If you're a parent or have any association with that world, (who doesn't?) then you'll know that there is a certain subset of parents labeled "crunchy." Growing up, my mom used to say "that's too crunchy granola for me!" any time something natural seemed a little too weird or out of the ordinary. Disclaimer: she's come a long way and is pretty crunchy herself now haha but she will still say this from time to time!
So for those not in the know, if you're a "crunchy" parent, you're into the natural parenting "movement" (movement doesn't seem like the right word, but I don't know what else is?). There are tons of interpretations of that and people of course pick and choose their priorities, but it could mean you eat an organic, plant based diet. It could mean you use amber teething necklaces before ibuprofen when your baby is teething. It could mean you breastfeed for as long as possible and try to avoid using formula. It could mean you cloth diaper instead of using disposable. You are into essential oils and herbal remedies. I think everyone is generally a mix of practices, based on their priorities and their own abilities as parents (for example, cloth diapers may just not be feasible if your kids are in daycare or you don't have easy access to a washing machine).
I have become super crunchtastic. This was definitely not my plan and it's not really how I grew up either. But I did grow up being encouraged to question things and think independently. And honestly, if you can't do those things, I imagine you're going to have a hard time being a crunchy parent. There is no population people are more openly critical of than parents, regardless of if those critics are parents themselves or not. Everyone has an opinion on your child and how she should be raised. If you can't block out the ocean of opinions that are coming your way, you won't be able to follow your own instincts.
I was reading about my personality type the other day when my sister-in-law was showing me how your personality affects the home designs you tend to like best. And when I read over some of my INTJ profile, so much of it jumped out at me in regard to the way I'm parenting. Here are some relevant quotes from 16personalities.com:
"At times it will seem that INTJs are bent on deconstructing and rebuilding every idea and system they come into contact with, employing a sense of perfectionism and even morality to this work. "
"Rules, limitations and traditions are anathema to the INTJ personality type – everything should be open to questioning and reevaluation, and if they see a way, INTJs will often act unilaterally to enact their technically superior, sometimes insensitive, and almost always unorthodox methods and ideas."
"This creativity, logic and confidence come together to form individuals who stand on their own and take responsibility for their own actions. Authority figures do not impress INTJs, nor do social conventions or tradition, and no matter how popular something is, if they have a better idea, INTJs will stand against anyone they have to in a bid to have it changed. Either an idea is the most rational or it’s wrong."
"INTJs are defined by their tendency to move through life as though it were a giant chess board, pieces constantly shifting with consideration and intelligence, always assessing new tactics, strategies and contingency plans, constantly outmaneuvering their peers in order to maintain control of a situation while maximizing their freedom to move about. "
All this to say... as with everything in my life... I became uber crunchy because I did an uber obsessive amount of research on all these topics to find the "best" way or doing everything. I have a perfectionist streak when it comes to things I really care about and I've never cared about anything as much as I do Willow. So naturally, before we begin a new phase of her development or my parenting, I pro/con every choice we make. It's that obnoxious chess board mentality thing.
I've written on this blog before that I became a big believer in chiropractic on a whim really. I was in two car accidents within two years where someone hit me from behind/the side, and my neck and spine were really out of whack from that (to use the technical definition). I saw an orthopedist and physical therapists and really didn't see much improvement. My neck hurt constantly and I had tons of headaches, especially after sleeping at night. When my orthopedist told me at 21 years old that I was just getting older now and would either have to get surgery one day or accept the aches and pains of aging, I was irritated enough with the absurdity of that statement to start doing my own research on the internet. This couldn't possibly be true and these doctors were certainly not the only way of healing myself. This led me to chiropractors and my neck pain has gone away ever since. All hail the internet. And chiropractors.
