting flag were created explicitly as anti-feminist projects designed to force women back into the home.

Natural childbirth was promulgated by Grantly Dick-Read, an obstetrician and eugenicist who was pre-occupied with fears of white race suicide. Dick-Read worried that developed nations would be overrun by children of the lower classes. In his view, the problem was that white women of the “better” classes had become “over-civilized” through too much education and their clamoring for political and legal rights. Pain in childbirth was their punishment.

Dick-Read taught that “primitive” (read black) women had painless labors because they understood that their primary purpose in life was to reproduce and that white women, through their education and activism, had been socialized to fear labor leading to the “fear-tension-pain cycle” that he conjured from thin air.

La Leche League, the prime mover within the breastfeeding industry, was founded by a group of devout Catholic women who were deeply concerned that women with small children were working outside the home. They reasoned that Mary, mother of Jesus, would never have worked and that promoting breastfeeding would lead women to emulate Mary and to give up their jobs.

Attachment parenting also reflects religious beliefs, in this case the beliefs of its great popularizers, Bill and Martha Sears. In one of their first books, The Christian Guide to Parenting and Childcare, they confided that the ideology of attachment parenting had been transmitted to them by God as his plan for ordering the family with the husband as head and the wife subservient and concerned exclusively with raising the children.

All three philosophies share one thing in common: the belief that the needs of women are irrelevant, rendered invisible by the purported needs of babies. How ironic then that Meyer, a proud feminist, unwittingly embraced a parenting ideology that is deliberately retrograde and sexist. It’s hardly surprising then that in embracing natural parenting, Meyer lost herself.

It didn’t have to be that way.

Mayer did not have to endure childbirth in agony and dehydrated. Based on her description, Meyer chose unmedicated childbirth [edited: not homebirth as I wrongly surmised], deliberately depriving herself of access to an epidural. No doubt she chose homebirth because she thought it was both better for her baby and what her ancient (and not so ancient) foremothers would have chosen for themselves.

Yet homebirth has no benefits for babies, only an increased risk of death and disability. Meyer’s foremothers endured excruciating labors not as a choice but because they had NO choice. Meyer’s shattering suffering began with an ordeal prescribed by a philosophy that considers women’s agony (though not men’s) irrelevant or even ennobling.

Meyer lost herself in exclusive and endless breastfeeding. Why? Although breastfeeding has benefits, in countries with clean water those benefits are very small. But Meyer was apparently captured by lactivism a philosophy that has no qualms about lying to women over and over again. Lactivism teaches that all women can make enough breastmilk to satisfy a growing baby, but it is a medical fact that 5-15% of women (or more) won’t make enough milk and their babies will starve and suffer. Perhaps Meyer’s baby couldn’t sleep because he was hungry, but no doubt she had been told that even one bottle of formula would have a harmful effect on her baby (another lie).

Had Meyer supplemented with formula she could have gotten more sleep; she might have been able to put her baby down instead of keeping him attached to her awake and asleep; she could have had some time to meet her own needs. Sleep deprivation in particular is known to be a risk factor for postpartum depression. No matter, in lactivism and attachment parenting, women’s needs, including their need for sleep are entirely irrelevant.

Meyer suffered when she didn’t need to suffer. She was encouraged to erase her own needs and identity in order to do what was “best” for her baby, but there’s no evidence that babies benefit from natural parenting. Everything we know about childbirth tells us that making women comfortable in labor is NOT harmful to babies. Everything we know about infant nutrition tells us that infant formula is an excellent source of nutrition and that babies who are exclusively breastfed have no advantages over those who are supplemented. Everything we know about infant attachment tells us that babies attach spontaneously to anyone who meets their needs, no physical attachment necessary.

It’s time for us to PUSH BACK against the ideology of natural parenting because it is harmful to women without benefiting babies. It’s not based on science and it’s profoundly anti-feminist. That’s why I wrote my book. Although mothering often involves putting a baby’s needs first, it doesn’t require erasing women’s needs thereby launching them into postpartum depression.

Meyer was desolate when she lost herself in mothering, but she didn’t need to be desolate because she didn’t need to erase herself.

  • Ayr

    There is far too much pressure on mother’s these days to do thing the ‘ol fashioned’ way or the way our grandmothers and great-grandmothers did things. I told a friend of mine that my son is fed breast milk from a bottle and supplemented with formula to make up the difference of what I can’t pump; she looked at me like I had two heads or something. Another friend had the audacity to tell me I just wasn’t trying hard enough to get him to feed from the breast, sorry but it was just freakin’ painful and both my son and I ended up frustrated whenever we tried. Sorry I’m not going to let my baby starve and scream himself hoarse and make himself sick just because someone thinks I should exclusively breast feed.
    And don’t even get me started on baby wearing, he falls asleep he goes to his crib, I turn on the monitor and the white noise machine and close the door. It gives me time to take a shower, do yoga, cook, clean, etc. and you know what he still knows I love him, as far as he is concerned, as long as he is fed, bathed, and diaper changed, he is happy.
    Oh, and my house is never quiet, there is always music playing or a movie going and not softly, at regular volume and my son sleeps through it all, even the vacuum. That is another thing about some parenting practices I don’t get, why do people think babies need quiet to sleep, it’s not exactly quiet in the womb, there is the sound of your heart, your breathing and your digestive system, it’s hardly silent in there.

