Mama Madison: Natural vs. un-natural parenting

It's never too late to learn a new approach

It's weird to admit this, especially in a city surrounded by as much outdoor beauty as Madison. But frankly, I'm just not that into nature. I'm more of an indoor kind of gal. Give me an afternoon at the Chazen or the Wisconsin Historical Museum over the Arboretum or Olbrich Gardens any day. I don't hike or camp unless it's absolutely necessary (which as far as I'm concerned is never). And I've rarely used the phrase, "Just let nature take its course," not even in parenting.

During the birth of my oldest son nearly seventeen years ago, I briefly considered going epidural-free. But when the very sweet and perceptive labor and delivery nurse told me the closest thing she'd ever witnessed to natural childbirth at the downtown Chicago hospital was a mom-to-be without a pedicure, I blissfully caved to the spinal block. I'm pretty sure she had noticed my bright pink toenails before putting in the pro-medication plug.

And while I went unintentionally went drug-free during my daughter's very speedy delivery in Madison five years later, I would be lying if I didn't say I wouldn't have minded a little bit (okay a lot) of something to ease the pain. Even another outrageously long needle in my back.

Sure, I nursed my kids. But mostly because it was convenient and cheap. I fully embraced the use of disposable diapers. And despite owning just about every small kitchen appliance known to mom-kind (I was a very early adopter of the George Foreman grill), I never owned a baby food grinder.

But I can't say my avoidance of the natural parenting movement has had any particular benefit for my family. My kids, and just as importantly maybe I, might have really benefited from deliberate baby-wearing, the willingness to explore more herbal remedies and a little more time outside (with a non-chemical sunscreen, of course). I just never really took the time to explore more thoughtful, and natural, parenting options when my kids were little.

But for those of you who still have the time to check out the latest in going "au natural," I'd recommend heading downtown this coming Sunday, March 23, from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. at Monona Terrace to check out the Madison area's second annual Natural Parenting Expo . As part of the event, the Aldo Leopold Nature Center will be giving a demonstration on how to connect your "Knee-high Naturalist with the Natural World." And there will be a panel discussion on alternative school approaches, as well as a session on homeschooling.

For those interested in learning more about natural childbirth options, there is both a screening of the film "The Business of Being Born" as well as a presentation by Dr. Leila Midelfort on "Strategies for a Natural Birth in the Hospital."

And because we all know laughter is the best (natural) medicine, don't miss your chance to see stay-at-home humorist Ann Imig, creator of the nationally renowned "Listen to Your Mother" show, perform live on the stage. Her reading, entitled The Children Ate My Gratitude, is sure to increase your endorphins (or whatever it is that's released when you laugh). Ann is one of the most naturally funny writers I know.

No, I guess it really is never too late to become a more natural parent. Even for me. But still, I'm still kind of glad the Expo is taking place inside Monona Terrace's Exhibition Hall. You know, indoors.

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