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Control: My Struggle to Embrace the Chaos

Abby Theuring, The Badass Breastfeeder breastfeeding her son.

I know I said that this endeavor was going to be about Attachment Parenting, but I suppose I have some things to say before I can get on with that. I need to cleanse my soul; clean out my closet if you will. In just 8 months I have become strangers with the “old me.” I have taken on a less popular parenting style with passion. This parenting style deeply contrasts with my lifestyle before my son was born. Most of you don’t know me so I should point out that when I take on new things I tend to put my entire self into it. Leaving not a trace of the past. There are just a few items of unfinished business before I move forward completely leaving that “old me” to be found only in pictures and memories.

I have control issues. Laugh if you will, but they are quite the bane of my existence. I do not fly, ride elevators or subways. I breathe heavy in a crowd, in the passenger’s seat of a car and on a bus. The latter trio is slightly less anxiety provoking because I am in control of getting out. When I cannot get out or control the situation I panic. So now take a step back and imagine this rule applied to everyday life. I am a clean person, neat freak and by-the-book rule follower. I like things in a row, in a timely manner, black and white and clear cut. I strive for order in the outside world to manage the disorder in the inside world.

This may have been why I was drawn to criminal justice as a young adult. I got my degree in criminology and planned to become a police officer out of college in New York City. Instead I went into social work. I worked with kids out of jail then family court. I moved to Chicago and got a job at a residential facility where I blossomed as a hard-working, passionate and badass social worker. The program was rigid, structured and every minute of the day was planned out. When the kids got “out of control” they were restrained and forced back into compliance with our program rules. They were medicated when they acted too hyper or too lazy. When they were too big for us to handle we called the police, put them in an ambulance and sent them to the psychiatric hospital where they were forced into compliance with yet another program.

I do not write this to begin a discussion about how social services handles our young people or to even express my own opinion about my experiences. I simply want to illustrate for you that I come from a very structured and rigid place. It was important to my work. I was drawn to it likely because it was also important for my emotional health. As my husband and I talked about our plans for childrearing he would say, “is our house going to be run like a residential program?” “Probably,” I said. Controlling my environment has always been a coping skill for managing my more unsettling emotions. It also made sense. It was logical. I am a thoughtful and rational person. This all fit together inside me like puzzle pieces.

So, on the afternoon of July 30, 2011 you can imagine my confusion when this newborn baby boy was placed in to my arms and none of what I believed before made sense. It felt wrong to pass him over to a stranger to give him a bath and to take his temperature. It seemed strange that he had to be taken out of the room to be given a vaccination when he was just born a moment ago. I was able to breastfeed as soon as he was born. That felt right. It felt right to hold him while he slept. It felt right to lose sleep so that I could make sure he was doing well. In the recovery room a nurse asked if I wanted her to watch him in the nursery so I could get some rest. I had spent much time with this nurse over the few days I was there and I know that she wanted to help and support me. But that still felt wrong. Over the days and weeks things unfolded in a way that still blows my mind. Nothing that I believed before makes sense anymore. I do not believe in molding a person, in providing rigid structure or in schedules. I thought that when Jack was born I would be leading his way through life. Now I feel that the most loving and natural thing to do is to follow him. I feel that throughout our life together we will take turns leading and following. He has been my greatest teacher and I trust him to teach me nothing but the honest truth. And I will listen.

But what to do with the vastness of crazy inside my head? How will I gain control over my mind if I cannot control my environment? Part of me says “embrace the chaos!” Another part of me knows that I have begun a long journey of learning to truly manage my emotions so that they do not become Jack’s burden. Jack is my environment now. It is important for me to leave that up to nature. I will guide him when necessary, but I will not control him for my own relief. For now I deep breathe, talk kindly to myself and, on occasion, I have some fun and allow myself to scrub that floor just a bit longer or line up Jack’s books from largest to smallest.

But for the most part the army general in me is a part of the past. I feel free now. Like I was also born the day Jack was born. So far I have embraced my new life free from rigidity. And all I can do is trust that my instincts will lead me in the right direction as they have up until now. I didn’t know what I was doing, but I knew what felt right and what felt wrong. It has been refreshing and calming to know there is a community of people who turned out to be doing the same thing I was doing. This community of people has made me more confident in what I am doing. They have given me a vocabulary for what I am doing. They have shown me that I can breastfeed, I can be an Attachment Parent, a natural-minded parent, gentle parent and still be a Badass.

Abby Theuring, MSW

Comments

  1. Beautifully written. Rebirth is such a magnificent process that is surprising and also comforting.

  2. Rebirth is what this should have been called. Not Control. Fuck control. It’s an illusion, who needs it.

  3. LOVED this post!!!! I so relate to you and your need/feeling for control. I have had to let go and accept the chaos, like you said. 3 children and 6 1/2 years later, it has been quite a journey. We are still learning. Everyday is a lesson. Like you said, let your kids show you the way and be your teacher. : )

  4. This blog post was amazing. It truly spoke to me.

  5. Love it! Im still learning to let go of control – shit it is challenging!

    Thank you again.
    Marama

  6. Thank you for this. I’m struggling with ”letting go”. This post had given me hope that I will come out the other side unscathed.
    – Kristine, mommy to my rainbow baby boy, Lucas, the most demanding child I’ve ever met! Love him with everything I am.

  7. I can so relate. It also felt wrong for me to hand over my baby to a stranger to raise so i could return to work. I live far away from my family so that was not an option. So i quit my job and started a day care in my home, talk about embracing chaos! I was also in law enforcement and always had to have things in order. My little man Conner has changed that, he has taught me so much…. i recently weaned him at 3 and a half. He was only breastfeeding at night and he/we were not sleeping very good, it was like he was going after it in his sleep. Now that hes weaned he sleeps all night (still snuggled in between my husband and I) which is nice but I feel so guilty. He nursed since day one and it was so important to him. He is still happy as can be and adapted quicker than i thought he would but I feel bad. I also felt awkward and like a freak when people found out I was still breastfeeding at 3 and a half and even when he was 2. So I encourage you just as Abby does be a good Mom and do what FEELS RIGHT FOR YOU AND YOUR BABY.
    Thank you for what you do Abby!!
    Even though I didnt allow self weaning Im proud to be a badass breastfeeder

  8. Loved it. Specially the part about following your kids. I totally agree that is our job to follow them, look at them. Thanks for sharing this, Abby.

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