  • sdsures

    Are there two people in this piece named “Meyer” and “Mayer”? Or is it just a typo in this paragraph?

    “Mayer did not have to endure childbirth in agony and dehydrated. Based on her description, Meyer chose unmedicated childbirth [edited: not homebirth as I wrongly surmised], deliberately depriving herself of access to an epidural. No doubt she chose homebirth because she thought it was both better for her baby and what her ancient (and not so ancient) foremothers would have chosen for themselves.”

  • MaineJen

    I’m really happy to see that your NYT piece has attracted so many new readers to the blog. 🙂

    Also…after the first 6 weeks with my son, I felt wrecked. He would nurse for 40 minutes at a time, didn’t sleep well, would cry whenever I put him down. He pooped every 2 hours and regularly blew out of his diapers. Would not go in his crib. I was sinking into depression, feeling that yes, my life was indeed over.

    Thankfully, my OB prescribed antidepressants and suggested that my husband take over one of the nighttime feedings. (And assured me that it didn’t matter whether we used formula or pumped breast milk). Slowly, I turned the corner and began to feel like myself again.

    If I had been trying to do “AP”, well…that would not have gone well for anyone.

  • annajrc

    When I had my daughter 10 years ago, I immediately began to attempt frantic strides to connect to other moms in the area, through Meetup etc. without much success. What I found out was that those women(and sometimes men) all seemed to be slaves to their children. What I mean is, their lives only revolved around the feedings, naps, playdates and crafts! I tried to socialize with some of them, but to my dismay their grown-up identity simply was either malfunctioning or missing. I grew very tired to talk to them about the children ONLY. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I did all the normal mommy things with my daughter, but come on, there is life outside childcare!

  • Amy Sigmon

    After reading your NYTimes piece, I read a number of other pieces on
    your website. I just want to thank you for reminding me why I ended up
    having a non-elective, but non-emergency c-section with my son. I was so
    disappointed, after an extremely easy pregnancy, to need to be induced
    and eventually have a c-section, but truly, I would make the same
    choices again and again, because we have a happy, healthy 2 year old
    running around our house. Same with breastfeeding, which my son seemed
    to have trouble with- I wasn’t going to play Hunger Games with him, so
    we switched formula immediately upon leaving the hospital, no issues. As
    I enter the third trimester in my second pregnancy, and hope for VBAC
    this time around (mostly because we’d like more kids down the line), I
    am reminded that I, in partnership with my OB, will make any decisions
    necessary to achieve the greatest end result: a healthy baby girl. It
    may mean another C-section, it may not, but I refuse to let my feelings
    about my first birth inform the medical decisions for my second.
    Also, I refused to let myself be consumed by my son in those early days- switching to formula instead of fighting the breastfeeding fight meant I got sleep, because my husband and I took night-time shifts. It meant my son’s belly was full, so he slept for good long stretches. Thanks for reminding me that taking care of myself in those early days, as I recovered from surgery, was just as important as taking care of my son.

    • Sue

      Great to hear stories like this – it makes activism against lactivism and radical birth ideology worthwhile. Thanks for this insight.

  • Sue

    Let them come clean: ‘natural parenting’ really means ‘natural MOTHERING’.

    If they called it ‘natural fathering’, what would it consist of? Hunting bears, while leaving the family at home, I guess. I doubt that they see it as fathers carrying babies around and getting up at night to feed on demand while mothers go out to hunt.

    • Roadstergal

      That’s a good point. “Attachment parenting” isn’t something dads are supposed to do.

  • On a side note- I read your NYT op-ed. I liked it a lot, and just wanted to congratulate you on it. The link, for anyone who wants to read it, is http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/01/opinion/sunday/why-is-american-home-birth-so-dangerous.html

  • Dr Kitty

    We’ve had a fun week in our house.
    I have, out of the blue, felt like I’ve been hit by a truck. Going to bed at 9pm, exhausted, just feeling rubbish.
    Little guy has been teething and has a cold, he’s been up 3 or 4 times a night, and I usually nurse him when he wakes.

    So… My eight month old son, who is taking 3 spoon feeds and 8oz of formula a day has gone back to six breast feeds in 24hrs and sleeping for 3hrs at the most.
    The mystery of why I feel like crap was easily solved, and is being fixed with paracetamol, teething gel and 4oz of formula during the night.

    I just cannot understand feeling like that for months on end and thinking “yep, this is just what motherhood feels like”.

