Obama, the Rocky Mountain Blogger Bash, and me

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After much deliberation, I finally decided on an outfit to wear last night (a black dress complete with – get this – a non-nursing bra!!!). I blew a kiss to my napping Julian and hugged and kissed my Ava and Jody (hubby) goodbye as I headed out for my first real night out on the town since Ava was born. It was a little hard to leave, but I knew the kids were in great hands with Jody and that there was nothing he couldn’t handle. Me and my girls (women I’ve known as a result of attachment parenting since the birth of our kids 4-ish years ago) – Melissa of Nature Deva, Heather of A Mama’s Blog and Julie of Chez Artz – caught a bus from Boulder and made our way to the Rocky Mountain Blogger Bash at Trios Enoteca in Denver.

Me and my blogging girls
All dressed up for a night on the town – Mel, Heather, Julie and me

On the bus we ran into Jeremy Tanner who, upon overhearing our talk of blogging, Twitter and Facebook, asked if we were going to the blogger party too. Was it that obvious? ;)

When we got to the bar, we immediately met up with Amber from Crazy Bloggin Canuck and Mile High Mamas. She’s just as sweet and bubbly in person as she is online. :) And honestly, everyone I met last night was nice as could be.

Not long after we got there, it was time to find the nearest TV and plunk down in front of it. Dozens of us bloggers gathered together (most of us squatting on the floor – which, in a dress, was interesting let me tell you) in the back room of the bar to watch Obama’s acceptance speech. There were many cheers and rounds of applause as the feeling of hope and desire for change was tangible in the room, which made up for the lack of feeling I had in my legs from the precarious way I was kneeling/squatting/sitting. But seriously, the speech was awesome. :) Watching Obama on the TV from Trios Enoteca

After the speech, there were free drinks to be had, food to be eaten and more bloggers to meet. I met Laura (LaLa Girl) who I spent quite a bit of time chatting with and Suzanne (Crunchy Green Mom) who I Tweet with all of the time.
Blogging ladies
Back row: Laura, Heather, Julie, me Front row: Melissa and Amber

Blogging ladies 2
L to R: Julie, Amber, Melissa, Laura, Suzanne, me, Heather

In addition, I met Julie (Mothergoose Mouse), Amy (Inherent Passion), Aimee (Aimee Greeblemonkey ), Tara (I Quit for Ligit), Sarah (Imaginary Binky), a husband and wife (Tessa) from My Left Nutmeg (Connecticut’s Democrats’ blog), as well as others. On our way out to catch the bus, we briefly met Stephanie (Lawyer Mama), Glennia (The Silent I) from Momocrats and Heather (No Pasa Nada). Unfortunately, the BlogHers I hoped to meet up with too got stuck in Invesco and there were a few other bloggers who were at the party that I didn’t know were there and I didn’t get to talk to.

Other bloggers
Julie (Mothergoose Mouse), Amy (Inherent Passion), Aimee (Aimee Greeblemonkey)

Julie decided she had to have the hat in the picture below, so she did her best to sweet talk this blogger (from My Left Nutmeg) out of it, but he wouldn’t give in. Can ya blame him? ;)

Julie and the man in the hat

We soon learned that this man and his wife Tessa were visiting from Connecticut to cover the convention and three of us guest blogged for My Left Nutmeg

Blogging for My Left Nutmeg Bloggers

And, of course, I had to get my Tweet on. (Thanks to Tessa who let me steal her laptop for a bit.) I was trying to find the whereabouts of Erin and the rest of the BlogHers and Momocrats. Thanks to Twitter and Vdog, I found out Erin’s phone had died, but I was able to get in touch with Maria who told me they had a hard time getting out of Invesco and were exhausted and at Denny’s, grabbing some food before going back to their hotels.
Tweet, tweet

So I didn’t get to meet the BlogHers, but I did meet a few Momocrats on our way out to catch the bus back to Boulder.

I didn’t end up getting home until 2 a.m. (wow), but am happy to report that the kids and Jody did great. Jody even emailed me a time line this morning to report back last night’s family events. I didn’t ask for it (really, I didn’t – I know I have control issues, but c’mon), but I guess he knew I would appreciate it. ;)  The time line ended with this summary, “no melt downs. they played well with me, together, by themselves. only time jules really wanted mama was when ava accidentally dropped a book on his foot. how was your night?”

I’d call it a successful night all around. I’m thinking I definitely need to get out more often. Who’s going with me?

