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Name & age: Harriet Braun, 23
Baby: Penelope, 14 months
How did you end up doing gentle parenting?
I’ve always chose to take the kindest route in life that I possibly can, regardless of social norms.
I turned vegetarian when I found out that meat came from animals, and I turned vegan when I found out about the egg and dairy industry.
So as soon as I did my research into parenting methods, gentle parenting was an obvious choice for me.
What does being a woke mama mean to you?
It means that I accept that there’s ALWAYS room to grow and improve. Part of being human is to evolve and change, and I believe that it’s so important as a mother to stay informed on everything that will possibly affect my baby.
We bed-share, we are full-term breastfeeding, I hold her and give her all of my love whenever she wants it, but I also give her space to independently play when she wants to and socialise with other people when she chooses to.
I have found that by using meditation, I can be the best mother that I’m capable of to my daughter, because I manage to avoid adrenaline and keep calm in all situations. It’s a great tool and so far, I’ve never lost my cool with her, even when I’ve been awakened in the morning to her yanking my hair.
I follow my instincts and combine it with up-to-date science, and that’s how I parent.
I also think it’s important to teach her good morals. We visit animal sanctuaries so that she knows why we are vegan. We go to (peaceful) protests so that she knows that her voice is very powerful. I let her clean our rabbit’s habitat with me so that she knows how to care for others and she learns responsibility.
But I don’t force her to do anything that she doesn’t want to do. I respect that she’s her own person and she can make her own choices. Now, as a baby, and in the future, when she becomes a woman.
My role is to guide and lead her, not control and manipulate her.
Most awesome moment so far?
Difficult question! Probably when we went camping in the wilderness for fourth of July weekend/her half-birthday last year. She loved it so much and we partied every night until she’d fall asleep in my arms. I’ve always loved camping but having a baby to join in the fun made it 10x more fun.
Biggest struggle so far? How do you cope with stressful moments?
I’ve been struggling with comments about me full-term breastfeeding which has been hard on me because I know that for me and my daughter, it’s the right choice, and we love it so much.
Seeing how people who once supported breastfeeding, now have bad judgements about it, is tough and kind of heartbreaking.
But I’ve learnt that with being a mother, it’s important to have a hard shell and a soft core, and to not let people’s comments get to you when it’s about things that you know is an outdated perception, and you know that you’re doing your best.
Being an immigrant is hard too, combined with the loneliness that comes with motherhood. I moved from Manchester, England to Michigan, USA 2 years ago and my husband’s family are out of state so we are on our own a lot.
It’s been pretty tough at times, but I have learnt a lot and I do enjoy being able to make my own choices without having family member’s opinion getting too much in the way.
How do you juggle work with gentle parenting?
I’m studying to become a birth photographer, because I’m really passionate about the positive birthing movement and I think it’s a really beautiful genre, and one that’s SO important to show people that birthing can be beautiful — and can be whatever you want it to be.
I also like that it’s irregular hours because I get to spend a lot of time with my little. It’s a really tough juggle trying to find people to watch her, but I’m building connections and I know that with time, it will get easier.
I prioritise Penelope’s social time by visiting the library and kid play areas as much as possible, and she really has flourished into such a social little butterfly, crawling up to families to play, and waving at everyone. I believe that with how attached and close our relationship is, she trusts that I’m always there no matter what and this has made her super confident and open to hanging out with other people.
Because of this, I can fairly easily leave her to go and do a shoot and I know that she is having a fun time with whoever is watching her, and she knows that I will be home soon.
Any advice you would give to new mums?
Trust that you know more than you think! Trust in your mama instincts. But also do your research and stay informed.
What’s on your soundtrack to your first year of being a Woke Mama?
I had a natural homebirth/hypnobirth/waterbirth and the song that was on when I had her was Coffee by Sylvan Esso which is now a really special song for us.
My Kind Of Woman by Mac Demarco was mine and her daddy’s wedding song and was also in my birthing playlist and came on during the golden hour.
Anything by Real Estate or Kurt Vile would be on there because she’s obsessed and instantly calmed when she hears either.
For the first few weeks of her life, I listened to a lot of Hozier’s more mellow and calming music, and I would sing his songs for her when we’d nurse, and it was really sweet and a very fond memory. So he would definitely be on there too.
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