So, that was the start for me and it was only a casual interest for years. My little brother, Cade, has been a vegetarian since he was 5 and learned where meat comes from, and I remember him watching Food Inc with my mom one day. I didn't watch it, but when I saw it on my Netflix recommendations one day, I did. And that was also a catalyst. That documentary led to the next, which led to the next, which led to the next, which led to probably 20 books, and god knows how many internet articles and videos. I own my nerdom... I've watched many a scientific and medical lecture on Youtube, read articles from PubMed, and attended workshops/lectures in person when I can. I don't get out to enough of the in person ones, but the internet is a vast place and I'm thankful to have it as a resource. There's literally nothing you can't find on the internet if you know where to look.
This is how I came to the birth center, one of the best decisions we've made for Willow and for me. And in rereading this last paragraph, I realize how condescending and arrogant it all sounds. I don't mean it that way. And I don't look down on anyone making different choices than me. Everyone has their reasons and if you've done your own pro/con list and come out with a different verdict, good for you. I only brag(?) about my researching at all because I guess I get tired of people who do no research on these topics and assume I'm just thoughtlessly following a trend. Or that parents like me think "if it's natural, it must be better!" and that's the end of the thought process. Sometimes I genuinely WISH I could be that casual with my decisions because it sounds a lot less stressful and WAY less time consuming! But alas, I know myself and I am the person who will read research until the early morning hours on my phone, regardless of baby sleep habits, because I just. can't. let. it. go.
So, yeah, we're pretty crunchy. We cloth diaper, which was one of the easiest decisions ever actually. The only con to cloth is really just time... everything else is a pro. It's cheaper, better for the environment, better for baby's skin, CUTER, less blow outs and leaking... what's not to love? I wish all my crunchy choices were as clear cut haha. We've been doing baby led weaning instead of purees and "baby food." We only take Willow into the doctor every four months for checkups because I'm pretty confident I know my baby better than anyone and if something's wrong with her, I'll notice before any doctor. We do regularly see a chiropractor and yep, he checks Willow's spine as well. I try to use as much organic food and as many fruits/veggies as I can, but that is definitely the hardest work I do. Husbands who love their meat and dairy can make that struggle a little more challenging haha.
There are probably a bunch of other crunchy things I do that I don't even think of as crunchy anymore. To me, they're just evidenced based decisions. And I have very few hard rules. I've been using natural remedies for Willow's teething pain, but one night she was clearly extra upset and having a very hard baby time, so I gave her some baby ibuprofen. I'm not going to keep all drugs away from her on principle. I'm just going to try natural alternatives first, since they're almost always less harmful in the long run. I mean, I gave Willow some honey nut cheerios the other day! It was scandalous!
Oh, and SOMETIMES, the research I do does not come out in favor of super crunchiness! For example, sleep! (I promise this will not turn into another blog post about Willow's sleeping habits!) I read TONS and tons about baby sleep habits and sleep training and co-sleeping and yada yada. The straight up crunchy thing to do would be to just pop Willow into our bed and let her nurse on demand and be done with it. But my research, combined with the practicalities of our day to day life made co-sleeping not right for us. I've had way more success getting Willow to sleep in her own crib in a dark room with white noise and not intervening every time she cries. It is HARD. Trust me, my mommy instincts are going absolutely haywire when my baby is in her room crying by herself. But when that leads to a sweet, happy, well-rested baby who can put herself to sleep the instant I put her in bed now? I have to think I made the right choice for her long term healthy sleep habits. Big picture wins over the short term omg panic I feel every time Willow is in any distress.
Whew, that was a lot of writing and I feel like it's just the tip of the iceberg. I could literally go on and on about this topic. It's definitely become a passion of mine as I see so many children with long term illnesses and allergies... I can't help wondering what could have been prevented? What could be changed? I just want to do the best I can for Willow. I love photography and my business, but Willow's health and happiness is my #1 job and priority. Everything takes a backseat to that. And when I can take the time to learn before we do something like start solid foods, or whatever it is, then I'll feel more secure even when things don't go perfectly that I did the best I could at the time. And that's all any of us should ever hold ourselves to.