    It shouldn’t, it doesn’t have to, and you and your children will both be better off if you actually enjoy being their parent.

  • Gail

    This is so right on. I have been saying lately that I think the whole attachment parenting thing seems like a weird throw-back to the Victorian age – but this time women are voluntarily giving things up and constraining their lives. THey give up lives outside the house, their relationship with their partner, their beds, their bodies, even their health! I know women who literally starve themselves on elimination diets trying to figure out what in their breastmilk is making their babies fussy, but they would never try switching to formula. I really do believe breast is best, and if one parent can stay home in the early years, that is great, and probably best for the baby. But the whole natural/attachment parenting thing just doesn’t seem great for women – maybe great for kids, but not for the women raising them. I am absolutely floored by the information about the foundations of LLL and Sears’ attachment parenting. I am sure you are getting a ton of flak for this – but keep on keepin’ on. I really believe that history will not judge this particular cultural trend kindly.

    • The Bofa on the Sofa

      I really do believe breast is best, and if one parent can stay home in
      the early years, that is great, and probably best for the baby. But the
      whole natural/attachment parenting thing just doesn’t seem great for
      women

      Gail – around here we have what we call “Bofa’s 2nd Law,” which says, “All else being equal, breast is best. But all else is never equal.”

      • Sue

        Thank you Bofa for that contribution to the lexicon – I use it regularly 🙂

      • Karen in SC

        I forgot Bofa’s 1st Law.

        • The Bofa on the Sofa

          If the defense of a group consists of “Not all of them are bad” then that group has a serious problem.

          And then there is Pablo’s First Law of Internet Discussion: Regardless of the topic, assume someone participating knows more about it than you do.

      • sdsures

        Gail – I believe that there is a giant purple dragon in my living room named Figment. But that doesn’t make it true.

  • Lauren

    I’d be very curious to understand the effects attachment parenting has on the non-gestational partner. As a woman in a same-sex relationship, whose wife gave birth, I often felt helpless and isolated when our daughter was a newborn. My wife struggled with supply and we know now in hindsight our fussy little peanut who never slept for more than an hour at a time was simply just hungry – but I couldn’t do a damn thing to help her. Thank goodness we figured out that supplementing with formula would help.

    But still, I wonder – does hardcore attachment parenting reduce the father/other parent bond?

    • Gail

      I don’t know if it reduces the bond, but I feel like I can say – having many, many of these friends – that it is hard on the bonds between the partners! It (re)introduces this weird asymmetry in parenting (moms do babies, dads do $/career/finances). We came so far, but I fear we are slipping back into that whole nonsense.

    • Anne

      I spent my child’s first 6 months at home with constant carrying and on-demand breastfeeding. my husband who was extremely involved still could not physically spend prolonged time with the baby as she was always breastfeeding and wouldn’t take a bottle from him.

      Once I went back to work, and we finally convinced her that that bottles were not evil, Dad and baby have become inseparable. If she is hurt, or needs comfort…she asks for Daddy first.

      I feel no guilt about this. She still loves me, but this time with Dad has given them a very special bond. So much so, that Dad has become the primary parent…and that is perfectly fine.

      However, when doing attachment parenting, which is often centered around breastfeeding, I literally think there is no other way for the child to have as close a bond with anyone else. Which is fine, I guess, if that parent was going to stay at home anyway and be the primary caregiver, or the other parent didn’t want to be so involved. But for spouses who want to be really involved and share duties, or even take over as the primary caregiver…the breastfeeding-based style of attachment parenting doesn’t seem feasible.

    • Daleth

      A friend of mine did the attachment mothering thing and her husband did indeed feel quite left out.

      • sdsures

        That’s sad. 🙁

  • AnnaPDE

    This whole “constantly feeding, never sleeping when put down” thing is, in my experience, a sign of a hungry baby who’s never really getting a good tummy full of milk.
    My LO did it (before going too drowsy even for that) in those first 2 1/2 weeks when we didn’t realise he couldn’t transfer milk due to his tongue tie. (Funnily enough, the paediatrician and IBCLCs at the hospital checked and dismissed it even though it was obvious, refused before-after weighs, and claimed he was just lazy and needy.) The same kid turned calm, alert, all smiles and a great sleeper as soon as he got enough milk and formula. I wonder how many stories of sleeplessness and sacrifice could have a happy ending with a few formula bottles.

    • Megan

      It’s also a thing with reflux babies. Now that we have my youngest daughter’s Zantac dosing maximized, she takes more formula overall and doesn’t eat every 30 minutes, thankfully.

    • evilhrlady

      It’s also a sign of a cranky-pants baby. Some babies just don’t like being put down, regardless of how full they are.

      • AnnaPDE

        I might just be very lucky, but mine literally knocks himself out feeding so the question of putting down a baby to sleep who’s still awake comes up very rarely…
        And I really sympathise with parents whose baby is cranky, it’s bad enough when they cry for a reason you can do something about.