Thanks to MrLady and ZombyBoy (both whom I didn’t even get to meet – arg) for throwing such a great party. :) Denver rocks!

Slowing down to get well

Ever since getting back from Michigan, my family and I have been sicker than dogs. I’ve had a cold, then the stomach flu, then a return of the cold, then the stomach flu again. Ava’s puked, Julian’s puked, and Jody’s had stomach issues as well. Of course in the middle of all of this we’ve had friends from Georgia staying with us (fun for them) and Jody’s now traveling for work for the next several days. It’s been, um, interesting.

I think I’m finally over the worst of it and the kids are on the mend as well, but needless to say, blogging hasn’t been a priority. However, you can read something from me today about how going green has sometimes forced me to slow down and why this is a good thing over at 5 Minutes For Going Green. I’m also moderating over at API Speaks this week. If you haven’t been by there yet, I encourage you to check it out for lots of motivational, interesting, sometimes silly, and often sweet gentle parenting stories.

Guest post: Saved by the Fire Fairy

While I’m on vacation until Aug. 9, I’m featuring several guest bloggers. Today’s post is from Stacy of Mama-Om.

Saved by the Fire Fairy
by Stacy
Originally published on Mama-Om.

The other day I was talking to a friend about her young daughter’s Waldorf-inspired daycare. Each day for their lunch, they light a candle and eat together. The candle flame is a “fire fairy.”

For the last month or so, our family has been having a candle at our evening meal. My son Orlando (four and a half) always wants to blow out the candle, often before we are finished eating.

I have struggled, almost daily, since the birth of my second child, to remain patient and compassionate with my kids; to parent in the way I believe.

And here I am, being impatient, uncompassionate, and definitely not peaceful.

“No.”

“I wanna blow it out!”

“No! We’re still eating.”

All the while he is trying to lean closer and I am moving the candle away. I am saying NO. NO. NO.

Everything about me is saying NO, and not in that firm no-nonsense way of a mother that usually, as a result of its own clarity, gets an immediate response.

It is NO in a desperate attempt to revert to the past or some ideal time when no child of mine would try to blow out a candle before dinner is done.

Really smart.

And so not effective.

The more I say NO in this clenching rather than clear way, the more crazy he gets to blow it out. We are literally fighting over fire.

Then I start feeling sorry for myself: Why is everything such a struggle? An immediate battle?

Um.

Because I make it that way?

Suddenly, inspiration strikes.

“But if we blow out the candle now, the fire fairy won’t have time to get back home!”

“The fire fairy?”

“Yes,” I say, and I look my child in the eye. “The fire fairy is in the flame -– let’s have her stay with us a bit longer.”

His eyes are wide. His face is solemn. “The fire fairy is inside the flame?”

“Yes,” I say. “Yes.” Then I pause. “Will you wait and blow out the candle when we are done eating?”

”Yes!”

And just like that, we are no longer fighting. We’ve gone from No to Yes.

Orlando sits back down. We continue eating, and stay at the table for a long time.

I feed him bite after bite. He leans against me (he scoots his chair as close as possible to my chair during meals, which I have lately been responding to with stress, yet tonight I am grateful for this mellow closeness). We are as relaxed as if we were sitting in front of a roaring fireplace.

Finally, it is time for the fire fairy to fly away home. Orlando and I blow out the flame.

+ + +

Stacy is the mama behind Mama-Om, where she writes quirky, vibrant, honest and insightful posts about (trying to) parent peacefully.

Guest post: Surviving Your Four Year Old

While I’m on vacation until Aug. 9, I’m featuring several guest bloggers. Today’s guest post is from Alicia who blogs at Magic and Mayhem.

Surviving Your Four Year Old!
Originally posted Jan 26th, 2008 by Alicia

Lately Jack (age 4) has been really pushing my buttons! He’s been argumentative, angry, bossy, defiant and just plain trying. He’s told me he hated me (which neither of his big sisters have ever done!), threatened me, made mean faces, you name it.

I have read enough parenting books and been through enough parenting to know that children act bad when they feel bad. Still, it is very hard to take when a small boy keeps shouting at you and saying mean things! There is only so much of the Mary Poppins hat you can put on before you feel like beating him with it.

I know what the conventional wisdom is. Spank, yell, punish, show him who’s boss. Be meaner back to teach him how to be nice. I’m not a fan of conventional wisdom. Conventional wisdom was once that the world was flat and you should own slaves. That doesn’t mean I didn’t lose it and yell and act mean a time or two during this phase, but it wasn’t my goal.

