When I found out I was pregnant, I did not know how I wanted to parent. I wanted to do it well, that was about as clear as I got. I wanted to be kind. I didn't want to shout too much or need hard drink in the middle of the day to get through it. I wanted, more than anything, to basically still be me, to still be Matthew and I plus one. I followed my typical grand plan these days: a vague query to the Universe. God, could you help me sort this one out? Just some clear, simple, easy to follow guidance that will help me be a parent, while still being me, and, in eighteen years or so, have a child with who I'm still on speaking terms. Something in written form- maybe a pamphlet?- would be great.
Many months went by. We found the birth center. We started our childbirth classes. I decided I wanted to breastfeed and so we took a class on that too. I did prenatal yoga. I kept listening to the thoughts of others.
I found The Baby Book by Dr. Bill and Martha Sears. On the surface, this enormous tome looks like a great book for handling a baby's early years, when to start solids, how to take a temperature, how to baby-proof a house. On the surface. Your basic manual. Being the compulsive Virgo I started on page one. Where Dr. Sears and his wonderful wife, herself an RN, totally rocked my world on the methods and possibilities in parenting. Compassionate, respectful, and sensitive parenting- this was their recommendation. As I read about their ideas on birthing naturally, breastfeeding, co-sleeping, baby-wearing, responding to baby's cries, I thought: We are totally doing this. And we're not telling anybody.
I knew enough about current day parenting to realize, this ain't your mama's or your neighbor's or, unless you're like me and start running with other rebellious mothers, your best friend's form of parenting. And hard as it can be for me to fly right in the face of mainstream society, I realized, that was all right. What better time than now to start trusting my instincts?
I say all of that only to give some scope to the experience of being in a room filled with API families and then watching some of the most prominent and outspoken founders walk out onto a stage together- this was a momentous occasion. As the moderator, Lu Hanessian (a former NBC anchor and current AP-practicing mother) pointed out, this was the first time these eight people had ever been on the same stage.
So without further ado, the day in pictures:
Dory and I wrestling before the program began. Of course, API made an effort to make this event as child-friendly as possible, but in the end it's still a small theater, with people who traveled a great distance to hear what the people on stage had to say, and the under-3 crowd can only sit still for so long. Many, many mothers were in and out, giving little ones a chance to crawl around the lobby. Or, better yet, these moms brought reinforcements and took turns.
My mama agreed to be my tag-team partner and she and I, pretty smoothly I think, took turns taking Dory out to play. You'll notice here, Dory couldn't look anymore peaceful, as her Gram calmly reads her program.
Our eight speakers. Starting with the left side of the picture, the woman in the peachy-colored jacket, you have (drum roll please): Ina May Gaskin, internationally known midwife; Barabara Nicholson, co-founder of API; Mary Cahill, one of the seven women to start La Leche League International 53 years ago; Dr. Bill Sears; Dr. James McKenna; Martha Sears, R.N.; Dr. Isabelle Fox; and Lysa Parker, co-founder of API.
Meeting Dr. Sears at the reception afterwards.
And then meeting Martha Sears.
I thought I had calmed down during the program, but as soon as I was standing two feet away I got excited and nervous, a fantastic cocktail for disaster. Luckily, the place was busy, with enough people waiting to speak to them, that I had just enough time to thank them both, several times, express my gratitude over their books, ask for an autograph and then move on. Quite calmly and normally. I wish I had something wittier, a bit more interesting to say, but, even after the fact, nothing came to me. I am simply supremely appreciative of these people.
On a side note, there was a couple standing in front of us, waiting to see Dr. Sears, holding a book. From what I could tell, as the husband introduced his wife, this was a book she had written of natural something (remedies, recipes, I couldn't say exactly) and they wanted to give Dr. Sears a copy. Which he graciously accepted and then pulled a pen from his pocket and asked her to sign it for him. [Insert a girlish sigh of wonder here.]
They were all so wonderfully accessible. I asked for a picture with Barabara and Lysa and they invited me behind their table (where they were signing their book Attached at the Heart- got my copy- it's wonderful) to chat for a few minutes about our local branch of API.
We got a picture with Dr. Fox who insisted Gram Mojo hop into the shot too.
Dr. McKenna was kind and humble and enamored with Dory and her bright blue eyes.
We were able to speak to Ina May and I thanked her for the influence her book, Ina May's Guide to Childbirth had on my birth experience. Unfortunately the camera had frizzled out at this point, so no photo here.
The day was spectacular. In no way is that an exaggeration. I managed, when I was not chasing a 13 month old, to take some notes and hopefully I'll be able to put them into something cohesive to share here.
I'll be first in line at the next celebration be it in a year or ten. I would say this compares to being at Woodstock and meeting Joan Baez, Janis Joplin, the Grateful Dead and Jimi Hendrix, all at once, except, let's be honest, do any of those people, on a day-to-day basis, influence your parenting skills?
Woodstock doesn't have anything on the API Eight...