Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Blissful sleep...

For those who have shared a good portion of my journey as a parent, you can attest that there has been an awful lot of whining about the adequacy of sleep. For that, I can only offer my most sincere apology for all the complaining, and promise to do better in the future! For those who don't know, we had a rough journey with Ben on sleep issues, and, only now that I am a more experienced mother, can I see how much of it was a problem with perspective and expectations, rather than a problem with our precious little boy.

So, just to share a little bit, armed with all my Ben experiences in mind, I was determined to not "screw up the baby!!" So with Molly, Aaron and I had all of our grand plans laid out, and forged ahead, planning to figure it out "right" this time.

Well, I am here to announce (much to the shock and horror of my pre-baby self), that, the "right" thing for us right now is that Molly and I spend almost all of our night hours blissfully slumbering together. She and I...a little sleep unit...both equally aware and oblivious of the other next to us. She will fuss to nurse a couple of times, and I sleepily nurse her effortlessly, and then we both tumble back into dreamland. And, the complete and honest truth is that...IT IS HEAVENLY!!!

Sure, it's not perfect in some ways. I am still awakened by her to nurse, though I know this short time in her life will pass soon enough. Also, we will, at some point, transition away from it, and I worry that it could be a rough change, whenever it comes. And lastly, the "girl power" duo of Molly and I have kicked Aaron out of the bed altogether. Ben was sick one weekend, so Aaron offered to sleep in his room with him. After the weekend, Ben was better, but Aaron realized he had slept better those 2 nights than he had any night since before Molly was born, and we decided together that, for the time being, we would just go with it, especially because Aaron had a lot of really demanding issues coming up at work in the near future.

I should probably add that, in the interest of full disclosure, I was completely against co-sleeping before I had kids. And with Ben, though it seemed natural when we did it during the first few weeks of his life, I thought I was making a huge mistake, and felt very guilty about doing it. Every single one of my friends was choosing not to, and some were frankly quite critical of it. My only friend who had co-slept had children that were near school-age, so it was long since gone for her family. In this American society, it seemed like such a poor parenting decision to co-sleep.

But the more I learned about attachment parenting and about truly "present" parenting of your children, the more I began to question the views of our society. And the fact that so many other cultures co-sleep with newborns and infants also made me question my guilt about it. In addition, the research that found that SIDS rates were even LOWER for co-sleeping babies (given that parents don't co-sleep drunk or on a water-bed duh!!) also pushed me to change the way I was thinking about it.

But the last straw came when Molly was born. It was a bolt out of the blue. I never intended to put her in the bed at all. We had a bed for her right next to our bed, and I figured that it would be good enough. But, from the second she was born, she and I slept best when we were right next to each a drug...for me almost more than for her even.

I had felt very close to her during the pregnancy, and once she was out, the very first time I tried to sleep, I found that I couldn't. It was like I was wired on caffeine. My senses were heightened, and I could not drift off. But once I laid her beside me, I dozed off blissfully within minutes. It went on like this for months. Aaron would offer to hold her while I started the night's sleep early in those first 8 weeks or so, but I found that, if she wasn't right next to me, I couldn't sleep at all. But if she was with me, I could sleep effortlessly. It was a beautiful, peaceful time.

And now, she doesn't "need" me and I don't "need" her anymore. She naps just fine by herself all day, and goes to bed in the room hours before I do. But we are still co-sleeping for part of the night, and are still loving it. With Ben, I admit with shame that it was such torture to have him wake up in the night at this age. But with's worry...just a warm, snuggly baby who has slept the first 3 hours of the night alone, and would now like to snuggle up, back-to-back, with her sweet mama to finish off the night's sleep.

*Now, I write this knowing full well that most of my mommy friends will never once consider co-sleeping, and I think that is just right for them and their families. I don't want anyone to think that I am writing this, intending for it to push them to try. I can clearly see how, especially in this country, that it is a really hard choice for some mamas to make. But I decided to write this blog because it is a HUGE part of the joy I find in parenting right now. It is a peaceful force for bonding between my youngest child and myself, and it really, truly is wonderful.

The other part of the reason that I am writing this is that I have been trying lately to be more vocal about standing up for my parenting beliefs, especially when my beliefs don't necessarily mesh with mainstream US society, and when I feel my beliefs are particularly well-formed and/or well-researched. It is not about changing the beliefs of others, so much as it about being a supportive voice for some other young mother who may be exploring these same issues. I don't tend to tell a lot of people that we co-sleep, because often the response is negative. But, I was at a baby shower for a dear friend this past weekend, and another mother and I got to talking. Now this mother didn't know me at all, and within 3 min, she had fearlessly shared that she and her husband co-sleep with their daughter. The parents both work full time, and the choice to co-sleep together provides their family with a sense of connectedness that they otherwise feel they would miss. I was struck by the fact that she talked about co-sleeping with confidence and with an apparent lack of worry about what I might think or say.

And for anyone who knows me well, I will admit that I might have talked with you about co-sleeping and sounded very confident, but I will come clean now and say that I was probably trying to hide my insecurities and was hoping desperately to not be judged. But now, I am working to lose my fear of what others might say or feel...hence the (rather long and possibly now boring;) blog entry about co-sleeping.

I've gotta run now. My little 19-pound roomie will be wanting me to snuggle up with her in about an hour!


Jesstern said...

Do you always sleep with a smile on your face? :) J/K. You two are cute.

Momma Maria said...

Sleep on, little mamma. I'm considering this with number two. I craved it with Anna but she flopped around like a fish, even when co-napping.