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09 January 2008

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gsk

The Bible says that even the Blessed Mother let her Child rest in a manger. The tone of this seems to bely a judgement on women who put their children down. I'm sure you don't mean that, but if some of us didn't get uninterrupted sleep (esp. with subsequent children) then we'd go nuts. Literally. And if baby never leaves mama's arms, older children could possibly resent that child, just a wee bit. I think we have to step back from the leisurely options of 21st century America and consider the real demands of women world-wide over the centuries. Cribs and playpens were necessary safety devices for large, busy families. I trusted Holy Scripture to share an occasional child-free moment -- with Mary.

Derek

I have to agree with gsk's post. The fact that Mary put the infant Jesus in a manger probably doesn't represent anything profound about the dual nature of Christ. Neither does it reflect on a model of the proper way to raise a child or on the nature of Mary as a mother. I guess I find the exegesis somewhat compromised by your personal preference against cribs. Kind of reminds me of how some branches of Christianity are uncomfortable that Jesus made wine at the wedding feast of Cana (but isn't alcohol wrong?).

In reading your post, the general tone is that it feels wrong for you not to sleep with your child. This is fine (we slept with our children as well), and I understand the social pressures not to. But my gut feeling is that this simply reflects either a personal preference or an issue that is symbolic of a larger concern for you (that parents today don't take their roles as parents seriously enough, the way people used to). But, it's quite a difference to go from saying "I place value on sleeping with my child" to saying "I can't believe that she didn't". In short, you are probably more concerned with the crib issue than are most people, including the Mother of God (or early Christian gospel writers, depending on your bent).

bearing

No, there's nothing inherently wrong with having a safe place to lay a baby down, or to let another person hold him. I do, however, experience a real feeling of wrongness and emptiness in my own arms whenever I've done so, even if my need is real (e.g. to go to the bathroom...). I also can't just "look at" a brand-new newborn baby lying alone, in crib, carseat, or bed, without feeling an impulse to lift and hold. I can't help but interpret that as a natural impulse rooted in my existence as a mother. And those very real (to me) feelings, contrasted with the scene of the creche -- in which Mary is never, ever holding the infant Jesus -- have always niggled in the back of my mind.

I feel a certain resolution of the contrast when I remember that Mary's proper postures to her Child are both as mother and as adorer.

bearing

No, there's nothing inherently wrong with having a safe place to lay a baby down, or to let another person hold him. I do, however, experience a real feeling of wrongness and emptiness in my own arms whenever I've done so, even if my need is real (e.g. to go to the bathroom...). I also can't just "look at" a brand-new newborn baby lying alone, in crib, carseat, or bed, without feeling an impulse to lift and hold. I can't help but interpret that as a natural impulse rooted in my existence as a mother. And those very real (to me) feelings, contrasted with the scene of the creche -- in which Mary is never, ever holding the infant Jesus -- have always niggled in the back of my mind.

I feel a certain resolution of the contrast when I remember that Mary's proper postures to her Child are both as mother and as adorer. And those two postures are indeed a consequence of the two natures of Christ.

MrsDarwin

"Still, though, what with Mary being the feminine ideal in Catholic culture, the scene is maybe a little disconcerting to attachment parents. She gives birth to God and then she goes and puts the baby in a crib. What are we supposed to think? It seems almost like a repudiation of what we know, that the natural place of a baby is in his (or His) mother's arms. It is their nature to be together."

This analysis seems perhaps an example of the good becoming the enemy of the perfect.

bearing

Wow, I'm really getting slammed for this one. You should see my email. Apparently I have more readers than I thought. I will have to post over-generalized personal reflections more often. (Normally I keep them more to myself...)

Jennifer F.

"Still, though, what with Mary being the feminine ideal in Catholic culture, the scene is maybe a little disconcerting to attachment parents. She gives birth to God and then she goes and puts the baby in a crib. What are we supposed to think?"

...Maybe that it's fine to put babies in cribs?

I don't mean to be flip and leave this comment in the spirit of charity and honest discussion. If this scene is disconcerting to attachment parents, could the problem perhaps be with certain aspects of AP culture and not with the manger scene?

I remember when my first son was born, I lived in a part of town where the attachment parenting philosophy had morphed into something of a religion. I went to some moms' groups and met like-minded AP women through my midwife and my Bradley class. After our babies were getting close to a year old I found that I encountered more than a couple women who were borderline *suicidal* from lack of sleep because they didn't sleep well with babies in the bed, freaking out with guilt over the smallest violations of the AP rules (I don't think it was PPD because all of them quickly recovered when they started getting sleep). The momentum in this group kept increasing and increasing until women started stressing out about setting their heavy babies down while they cooked dinner or using strollers. At some point I looked around and thought, "What is going on here?"

From my own experience, I think that some of these woman (and I) were taking our stress about things like the fragility of innocent new life, our culture's views of babies and children, and fixating the details of the AP lifestyle as an outlet for our stress.

To be clear, I don't have anything against AP principles and still use some of them myself; and I'm referring here not to all strict adherents of the AP philosophy but rather to what I've observed happening in AP culture, where an honest evaluation of what practices are best for each family (and for families in general) to turn into an unspoken contest to see who can freak out about the minutia of parenting the most. I mean, (this is an honest question), do you ever look around at AP culture and think, "They've taken this too far"?

Jimmie Galwick

If Mary really did lay the baby Jesus in the cradle, it must be really satisfying to know that you're a better mother than Our Lady.

Freda Montpassant

What about mothers who have no arms? Can they have cribs?

http://youtube.com/watch?v=6zY6wv8pO4Q

bearing

Jennifer F, I actually don't like to use the term "AP" to describe myself or my parenting style. (Sometimes I do as a form of shorthand, if I want to discuss the superficial appearance of how I do things without getting into great detail). I think AP as it's normally discussed is a set of practices or "mandates" that may rest on a lot of empirical evidence but that lacks a unifying philosophy, and that is exactly what can lead to the kind of burnout you describe, as people try to "outdo" each other in the superficialities without being able to perceive a balancing point.

Shell Speed

Coming late to the party here, but I appreciated your observation. I have only one child, but, similarly, I felt best when I was holding her. I do have to agree, though, that you have an exceptional viewpoint on this topic. You are definitely at least 3 standard deviations from the mean. (:p)

As a long-time reader, I wanted to share with you that I was inspired by your example to try to avoid the crib and stroller, though that only worked for me for the first 6 months or so. Also, your example helped me to be open to b’feeding longer than a year (and we still are at 20 mo.). I’m not sure if I would have managed all that without knowing about people like you.

I totally agree about the getting enough sleep thing. It is hard to be mommy when I’m tired.

And do these tiny comment windows drive anyone else bonkers?

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