        • sdsures

          That gave me a very funny mental image! LOL

      • Mac Sherbert

        Yep. Bottle Fed DS was hard to put down. We said he had radar in his bottom. However, DD was BF and much much harder. She was a baby that nursed for comfort and she always fell asleep nursing. So even if you put her down when sleeping when she woke she wanted nana as she named it before she turned 1!

      • MaineJen

        I had one of those… >:(

      • sdsures

        My cat’s nickname is Cranky-Pants. She is well fed, though.

  • Megan

    It is just remarkable to me how much more enjoyable parenting can be once you eschew the natural parenting ideology. I spent my daughters babyhood crying, pumping into oblivion, never leaving my house and feeling like I should never go back to work lest I ruin our bond. I was stressed, depressed and gained 25 lbs (so much for breastfeeding helping with that!)

    This time around I supplemented in the hospital and combo fed at home and when my younger daughter lost more weight than I was comfortable with, we gave it up and switched to EFF since my supply was barely any better this time around. My RCS recovery was so fantastic I was back to my trail walking routine by two weeks postpartum and we’ve maintained our active life getting out of the house regularly. This has benefited me and the whole family as the kids get sunlight and outdoor playtime, which helps them sleep and night, and my toddler has lots fun instead of being cooped up while I nurse or pump all day. Hubby and I split night feedings so I always get at least one four hour chunk of sleep (once we got her reflux and CMPI sorted) a night. I lost all of my pregnancy weight plus 2 extra lbs by two weeks PP and now that I’m able to be back on my regular meds (since I’m not beast feeding) and my milk has dried up and I’m back to my regular cycles, I have lost an additional 4 lbs. I feel great! My husband and I are able to have snuggly time since we are t cosleeping and we are more in love than ever. My whole family is much happier. In June I will go back to work one day a week and in July back to my regular part time schedule of three days a week. I know my daughters will be well taken care of and getting lots of attention at our great daycare and we will all enjoy a nicer lifestyle because I can contribute a lot financially to our family as the breadwinner if I work. I feel very fortunate that i have this choice.

    I did retain the “natural parenting” things that suited me, like some baby wearing (though you’d only pry my double jogging stroller for my trail walks from my cold dead hands) and I do still nap with my girls from time to time. Do I have moments where having two under two is stressful and I cry a few tears and need a break? Of course. Am I ever to the point of feeling that I’ve lost myself or have made me or my family unnecessarily miserable. No way.

    • Annie Towne

      How strange that behaving normally made everyone happier.

    • Anna

      This all sounds really great! You described your lifestyle so beatifully. All the “natural” folks out there will be green with envy.

  • Amy M

    I had PPD, but I wasn’t bitter and resentful. Well, I’m a little bitter and resentful now, that I got PPD in the first place, and then failed to admit I had a problem and get help for way too long. But at the time, I was emotionally dead.

    While reading the article (by the yoga teacher), I felt bad for her because I could empathize and I know that PPD really sucks. I also noted that she didn’t seem to seek outside help. Of course, she may have and just decided not to mention that, but I hope that isn’t the case. If she sought help but is pretending she didn’t, she didn’t do any favors to anyone suffering with PPD. But if she didn’t seek help, I wonder why not? She seems to think all mothers feel like she felt, so maybe she thought it was normal? Maybe she was ashamed? Maybe she feared being medicated and having to stop breastfeeding? We don’t know, and we won’t know.

    I think its important to tell these stories, of perinatal mood disorders, because they are so common, yet so surrounded by stigma. I can’t tell others how to write their own stories, but I really appreciate the ones where the message is: “Perinatal mood disorders are a real and serious problem. They can happen to anyone, and they are NOT the victim’s fault. Help is available and there is no shame in asking for it. Women with PMDs need support, and real help from professionals, and no one should ever tell a woman suffering from PPD that she should just snap out of it, that its all in her head, or that she needs to get her shit together and stop being so selfish. If you have a PMD, you are NOT a bad mother, and you CAN get to a healthier place.”

  • Amazed

    “Every mother is bitter and resentful”? Looks like she hasn’t met my SIL. Sure, she’s sleep-deprived sometimes. Sure, today she got vomited over two times in six hours. But their social life has never been better, she told me. Besides the expected reasons of having a sated baby who never screams in hunger for longer than two minutes (EBF, by the way, but if it hadn’t worked out, formula it would have been because fed is the only thing that truly matters) and isn’t a cryer, it’s the fact that each and every one of their friends is welcome, as long as they’re healthy, and they’re handed the baby the moment they say, “May I hold her for a minute?” Actually, it’s quite funny to see a man who’s never held a baby being so proud that he managed to get one to sleep. (After she wouldn’t stop crying in her mom’s arms, no less!) Today, Amazing Niece’s heartless parents didn’t even bat an eyelid when she started crying – they waited to see if I could soothe her. Surprise, surprise, I did. And then her mom went to bed. What’s there not to like? Except the fact that Auntie’s Little Treasure will grow terribly unattached, clearly.

