Mama Madison: The un-natural

It's never too late to think about natural parenting

All the girls in my summer camp cabin knew every song on Carole King's "Tapestry" by heart. It was the mid-1970s and that album, along with a little John Denver and the "Free to Be, You and Me" soundtrack were mainstays on our counselor's 8-track tape player. But I always kind of doubted I would ever get my chance to "(Feel Like) A Natural Woman," the final song on King's record. Given my borderline abuse of both Sun-In and Coppertone sunless tanner that summer, no one would dare use the word "natural" to describe anything about me -- especially my brassy orange hair and matching skin color.

While I've fortunately grown out of my Oompa Loompa phase, I still can't make the claim of being all natural, at least when it comes to personal grooming. With gray-obscuring highlights in my hair and fancy face creams with ingredients I cannot pronounce in my medicine cabinet, I am using the best modern chemistry has to offer to ward off the inevitable signs of aging.

To be honest, I'd probably never qualify as a poster child for natural parenting, either. Years ago, when I was three centimeters dilated with my oldest son and painfully pondering whether or not to have an epidural, my labor and delivery nurse told me that the closest thing she'd ever witnessed to natural childbirth at the downtown Chicago hospital was a mom-to-be sans pedicure. Not wanting to break with tradition, I leaned over, stared at my bright pink toenails and welcomed the needle in my back.

I happily went the spinal block route for son number two, as well. And while there was no opportunity for anything even resembling pain relief during my daughter's speedy delivery, I wouldn't have minded a little bit of something--even a glass of wine, perhaps--if time had permitted.

I did nurse all three kids, though, the two younger ones well in to their toddler years. But it wasn't just health or attachment concerns that caused me to unhook my bra every couple hours for the better part of my thirties. No, I was an extended breast feeder for the same reasons many people eat at fast food restaurants--it was quick, cheap and didn't involve me washing dishes (or in this case, bottles).

I think if I had to do babyhood all over again, I might look in to more of the hallmarks of holistic parenting. Cloth diapers? I love the idea of a service that comes to my house, picks up at least some part of my dirty laundry, and then brings back a fresh batch clean. And babywearing? As a woman looking for any excuse to indulge in a new accessory, I think I would have reveled in having an entire wardrobe of one-of-a-kind slings made out of gorgeous, breathable fabrics.

But for those of you who still have time to fully embrace the natural parenting trend, definitely plan on heading down to Monona Terrace this coming Sunday, March 10, for the city's first-ever Natural Parenting Expo . The organizers of the event recognize that the phrase natural parenting means different things to different people, and with over 39,000 square feet of exhibitors, entertainment and educational opportunities, there is sure to be something for everyone.

From a kid-friendly "Make Your Own Pizza Garden" demonstration, to presentations on GMOs, herbicides and hormones in food, to an interactive tween yoga class, you and your whole family are sure to come away inspired. Me? I'm most likely to try to hit the babywearing fashion show at noon, where I fully expect the models to sashay down the runway to the strains of "A Natural Woman."

And I'll be envious. Because they'll actually be able to mean it.

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