The behavior has been going on for several weeks and it was a long few weeks.

In order to get through it, I read Your Four Year Old again to remind myself what was age appropriate and what works for the age, modeled handling my own anger well, firmly told him that he could not treat me badly and left the room if he was nasty to me, offered lots of hugs, talked about his feelings and healthy ways to express them, dramatically increased his mama time, gave him more choices, read extra books, smiled lots, told him I loved him lots, complemented his good behavior and waited.

Of course I also lost it and yelled, told his dad to take over, vented to friends, and acted rotten myself a few times! I’m human, after all. :)

Fast forward to the past few days. I have my old Jack back now for the most part, just a little older and wiser. Today he greeted me with “Hi mom, how ya doin’?” and then made up a poem for me later (You may be big, you may be small, but you’re my bestest friend of them all). The past few days he has presented me with artwork, told me many times how much he loved me, helped out when asked, apologized when he was rude to his sister…. He’s been a mature, sweet, helpful, funny little boy.

This is a big time in Jack’s life. He stopped being the baby in the family 8 months ago when his brother came along. He is learning to read and write and add. He is growing and changing. He’s stuck inside during a very cold winter and not able to run and move the way his body needs to. He’s got to share, compromise, negotiate and be patient many times a day, which are skills a lot of grown ups never master.

It can be so hard when little ones (or big ones!) go through stages that make us nuts. I can just imagine what it will be like around here when we have a bunch of teenagers! I am so glad that I had faith in him and kept working at helping him through it, instead of turning us into enemies.

And with that, I’m off to go play with said four year-old! Have a great day all!

Alicia Bayer is an Attachment Parenting, homeschooling mother to four fabulous kids ages 1 to 10. She runs the website A Magical Childhood (www.magicalchildhood.com) and a parenting/homeschooling blog (http://magicandmayhem.homeschooljournal.net/).

Guest post: Veganism and AP – Peas in a Pod

While I’m on vacation until Aug. 9 (and quite possibly for the day or two after I get back), I’m featuring several guest bloggers. This guest post comes from To-Fu who blogs at Attachment Living.

Attachment parenting is really just permission to parent intuitively, as Dr. William Sears has noted: “When I first began using the term ‘attachment parenting’ nearly 20 years ago, I felt ridiculous giving a name to a style of baby care that parents would naturally practice if they followed their own intuition rather than listening to the advice of others.” If AP is about child-led living and intuitive parenting, then I think it’s easy to see how veg*nism fits right in (“veg*n” is shorthand for vegan/vegetarian).

If I look at the world from the eyes of a child as I often try to do now that I have a babe of my own, I can’t imagine a child saying “I want to eat dead animals,” or “I want baby cows to be taken away from their mamas so I can have their milk,” when given the choice. Children tend to feel a natural fascination and connection with other animals and, I would argue, they intuitively understand on a very basic level that the difference between the family dog and the veal calf in a factory farm is an arbitrary one. After all, anyone who lives with companion animals knows that they are sentient and have feelings, moods, desires.

I figure that’s why a lot of APers are veg*ns, too. Learning to see the world through our children’s eyes lays at our feet the great and terrible potential for a larger sense of compassion and empathy. As a friend on another forum said, “Without embracing compassion for my son, I would never have moved my sphere of compassion beyond our family and beyond the human family.” It’s a fantastic joy, and it comes with its share of responsibility.

I know several APers who came to question society’s ways of doing things vis-à-vis attachment parenting, and that act of questioning turned into other sorts of activism and advocating. For me, it was the other way around: veg*nism led me to AP. As a vegan, it was not difficult to understand the concept of seeing dignity and value in non-human animals, that a calf and mother would not want to be separated from one another, or that animals (like children) do not exist to be used as objects or accessories.

As a fellow vegan and APer says, “In every single interaction I have with [my son], I try to see where he is coming from and what he might be thinking and feeling before I decide what the best course of action is. And it’s the same with veganism. I think about the cows and how it would have felt to have my baby taken away from me at birth and then forced to pump milk for however many hours a day, have mastitis, live in cramped quarters, etc., etc.” To put it simply (quoting another vegan APing friend here): “It’s all overlapping expressions of the same idea.”