    Keep the kid fed. Keep the kid dry. Provide enough snuggles and interaction for your kid. Sure, sometimes there will be crying for no reason at all. But there is no reason to always do everything yourself, especially if that makes you bitter and resentful. But FFS, don’t torture the kid and yourself spending the fisrst year of their life trying to breastfeed. Oh, and don’t try to normalize what’s happening to you by ascribing your feelings to every mother. They aren’t all like this. And no matter how common PPD can be, it’s no reason to not seek treatment. Coughs are quite common, after all.

    • FEDUP MD

      No, not every mother is bitter and resentful. Short of a brief period of a few days after a traumatic birth, I was actually euphoric during my children’s babyhoods. I didn’t have PPD, common as it is. Just because she was suffering from it means it is “normal.” Common, yes, but not normal. The times after my children’s births were some of the best of my life. So clearly not everyone feels that way.m

      • Kelly

        I felt euphoric after this third one because everything went as planned. I still felt PPD depression at about three months post partum and got help again. It sucks but realizing that I can feel better and that it was not a normal feeling made me get help. I am now in therapy for the first time. I do have to say that therapy is hard and I really don’t like it but it is helping along with the meds. I am glad that I am now seven months post partum and feeling so much better than I have in quite a while.

    • demodocus

      Ah, depression. Makes it so much harder to be any kind of parent if all you want to do is curl up and cry or rage or however you react. …The zoloft is helping

      • KeeperOfTheBooks

        I’m so glad you were able to get it, and that it’s kicking in! 🙂

        • demodocus

          🙂

      • Gatita

        I hate the demonization of antidepressants because they are lifesavers. I’m on Cymbalta and my son is on Prozac and our lives have improved so much as a result that it’s kind of surreal.

        • Roadstergal

          I hate that trope of “Well, people did just fine without them in the past/look at all of the people on anti-depressants these days!” Well, yes, in the old days people would just Be Fucking Depressed, or suicide, or self-medicate with alcohol/adrenaline/cocaine/you name it.

          • Who?

            At the risk of being the HRT bore, I am so much more well and happier on my HRT (from day 2 on it) than I was while living with menopause symptoms.

            I just keep thinking of all those women who couldn’t have it back in the day. And my friend who can’t have it now because of her breast cancer.

    • KeeperOfTheBooks

      Quite. My best friend was the first in our group to have a baby, and I can assure you, the kid’s anything but unattached. Also, I’m still obnoxiously proud, some six years later, that I got his colicky little butt to fall asleep one night when neither mommy nor daddy could. (Believe me, they were *not* offended.)
      One thing I will say is that until I realized that I had PPD, I honestly did think that the first year of a kid’s life was unadulterated hell on mom. Several other women of my acquaintance had babies within a year after me, and I was quite sure they must be lying about their experiences! “It’s not too bad,” “Well, DH and I share nights, so I get some sleep,” “It’s so much fun watching him learn to smile and laugh!” etc always made me think that they must be just putting a brave face on a horrible situation. And who knows? Perhaps some of them were, but I seriously doubt, in retrospect, that all of them were. PPD does really nasty things to the mind, especially when you don’t recognize it for what it is or seek treatment. Bleh.

      • SporkParade

        I have mixed opinions on this. I found the first 11 months to be relentless hard work with little mental stimulation, and that probably contributed, among several other factors, to my PPD. I didn’t feel bitter and resentful, more trapped and regretful. Things got much better as kiddo became less of a baby and more of a person.

      • Old Lady

        I’m one of those people that really enjoyed the first year. Sure it was hard and I felt like tearing my hair out sometimes but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I had read so many horror stories like this one I was surprised to find that my children brought me happiness. While I didn’t get out much, I wasn’t overly bored as I was able to find time for my hobbies. I’m an introvert though so I am a homebody anyway. It’s not much different in my mind than other things we do that are very difficult but rewarding. Something like going through med school or writing a book of climbing a mountain. In fact I wish I could do it again but we’ve reached our affordability limit. I get enjoyment out of every stage so far. I find newborns precious and get a kick out of seeing my children grow and develop. I’m interested in child development in general actually, it’s something I might have considered going into in another life.

        • Inmara

          Same here, I enjoy my maternity leave immensely because baby is fun to watch, we have long walks with a stroller now that the weather is fine and recently started to attend baby classes. Huge part of this enjoyment is due to formula feeding because we can share baby care with husband, our day is predictable, I can have day or night out if I want and baby is thriving.

        • FEDUP MD

          I really enjoyed the baby stage too. Now at work I get to see babies all day so it satisfies that urge to have more,though.

