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Welcome to My Living Room (aka GCM)
A sharing of my story and the history of GCM
by Jeri CarrThis article was originally posted to the GCM message board on January 1, 2012.
In the past when people have asked about the dynamic here at Gentle Christian Mothers (GCM), long-time members have described it as "Jeri's living room, opened up to for all of us to come pull up a comfy chair and fellowship." Over the years, I have been told many times this picture of sisterly fellowship is what has defined GCM for a lot of our members. We've had a lot of new members join this past year and more will be joining this month after registration re-opens tomorrow on January 2nd, so I thought perhaps it would be a good time to reintroduce myself and provide a history of our community here in my living room.
The story starts back in the mid-'90s with the birth of my first child. After being married for three years, I became pregnant with her at the age of 24. I began to read all I could find about birth, mostly from mainstream sources, but I learned enough to know I wanted a drug-free birth for my baby. I labored in warm water at the hospital and gave birth naturally shortly after getting out of the bathtub.
I felt elated and as I nursed her in the delivery room I felt so strongly that I wanted to be the best mom for my baby that I could be. As the next two days at the hospital went by, joy mingled with confusion and worry. My husband and I couldn't understand why our beautiful, sweet baby cried so much!
She continued crying a lot after we got home from the hospital, but our life became more peaceful after she and I got the hang of nursing and (this is important) after I realized that she would often calm down when I nursed her. Then I began to nurse her very frequently, and we were all so much more content. Even so, my husband and I felt surprised that she wanted to nurse seemingly "all" the time. And, we wondered, why did she cry if we tried to set her down? And why wouldn't she sleep in a crib (weren't babies supposed to like cribs)?
I felt bewildered by how hard motherhood was and how different it was from what I had expected. It seemed as if I gave all my energy and time to caring for my wee babe, and I had never before had to give of myself to another human being so fully. It felt like all I did was change diapers and nurse and nurse and nurse all day long. I remember spending those first days sitting in a rocking chair in my baby's bedroom and nursing her and holding her for hour after hour while I read a book and munched on granola bars. Nights were even harder than the days, especially after my husband had an accident at work and I had to take care of her all night, too, and I was getting so very tired. When I found out that I could nurse her lying down and that we could sleep together, caring for my baby while meeting my own needs for sleep became a lot easier!
At my baby's two-month check-up I was so happy to hear that she was healthy and growing well, and the doctor encouraged me to keep doing whatever I was doing. Listening to her and responsively meeting her needs helped us both feel right, but as a high-needs baby (I wish I would have known that term back then!) she didn't fit into the happy baby "mold" and well-meaning friends gave us advice trying to help--advice that said things like "If you keep sleeping with her, it'll be very hard to get her to leave when she gets older," and "It's okay to let her cry a little; crying is good for her lungs." Someone even offered to come over and "help me get my baby on a schedule"! Instead of helping, though, and instead of giving me confidence in my mothering skills and instincts, I became filled with doubts and worry that I was doing things all wrong. I wanted to do what was best for my baby, and I felt so confused!
During my pregnancy, a former pastor and his wife whom I admired very much loaned me their Preparation for Parenting manual and tapes (they had even taken the Prep class from the Ezzos themselves!). Having a tendency to put things off until the last minute (and thinking I had a couple more weeks before my baby's birth), I waited to listen to the tapes and read the manual, and I ended up only listening to a short portion of a tape in the days before she was born, so the Ezzos' teachings didn't really influence me the first couple of months. I felt, though, that I should at least read the manual that went with the tapes before returning them, so I finally read through much of it and jotted down a little list of things I had learned from it. I also read Dr. Spock's book on babycare.
What I read, along with the comments from my friends, dramatically influenced my thinking. The resulting growing doubts that crept in made mothering my baby harder than anything else did, and in a carefully thought-out decision, one which I thought would be best for my baby, but one I came to regret and decide to never repeat (and encourage other mothers to never do!), at about 2 1/2 months old I left her to cry alone in her crib until she fell asleep. I remember laying in the room next to her bedroom reading Prep for Parenting and hearing her cry and cry for over 45 minutes. It did "work," in that she started sleeping through the night, though I myself became a light sleeper and had a hard time sleeping through the night. Eventually she began consistently waking up early each morning at around the time my husband left for work, and I didn’t have the heart to let her cry-it-out again, so I brought her to bed with me, and we cuddled and nursed and slept together until we both felt like getting up in the morning.
About 6 months after my baby's birth, one evening before getting on the treadmill at the gym I grabbed a mainstream parenting magazine to read and came across an interview with a pediatrician named Dr. William Sears. Back then I had no idea who he was, but his words would be life-changing. In that article I first learned about attachment parenting, and it was such a huge relief to read what he had to say. I had been feeling guilty for wanting to respond to my baby and not let her cry, I had worried I was spoiling her, and to learn that it was good to responsively meet a baby's needs. . . Wow, I felt a huge burden being lifted from my heart.
The Internet was pretty new back in the mid-'90s, and when a couple months later my husband and I got access to the Internet through AOL for the first time, right away I excitedly began searching for information about Dr. Sears and attachment parenting. As I searched my excitement grew because what I read rang true in my heart and encouraged me. I also searched for information about the Ezzos and was amazed and relieved when I found other Christians who had concerns about their teachings.