Through veg*nism and the AP lifestyle, I have cultivated a sense of awe for life and a connection to the world around me. A fellow vegan and APer puts it best: “The connection I see [between veg*nism and AP] is simply considering things from the side of the other. If my baby cries, she would prefer to be soothed than left alone. So I soothe her. If an animal doesn’t want to be eaten or commodified (which s/he doesn’t), I’m going to respect that, too.”

I recall understanding this sensation most acutely during pregnancy and labor when I felt a remarkable affinity with all pregnant and laboring females—non-human animals, especially. There was something primitive and feral about me in those days, and there was something about relating to all kinds of female animals that empowered me to carry on even in the face of blinding pain and the white terror of the unknown. I have since learned it is not an uncommon feeling.

Both the AP lifestyle and veg*nism require a person to strip away tradition and ignore well-meaning but faulty advice. Talking about veg*nism can be tough for the same reasons it’s hard to talk about extended breastfeeding, sleep sharing, gentle discipline, and all that is AP: People who aren’t into it (for whatever reason) tend to feel judged or indicted. My mother has had similar defensive responses to both my eating and parenting styles, and my guess is that she sees the choices I make for my family as criticisms on what she fed me and how she raised me. As such, AP and veg*nism have had other surprising lessons in store for me that went beyond how I fed my baby or what I put on the dinner table.

It’s hard sometimes, living as an attached veg*n parent. I want more than anything for my family to be united and buoyed by a sense of kindness, connection, and compassion for the world and all its inhabitants—human or otherwise—even though it sometimes causes problems in my interpersonal relationships, and even though it sometimes leads to feelings of isolation. I think most APers can understand these sentiments, veg*n or not. As John Robbins once said, “if you carry vision […] you’re a pioneer, and you can always tell the pioneers by the arrows in their back.

But you don’t need me to tell you that it’s all worth it.

Further Reading

Assuming that most of Amy’s readers are already familiar with the AP lifestyle, I offer here a few links relevant to veg*nism and parenting:


Veg*n since 1995 and APing Little-Fu since January 2008, To-Fu shares an AP/NFL blog with her Mothering Dot Commune due date club ladies: http://attachmentliving.blogspot.com/. Other things she feels strongly about that fit into the scope of attachment living (and therefore living compassionately) are: veganism, feminism, women’s sexual health, and social justice.

Exclusive interview: Natalie of The Baby Borrowers discusses attachment parenting, teen pregnancy

A couple of weeks ago I shared my feelings regarding NBC’s reality TV show “The Baby Borrowers.” If you are unfamiliar with the premise of the show, it takes five teenage couples through a crash course in adulthood tasking them with responsibilities such as a house payment, a job, and for three days, the care of a baby (and later a toddler, pre-teen, teenager and elderly person).

As I mentioned in that post, I was surprised to find out one of the moms of the borrowed children – Natalie Nichols – practiced many aspects of attachment parenting (AP). I couldn’t stop thinking about her and wondering if my initial visceral reaction to the show was entirely warranted or if, like in any situation, there were two sides to the story.

I decided to go straight to the source to find out more about what motivated Natalie to lend her infant daughter (Etta – 6 months at the time of the show) and toddler son (Benjamin – 2 years at the time of the show) to The Baby Borrowers (to be cared for by teen “parents” Kelsey and Sean) and to find out if there was more going on behind the scenes than was depicted on the show.

While I still disagree with the show, writing my initial post and doing this interview with Natalie has been a learning experience for me. All too often in the blogosphere, we (myself included) tend to react off the cuff to news of this, that or the other thing, without delving in for more information or waiting to hear the other side of the story. I think it’s human nature, but it doesn’t make it right. I hope that I will remember this the next time I hear something “outrageous” and before I blow a gasket, I will check out the facts and try to find out the whole story.

What follows is an interview with Natalie Nichols about her participation in The Baby Borrowers, with questions from a few other AP moms as well.

Natalie Nichols and son Benjamin - July 2008First off, what are the names and ages of your children?

I have 4 children total: 3 boys, Mackenzie (13), Zackary (8), Benjamin (3), and then our daughter Etta is now 18 months.

In an earlier conversation you said, “yes, I am an AP parent.” What does that mean to you?