      • BeatriceC

        Other people’s crying babies don’t bother me in the slightest, especially newborn babies. My own were another story, but that’s nature for you. Anyway, this little tidbit came in handy when my niece was a newborn. Poor kid spent about a month screaming pretty much non-stop. She was definitely well fed (as the ever growing fat rolls attested to), but she just screamed and screamed and screamed. It was the summer after I graduated from high school, so I helped by just sitting in a rocking chair with the screaming kid so my sister could take a nap. I just talked to her while she screamed (making sure she had a dry diaper, wasn’t hungry, etc) keeping up a ridiculous stream-of-conscious chatter. I couldn’t do much else. I was recovering from a nasty mountain climbing accident. But she was safe. My sister got some rest. She eventually grew out of the colic (and the fat rolls…she’s now 5’5″ and about 95 pounds in her mid-20’s, just like her mother was). Screaming newborns that aren’t mine still don’t bother me one bit. I’d happily take a screaming baby for a couple hours for an exhausted mother again. Rest is so important. My sister said those short naps were a lifesaver for her.

        • Who?

          I’m the same, happy to cuddle/walk/feed/whatever without getting stressed at all about it. And without feeling like a bad person if the dot is still crying at the end of it all.

        • KeeperOfTheBooks

          I remember the first time I got a block of 4 hours of sleep after DD was born. Trope though it is, I literally felt like a new person the next morning, especially since she thoughtfully had breakfast and then took a long enough nap that I could have a giant, delicious breakfast and TWO cups of coffee! 4 hours of sleep, some personal hygiene, a plate of scrambled eggs and toast, and coffee all sound so mundane ’til you have that first newborn, and then you treasure every second and bite.
          I did something similar with Best Friend’s kid. As I mentioned, he was colicky. Mom was exhausted and stressed out of her mind, and her living situation was less than ideal. I finally told her “look, he’s full and dry, he might as well scream at me as at you. You and your DH go lie down for a while, and I’ll walk him around at the other end of the house.” They got a rest, and he eventually fell asleep on me, either because I wasn’t nearly as stressed or tired as they were and he sensed that, or because screaming for well over an hour with all your might is enough to wear *anyone* out. He eventually outgrew the colic and decided to become a pleasant baby to hang out with, but in the intervening time mom and dad got some rest…crazy idea, I know.
          Never realized just how much a crying baby could stress you out ’til I had DD. DH thought I was nuts (and, technically, I was, but not about this) until I explained that it’s an instinctive/hormonal reaction: if my baby is crying, I’ve screwed something up (even if, of course, I haven’t), my baby is DYING, and I MUST FIX IT NOW.

    • Sean Jungian

      I’ve coped with depression and anxiety throughout my life, but I really didn’t feel bitter and resentful of my son when he was an infant. By then I was taking medications that worked for me, so depression – thankfully – did not come up post-partum.

      I WAS, however, bored at times. Babies are not very stimulating company if you are home alone with them, at least, not to me.

  • Madtowngirl

    I remember that horrible feeling that my life was over, and my needs didn’t matter. PPD is terrible.

  • Puffin

    “My nipples are cracked and bleeding and I haven’t slept in two days because of the pumping schedule.”
    “Breastfeed more or your child will get cancer or diabetes or die of SIDS!”

    “I don’t want to breastfeed.”
    “You don’t love your baby enough to give him the best?”

    “I haven’t had sex with my partner in three months.”
    “Co-sleep or your baby will die of SIDS!”

    “Birth @#$%ing hurts and I didn’t realize how bad it would be.”
    “Don’t drug your baby for your own selfish comfort!”

    “My baby’s heartrate is dropping dangerously. I consent to a c-section.”
    “UNNECESSAREAN! I can tell because neither of you died!”

    “I have to go back to work to support my family.”
    “You shouldn’t have had a baby if you couldn’t take care of it!”

    “I want to go back to work because I enjoy my career.”
    “SELFISH COW!”

    (General sentiments about the collective messaging I felt when I was an attachment parent.)

  • Jules B

    I live in a pretty granola-y type city….but often the kind of granola/woo-ishness that usually comes with nannies and housekeepers etc. Those women seem to do just fine with their “natural” approach to parenting, because of course they can still go to the gym or volunteer or get their highlights done. What drives me crazy is when they sit around and talk about how superior their parenting approach is, while completely skipping over the huge economic privilege that makes it all possible for them. Wearing their twins in a ring-sling at the park is the same as buying the latest It purse: a sign of wealth and privilege, although they totally deny that aspect of it.

    One time, one of them started waxing poetic about the benefits of baby-wearing when she saw my daughter in the stroller. I smiled and told her I needed to save my back, since I didn’t have a housekeeper to clean my toilets for me. She opened and closed her mouth like a fish for a minute then walked away.

    • Nick Sanders

      Beautiful.

    • Spamamander

      You win the interwebz for today. Perfect response.