Through my searching I found out about La Leche League and started attending local meetings (and loved them!). On the 'net I joined some secular attachment parenting email lists as well as an encouraging Christian email list called Parenting as Ministry which described itself as a "discussion group would appeal primarily to Evangelical Christians who are members of LeLecheLeague [sic]." I also read many articles and personal parenting experiences online on various websites. Through these resources I learned not only about attachment parenting, but also about gentle, natural parenting, which, though not the same as attachment parenting, has many elements which are intertwined with attachment parenting.
Since my baby didn't fit the mainstream mold of what babies should be like and I found that many mainstream ideas about parenting babies were flat-out false, I also began to question other mainstream parenting beliefs. As I researched I felt drawn towards alternative, natural parenting choices. They were a good fit with attachment parenting and, for my husband and I, a natural outgrowth of our desire to make researched, respectful, and nurturing parenting decisions. We found that the inherently gentle nature of these choices enhanced the attachment between us and our daughter (and future children), and we began incorporating more and more of these choices into our lives. Some examples of natural choices we made were beginning to cloth diaper when our first daughter was a toddler, no longer letting our children be vaccinated, choosing natural healthcare as much as possible, keeping our two sons intact, and homeschooling. Also, our first daughter nursed for almost 5 years and our other children nursed for as long as they wanted to nurse as well, and I went on to give birth to our other three children at home.
Shortly after my daughter turned one, at my husband's encouragement I started my own website on Geocities called "The Kids are People, Too!! Page," which I described as "a resource for gentle parenting from conception through the toddler years." I began to share with others what I was learning about attachment and natural parenting writing about topics such as attachment parenting, natural pregnancy, natural childbirth and homebirth, nursing a toddler (and beyond), nursing on cue, co-sleeping, homeschooling, being a sahm, positive discipline, and natural healthcare. Having your own personal website (not blogs!) and webrings were both very popular back then, and as I searched the Internet for information and resources to help improve my website, I met other Christian AP moms online who had websites and in 1997 decided to create the "Gentle Christian Mothers" webring to join our sites together.
I didn't have any grandiose ideas or long-term plans in mind, but there wasn't much support for Christian attachment parenting back then, and I saw a need to help make it easier for Christian moms to connect and find support for their gentle, attachment and natural parenting choices and to help those mothers know they weren't alone in their choices. I hoped it would encourage other gentle mamas and help to spread the word that Christianity and attachment parenting are more than compatible and that attachment parenting is biblical.
When I was thinking about what descriptive name to call the webring I wanted to start, I thought of "Gentle Christian Mothers" as a name that fit what I desired to be and what I believed in, and I knew there were other mothers like that out there, and I wanted to encourage them and help us find one another and support one another. I chose the name "Gentle" because the type of parenting I espouse sometimes goes by the name "gentle parenting." It's called that simply because parents who parent in this style strive to make parenting choices that are gentle. Though one element of it is using gentle discipline, it's so much more than that. It's a parenting lifestyle that affects the choices we make throughout our children's lives including the way we approach pregnancy and childbirth, how we breastfeed and answer our baby's cries responsively, how we approach healthcare, and how we approach schooling. They are choices we make because we are attachment parents, desiring to build healthy attachment between our children and ourselves, and some choices are more along the "natural parenting" side of things.
The GCM webring grew and other mothers wanted to be part of it who didn't have a website, so I started listing them on my website. In August 1999, I emailed all the ladies in the webring and those listed on my website and let them know I was starting a message board for Gentle Christian Mothers on ezboard.com. We started with a few members posting, and then other people heard about it, and we began growing. And that's how it got started.
Somehow God chose to work through GCM and has helped it, despite setbacks, to grow and to be able to help many mothers and many children. I had no clue that it would get so big. That He decided to give me a part in this is beyond my comprehension, and I've wondered why many times because I'm not one of those people who usually get big things done, not at all, because I tend to procrastinate, be unorganized, and I'm shy and the type of person who usually likes to blend into the background. All I did was see and feel a huge need for support for Christian mothers who practiced gentle, attachment, and natural parenting, and God gave me the desire and capability to step in and begin in a small way to help fill that need!
I feel the name "gentle" fits our group and what we stand for even more than I realized so many years ago. To be a "gentle mother" is a worthy and Christ-honoring goal. There are many good verses about being "gentle" in the Bible. Our theme verse is I Thessalonians 2:7 -- "we proved to be gentle among you as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children."
So, this is my story and the story of how "my living room" was built, decorated, and where some of the comfy chairs came from. GCM is a reflection of Christian attachment parenting and natural living, and it's designed that way with intention. It was created to be a safe haven where those who make parenting and natural living choices that go against the grain and are not mainstream can have a place to feel normal and accepted. The chairs set for guests have been selected with a purpose and reflect the core beliefs that I believe are important to have as a foundation for this community.
If this sounds good to you and if you have found yourself nodding more than shaking your head while reading this , we pray you find sweet fellowship and encouragement in our community. Please pull up your favorite chair and grab a cup of and join in.
We are not perfect mothers, and we make mistakes all too often, but we believe that our children are a gift from God. God chose us to parent our children, and we can be sure that He, by His grace and mercy, will provide the tools necessary to do so in a way that will bring glory to Him.That is our ultimate goal. . . to bring glory to Him. God, we rest in your arms, in your grace. Please help us to bring glory to you. Amen.
Copyright 2012 by Jeri Carr
Copyright 1997-2015 by Gentle Christian Mothers™
Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.