I actually would say that I have some characteristics of Attachment Parenting, and many of a Natural Family Lifestyle. It is important to note though that neither of these titles defines who I am or what I do. I simply do what comes naturally to me, and what feels right as far as my family is concerned. I do not judge others for their parenting choices. Over the years of parenting my 4 kids, I have responded to their cries, and they have been worn in a sling or in my arms. I have nursed with reckless abandon, some would say. I’m “one of those moms” who doesn’t think that breastfeeding should be hidden, so where my kids were hungry is where they nursed. I’ve never seen the need to buy a “hiding” cover, sit in a special room, or God forbid nurse in a toilet stall. I think that babies should be worn or held up close and in the middle of adult conversations as a way of becoming more social and fostering great communication skills. I believe in delayed vaccinations, I co-sleep, I have almost always been a stay-at-home mother, I have homeschooled, I have unschooled, and two of my 4 births were natural by choice (and beautifully peaceful if I might add). If my babies need something, I provide it. I have never used a pacifier for any of my kids. They didn’t need them, they had me, and that worked out wonderfully. Out of the bunch the only one to suck a thumb was Benjamin.

Heather, an AP mom who blogs at A Mama’s Blog and API Speaks, would like to know, “Why did you feel the need to let teens who virtually have no child care experience, “borrow” your baby and let them be your baby’s caregiver? Doesn’t this go against the very parenting philosophy – attachment parenting – that you are trying to apply with your baby?”

I have to begin with saying that I was a very intelligent young girl, but at the same time, I didn’t know anything. I moved out on my 16th birthday to live with my teen boyfriend’s family, we got pregnant on purpose, we were married when I was 8 months pregnant and I delivered my first son 1 month before I turned 18. Although I was in the top 10 in my class, in the National Honor Society, Gifted and Talented, captain on the Drill Team, and in Fellowship of Christian Athletes, I threw it all away to drop out of school and raise my son. Sure I could have kept going to school and placed him in the on campus childcare, but they wouldn’t allow me to physically nurse him, and the few breaks I could get weren’t enough to maintain a milk supply. I tried pumping and having my mom watch him for 1 day but he didn’t eat the entire day and screamed bloody murder. I decided that he was more important than a school with rules that I didn’t agree with, so I quit. I got my diploma from a mail correspondence program but I didn’t get a prom or to walk with my class or anything else that represents being a senior in high school. Sure, I was breastfeeding, and we tried cloth diapering, but I was not patient enough with the leaks and gave up. I was a good teen mom, by society’s standards. However I was not a good mom by my own standards and I know that my son deserved better. It was never fair to ask him to grow up with me, or for me to expect him to just wait until I figured myself out so that I could give him the best he needed. He is a fabulous kid now at 13, and I do not for a second regret that he was born. What I do regret is the timing. I would love nothing more than to rewind the clock and become the woman I was supposed to be and share with him the wisdom that living my life has given me. He understands now that he is older, but he had no idea why I wasn’t mature enough not to yell and why his dad and I argued in front of him all the time when he was little.

It is important for me to reiterate here that while I consider myself an attached parent, I do not go down a check list of ideals and ensure that I’m applying what someone or some organization thinks is best for my children. My style of attachment parenting applies to not just my own children, but to my view on how we should be with society as a whole. I live my life by what I feel is the right thing to do, instinctively and as a mother. For me, the right thing to do is to turn my mistakes in the past into something positive for someone else. My older kids are proud of what our family has been able to do to try to make the world a better place.

I don’t feel that allowing the teens to care for Etta for those three days had anything to do with going against the way I parent. There are many teen girls out there who think so little of themselves, as I did, that they fall madly in love with the first boy who looks their direction. They see their self-worth only in what that boy tells them to think. And they have sex with him so that he will value her even more. These girls just “need” someone to be there for them and show them that it is not the right path to take. They need someone to tell them to look deeper inside themselves and see the beautiful girl staring back at them. They need to know that the right man will love them for the person she is and for the person that she wants to be. He will never try to make her be someone else or try to stop her from achieving her dreams. As an AP and NFL mother, I feel that it is every one of our places to fill this role. In my opinion, these are all of our children. Just because they are teens, they are still someone else’s son or daughter.

Did you hope to educate the teens (and viewers watching at home) about the benefits of breastfeeding, co-sleeping, baby wearing, etc.? If so, do you feel that you accomplished this?