    • Ceridwen

      I don’t mind babywearing. Even prefer it in some contexts. But man it’s a beautiful thing that my son loves the stroller as much as he does. It’s so much more pleasant to walk 3 or 4 miles with a 20lb baby in a stroller than a 20lb baby strapped to me, not matter how great the carrier is.

      I’m always the most amused by the women who talk shit about other women for “wasting money” on strollers, but have huge collections of baby carriers totaling far more money.

      • KeeperOfTheBooks

        Absolutely! There’s also the convenience factor. If we go to the zoo, for example, it’s really, really nice to have someplace to put the diaper bag, purse, and snack/lunch bag that doesn’t involve my hauling them around.
        I also find babywearing useful in certain limited contexts: at church with a newborn, it keeps well-meaning but potentially germy hands off of baby; when traveling, it means not having to find an elevator to get a stroller up and down to terminals and whatnot, plus makes bathroom breaks much easier; if we’re hiking over rough terrain, a stroller isn’t an option; for grocery shopping, where it’s the safest/most convenient option for a baby who can’t sit upright and a mom who needs all the space in the cart for groceries. For daily walks, trips to the mall (trying on bras while babywearing sounds like a nightmare!) and so on, give me a stroller any day!

        • Bombshellrisa

          You could do what Brooke did while trying on bathing suits: she claims she justo ok the baby carrier off and out her baby on the (dirty, germy, nasty) dressing room floor.

          • KeeperOfTheBooks

            Call me selfish, and I am, but methinks I shall skip inflicting whatever stomach bug is lurking on that floor on either my kids or, by extension, me.

    • EmbraceYourInnerCrone

      I took buses and trolleys around San Diego for years with toddler. My umbrella stroller was awesome. It also had space in the bottom sling basket for groceries when we walked to the market. When you don t have a car and walk lots of places a stroller is wonderful. People side eyed me all the time because she was small for 4/5 but obviously not a baby. Yeah side eye all you want,you don’t have carry groceries and a tired preschooler…

  • fiftyfifty1

    Joan Didion never breastfed, her baby was adopted. Also rhubarb needs no weeding, its broad leaves outcompete everything around it.

    We imagine we know what we know, but lots of times we are wrong.

  • Hilary

    “Sadly she doesn’t get real at all about her postpartum depression, what might have caused it and what might have relieved it.” THANK YOU. Postpartum depression is a serious, serious thing. Did she actually seek a diagnosis? Therapy? Medication? This article implies that all women with PPD have to do is teach a yoga class and embrace the expansion/erasure of their identities.

  • Amy Tuteur, MD

    I’m thrilled to share this, my piece for the NYTimes on the dangers of homebirth!!

    http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/01/opinion/sunday/why-is-american-home-birth-so-dangerous.html?_r=0

    • Puffin

      I know you speak frequently about the general quality of midwives in Canada, but it’s important to note that we also have a form of direct-entry midwife. Aboriginal midwifery in Canada does not necessitate a university degree and is, essentially, entered via apprenticeship. Considering the abominable maternal and infant death rates in Indigenous Canadians, I find it frustrating that they are also the ones who have the least-educated (and lowest resourced) birth attendants in the country and absolutely no one is paying attention to the issue because treading anywhere near First Nations inequalities is a political minefield.

  • Brooke

    Shit like this makes me want to claw my eyes out. Part of the Sears philosophy on parenting is BALANCE meaning if you need to put your baby in a swing or pop them in daycare at the gym that’s OK. Not to mention that attachment parenting in our modern context started with the Continuum Concept. Not Dr.Sears. Again, bringing up that Grantly Dick-Read was a eugenicist (source?) or La Leche League started out as a Catholic organization has NOTHING to do with people promoting natural birth TODAY or what the LLL promotes today anymore than Margaret Sanger being a racist means that Planned Parenthood today is carrying out genocide through abortion. Parenting is hard. Formula does not magically make babies sleep longer or better. Putting babies in a crib to scream themselves to sleep is just as stressful as baby wearing, probably more stressful than co-sleeping. Post partum depression can happen to anyone. Saying “well maybe if you didn’t try to do XYZ you wouldn’t feel this way” is blaming women for what IS a mental illness beyond their own control.

    • guest

      You know what they say about those who don’t know history…

    • Sarah

      It has nothing to do with people promoting natural birth today because you say it doesn’t? You’ve not got the best record on not talking shit, so nobody is going to be taking your word on this one…

    • Nick Sanders

      Not to mention that attachment parenting in our modern context started with the Continuum Concept.

      And a quick look at Wikipedia tells me that the Continuum Concept was published in 1975, then the Sears’ had their “new continuum concept” in 1982, which they renamed as “attachment parenting” in 1985.

      Also:

      Sears advises mothers to turn to a psychotherapist if necessary, but to stick to attachment parenting at all costs.[79]

      That’s some great “balance” there…

    • nomofear

      I have a great trick for those crying it out periods. I go wash the dishes. Miraculously, they’re always asleep by the time I’m done – but if I sat outside the door waiting for them to stop….well, a watched pot never boils

      • Kelly

        I take a shower so I can’t hear them.

    • Hilary

      I agree that parenting is hard and that postpartum depression can happen to anyone. On the other hand, fear of formula can dissuade women from taking medications for their PPD (there are a couple safe for breastfeeding, but most are not and none if you’re bipolar), and sleep deprivation can make existing depression worse and prevent recovery. While formula may not magically make babies sleep better, it’s a way for women with partners or available family members to share the responsibility of feeding and be able to take breaks.

      Parenting is hard and there is no guarantee that any particular technique will make it easier. What we need to get away from is the mentality that making parenting harder *than it needs to be* is somehow virtuous.

    • CharlotteB

      Sleep-training was wayyyyyy less stressful for me than co-sleeping. Co-sleeping meant I didn’t really sleep because I was worried about my son suffocating. The 47 mins he cried the first night (then 20ish, then 10, now almost never or a minute or less) were unpleasant but do-able. They would have been more do-able had we planned ahead and stocked up on beer to drink while he cried, but eh, when you know better, you do better!

    • CharlotteB

      Also? Wikipedia’s article on Dr. Dick-Read says he stated “that tribal women who died in childbirth did so ‘without any sadness…realizing if they were not competent to produce children for the spirits of their fathers and for the tribe, they had no place in the tribe.'”

      • fiftyfifty1

        “that tribal women who died in childbirth did so ‘without any sadness”

        I suppose he interviewed their ghosts?

        • Sarah

          There’s no need to interview brown people. You can just decide what they have to say yourself.

      • Liz Leyden

        How does he know? Did he have a seance?

    • moto_librarian

      Yes, Brooke, we know that postpartum depression can happen to anyone. The thing that bothers me the most about reading this story is that it seems that Mayer got no professional help for it, that she simply accepted this as the status quo. As someone who has struggled with lifelong depression, it makes me both sad and angry to see another woman go through this and simply accept that this is the way things are for all mothers. What she needed was someone to help her, to give her baby some formula so she could sleep or practice yoga or even take a fucking shower. She needed to be able to put her baby down for more than a few minutes at a time so she could get some sense of her self as a person back. She needed to know that the benefits of breastfeeding a term baby in the developed world are negligible, and certainly not worth a complete mental breakdown in which you no longer can find joy in anything in your life. No one here is blaming her for what happened, but you can bet your ass that we are blaming this warped ideology that demands that mothers sacrifice every single bit of themselves to their children.

    • Megan

      Sure, any mom can get PPD but “intensive mothering,”‘which is what AP promotes is a risk factor for PPD:

      http://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2012/07/06/the-better-mother-how-intense-parenting-leads-to-depression/#61641f11355f

    • Gatita

      Formula doesn’t make babies cry less but it does make it possible for the mom to leave the house and let someone else deal with the crying for a while. Twice I slept away from my family when my son was a baby (once at a hotel and once in a friend’s spare bedroom) because I was hallucinating from a lack of sleep. Those times were lifesavers and were possible because my husband could feed the baby.

    • KeeperOfTheBooks

      PPD can happen to anyone, but deliberately putting mom in a situation where she can’t leave the house and can’t leave baby in order to get help because of the absolute terror associated with tanking her supply makes it more likely that she’ll get it and less likely that she’ll get help. One of the many reasons I didn’t get help when I had it was that I had been told that missing so much as a single feeding would ruin my supply, but since DD would only nurse if I was sitting and holding perfectly still, and she was nursing for 60+ minutes every couple of hours, I felt I couldn’t leave her to see my doctor or take her with me because I couldn’t be guaranteed that I could sit perfectly still in one location for the aforementioned hour. Throw in the exhaustion (no breaks for breastfeeding moms!) which contributed to my inability to communicate, and it was a perfect storm. I’m still a little surprised we both survived.

  • Sean Jungian

    So much suffering and waste, for nothing.

  • guest

    One typo: “Had Meyer supplemented with formula should could have gotten more sleep;” should probably say “she could have gotten.”

  • Guest

    Not sure Meyer had a homebirth – at paragraph 3 of her “confessional”, she describes herself as retching into the hospital garbage bin.

    • Amy Tuteur, MD

      I missed that. I’ll amend it.

      • guest

        So you take out the “retching into the hospital garbage bin” quote? You just used this to fit your views, instead of telling the whole truth. You lying sack of crap!

        • applebrownbetty1

          What?

        • moto_librarian

          Actually, she amended the post and noted that she had initially thought that it was a homebirth. I guess that a correction and a mea culpa aren’t good enough?

        • Charybdis

          And the pro-homebirth, AP, NCB, EBF brigade *never* misrepresents or outright lies about anything.

          Sell it someplace else; we aren’t buying it here.

      • The Bofa on the Sofa

        There’s a second “homebirth” comment still in there