I did teach the teens how to simulate nursing with Etta, using her breast-shaped bottle and my expressed milk. I didn’t share with them about co-sleeping, because the teens were not allowed to sleep with the babies in their beds as one of the safety precautions. While I do believe that co-sleeping with your own child is perfectly safe, you instinctively respond to the slightest sounds or movements with a baby you have recently given birth to and that couldn’t be expected of the teens. HOWEVER, Sean did co-sleep with Etta in a sense, after I had my initial tough love discussion with him. He walked holding her, he laid back on the couch holding her, and she slept, well, like a baby. Granted he didn’t get much sleep, but he fostered that feeling of co-sleeping that she was used to, and he made it work. In addition, since unlike me, he was having to prepare her bottles for her night nursings, it worked out well for them to be on the move anyway. I did bring Etta to the show in our sling, however I didn’t leave it for them because it is fitted and they were both much taller than I am. Plus I didn’t feel that they would be totally secure holding her in it and might have a false sense of security anyway. They did have the use of front carriers, but I don’t think they used them.

It has to be said though, I did not participate in this project because I am an AP or NFL parent. I participated to help show teens the realities of being a parent in hopes of deterring them from throwing their teen years away. I just happen to parent this way and was able to share some of that with them. I did tell Kelsey when I met her and saw her in the empathy belly “Congratulations, you have a beautiful baby girl and you are a breastfeeding mother now!” But that did not make the final airing. An additional neat breastfeeding moment was when Sean was caring for Etta alone and visited with his neighbor and fellow pseudo-single dad Cory. They were discussing their parenting tricks they had picked up. Sean told Cory that he needed to pick Karson up and take him to another room for a change of scenery (something I shared with him in the tough love conversation). And then Cory asked Sean if Etta had eaten and Sean said proudly, “Oh no man, I just breastfed her like 10 minutes ago.” :) I’m hoping that his breastfeeding experience will give him some insight and enable him to be very supportive of his future wife.

The Baby Borrowers has fallen under attack by groups like Zero to Three and Attachment Parenting International, among others. How do their responses affect you as an AP parent who willingly participated in the show?

I am not bothered by the negative criticism these groups have given the show or us as parents. The issue of teen pregnancy is a big one and it requires serious communication. Look how people are discussing teen sexuality out in the open now. It is amazing. As far as the research that these groups are using to say that we endangered our children emotionally, I don’t feel that it even applies. There are many situations that these same groups excuse from their criticism. Working parents, military parents, parents who go on a long weekend and hire a nanny or leave their children in the hands of a relative they don’t see on a regular basis, etc. The babies in those situations have no idea why their parents are leaving, whether it be for a weekend getaway or to participate in The Baby Borrowers, and if they are securely bonded in the first place (which is next to impossible to avoid with AP) then they are fine. I truly think it was irresponsible for these groups to speak out about the show without gathering all of the facts first. I don’t know of a single parent or child involved in this program that has been assessed by any of these groups. I have to add that I did not participate so that anyone could decide whether I am a good mother. I was not the best mother at one point in my life, but I am doing the best that I can to right that wrong now. Regardless of any of the claims that these groups, who have no actual knowledge about the filming or the participants, I would do this all over again if given the chance. Every time I get a letter from a young girl who’s life was touched in some small way by this program or by my involvement, it is further solidified in my heart that I made the right choice, and these “experts” are fanning flames when no fire exists to begin with.

Did you, your husband Chet, and/or your children get to spend some time getting acquainted with Sean and Kelsey before they “borrowed” the kids?

We sat with Sean and Kelsey for a good while before we left the children in their care. We stayed maybe 2 hours or a little less with Etta. We went through the manual that the producers asked us to prepare for Etta’s care. It contained the brand of wipes and diapers we use, what she likes to eat, any allergies the children had, the children’s likes and dislikes, etc. We had a chance to thoroughly inspect every room in the house. Everything was age appropriately baby proofed. We were able to observe the teens each holding our daughter, and explained what she liked and what she didn’t in that regard. Chet reiterated to Sean that he had to support her head. We answered any questions that they had and just got to visit with them and find out a little more about them as people. Kelsey explained that she wanted kids right away, which we already knew, and hoped to change. And Sean explained that he was hoping Kelsey would realize that they should wait. We liked Sean’s idea better. We didn’t spend quite as much time with Benjamin there because he was ready to play on the swing set. We sat and explained to Sean and Kelsey that he was like night and day from Etta. And we explained that we wanted them to see that it was not as easy as saying, “Etta was just that way because she missed her mom, my child would be different.” We told them that no two kids are exactly alike, and you really never know what their personality is until you meet them.

On the show I believe they showed you intervening with the teens twice while they had Etta. I know that you expressed milk and brought that over to the house throughout her 3-day stay, but how many times did you actually intervene? Did you spend any time with Etta during any of those interventions?

On a few occasions we sent instructions through the nanny if we noticed something minor that the nanny might not have known to pick up on. Nothing against the nanny, but there are some things only a parent can recognize in their child. That is the benefit we had of seeing and hearing everything that went on. As an example, I sent word to the nanny, via the producers, to be sure that the teens were putting my expressed milk into the fridge in an organized manner and paying attention to dates/time to be sure they didn’t let any go bad, etc. And after Sean’s visit to the grocery store, bless his heart, he came home to tell Kelsey, “Etta’s mom said she loves avocado, but I couldn’t find any jars of that anywhere.” I did zip over quickly to let Kelsey know that they would just buy an avocado and mash it up for her with breast milk. It was not a big deal, just clarification. And before going over the first night, I did send word that they made Etta’s breast bottle and left it sitting on her dresser untouched while they frantically tried to figure out why the child would not just fall asleep.

Although it would have been fine with the producers if I had gone to comfort Etta, I didn’t choose to do that. Because she was nursing and was used to having the AP lifestyle, I just felt that would have been a mistake. It would not have been fair to her for me to show up when she had already gotten used to her surrogate parents and then leave again. My main concern was her smelling my milk and then refusing to take the bottle from Sean and Kelsey. My husband was not able to give her the bottle with me in the room because she wasn’t that easily fooled. But if I was gone, then she took it with no problem. I didn’t view this any differently.

Summer, an AP mom and blogger at Wired for Noise asked, “How sudden were the changes (for Etta) from co-sleeping and breastfeeding to not? Did she have time to gradually adjust to the new situation before the show, or was it sort of last minute? I wonder because I have heard that with many reality shows the people are selected with little to no notice.”

That is a good question. The notice is fairly short I guess when you are considering schedules that many children have, etc. Like I stated in an answer above, Etta continued breastfeeding, just through her breast-shaped bottle. We purchased the Adiri nursers because they feel like a breast more than any other bottle. As long as I was not the one giving it to her, she took it fine. We are regulars at our local gym and she went to the on-site childcare most evenings for an hour. We started taking the breast bottle with us when she went as soon as it was a possibility that she would be on the show. It wasn’t very long, but long enough that we knew if she was hungry, she would take it. Also, I really don’t feel that co-sleeping was taken away from her because of the way Sean gave her that constant touch that she was craving after I spoke to him. You all saw that she wasn’t very happy when they did try to take co-sleeping away from her, and it was not going to happen.

How did you mentally and emotionally prepare your 2-year-old son Benjamin for his 3-day stay away from you?

I guess I prepared Benjamin as much as one can with a 2 year old. When Etta was a newborn, Benjamin went to a preschool program for a few hours a few times per week to give me time to breathe. He was perfectly fine with that and wanted to go all the time. Benjamin, although he is parented the same way, has always been very independent. He has always been the “tough one” of all of them at his age. He doesn’t get phased by much, and separation is one of those things. It is funny that in one scene Sean is standing at the door where Benjamin is crying and says, “I think he misses his mom,” but they didn’t understand his words as much as I did and I had just heard him crying saying that he wanted to go outside and play. Benjamin knows we are here and that we are coming back. He’s always just been really laidback about that and doesn’t get stressed by being around others. Now if he watches us leave, he may protest for a minute or two, but as a general rule for him, when we’re out of sight, we’re out of mind. We always just distract him with something else and sneak out and he is A-OK. They took him out to show him the play equipment in the backyard while we left, so he didn’t have an issue with it.

On the show, they depicted Sean telling Ben that he had to go to his room for a timeout if he didn’t stop crying. He didn’t stop crying and was sent to his room, the door closed while he continued to cry on the floor. How did you feel about that? How do you discipline him at home? Did you intervene at all during Benjamin’s stay?

To be honest, even with 4 kids, I don’t have a lot of experience in this arena. Neither of my older two boys ever threw tantrums, so I didn’t get to experience that before Benjamin. I was the mother in the store in shock that children acted that way because MY CHILDREN would NEVER act that way. Well I believe that everything happens for a reason and I believe that Benjamin’s job was to show me once again that I didn’t know everything and that yes, even my children could act that way. At the time, we were telling him that if he did not stop the behavior, he would go to his room for a timeout. If he did not stop, he went to his room, and at home he threw fits much worse than he did for Sean and Kelsey. I actually felt like he was acting better than he did at home. This brought up an interesting point. We noticed that when Kelsey made deals with Benjamin, he held up his end of the bargain. She told him, for instance, that if he took a nap, he could go to the park. She asked him if he wanted that and he said yes, so he laid down and took a nap without protest. He was a fairly late talker, compared to my other boys so it didn’t dawn on me that he was able to negotiate his behavior like that. But what she was doing was working for him. So at home, we have started doing that. Sometimes, we will still do time out in his room, but it is his choice. He likes to hear that it is his choice. He feels empowered, I guess. We will tell him that he can either stop the behavior or he can go in his room, and then say, “you choose.” And generally very quickly he chooses to stop the undesirable behavior.

I didn’t intervene myself with Benjamin, but my husband did once I believe. At first, Sean and Kelsey were letting Benjamin do whatever he wanted, and seemed afraid to take control of the situation. So Chet went over and explained to them that they had to be the parental figures and that he could not just be able to run wild. They took his advice to heart and each developed their own approach to discipline. Sean wasn’t as creative and just used the time outs in his room that Chet suggested. Kelsey really turned things around and had a great rapport with him. In regard to Benjamin crying on the floor, I was not affected by his behavior. He was not sad or hurt, he was just mad. I had witnessed enough tantrums from him to know that he was just in a battle of wills with Sean, and I was not going to intervene and let him think that he was winning. And Benjamin didn’t actually start throwing tantrums until Chet spoke to the teens and asked them not to let him have his way. For instance he would not get up to the table for them, would immediately get down, etc. and they were just allowing it and ignoring it. We don’t accept that behavior in our home and did not want them to either. Being a parent is showing your children the correct way to behave too, and Sean and Kelsey had to learn that part as well.

Julie, an AP mom and blogger at ChezArtz and API Speaks would like to know, “What do you wish they would have shown as part of the series?”

I wish that they would have shown Sean’s sleepless nights with Etta after he finally did “get it.” It is unfortunate that he came across as this heartless little punk who called my baby girl an “it.” He was not that way at all. He developed such a bond with her and she with him that it is almost unfair to the both of them that you didn’t get to see it. Or maybe it’s better that way and it’s something special that only Sean, Etta, Chet, and I will carry with us forever. I am glad that Cory was shown stepping up to the plate when needed, but he did it reluctantly. Sean dug right in and didn’t complain. Both of those boys earned my respect, and that of my husband. They can hopefully serve to show teen boys out there that if you do get in a situation and you think the only thing you can do is run, maybe they might want to think again. Sean showed that if you relax and just hug and love your child, they will give you that in return, and it is rewarding. And Cory showed that even when it is hard, sometimes you just have to buck up and push through. They both proved that babies of teen parents (and anyone else for that matter) need more than their mothers to stick around.

On a separate note, I wish that there was more time to air the parents’ review of Sean and Kelsey with the toddlers. After having seen them care for both of my children, I did not just sit there nodding my head listening to what Chet had to say. I felt that I had come to know both of them well enough to speak candidly with them and that I owed that to them. So I told Sean and Kelsey that I did think separately they were wonderful people, and that someday they would both make great parents, but not with each other. I told them that they did not display the love and devotion that it takes to make a marriage work. When they were apart, they seemed to shine, but as a couple, they really didn’t support one another or complement each other. I also told Kelsey that I felt that she had low self-esteem, as I did when I was her age and became a teen mother. But that she couldn’t look to Sean or any other man to provide her with that. I told her that she had to love herself enough to know that she was a beautiful person with or without a man.

Do you have anything else that you feel myself or my readers would be interested to learn about your participation in The Baby Borrowers?

I will attach my response to viewers and critics of The Baby Borrowers, including 0-3 and AACAP, so that you can read more about my reasons for participating and what myself and others have gained. In addition, it is paramount to note that my family did not seek to get on television. We are not seeking fortune or fame, or even our 15 minutes as many have suggested. I was contacted by NBC because one of the casting agents found my Myspace page and they invited me to participate in the auditions. I had never heard of the show, and when they explained the potential to help reduce teen pregnancy, I was on board. There was no money or other compensation whatsoever for participation in this “social experiment.”

Thank you again, Natalie, for taking the time out of your busy schedule to talk candidly with me. I genuinely enjoyed getting to know more about you and appreciated your perspective on The Baby Borrowers. I wish you and your family all the best.