Sunday, January 16, 2011

Sleeping Like a Family

artwork by Katie M. Berggren, sold @
When I was pregnant with our first child, I read practically everything Dr. Sears and his wife, Martha, wrote about babies. I was fascinated with attachment parenting, and loved the idea of co-sleeping with our new baby. I imagined blissfully nursing through the night while lying in bed, barely waking up until the sunlight peeked in through the window. I basked in the warm glow of the image of my husband, baby, and I sleeping peacefully and waking rested.

The reality was...a little bit different. Somehow in all of my reading, I overlooked the fact that I was not actually a very sound sleeper, and that being a mom would make me even more attuned to noises that sounded like babies crying, moving in their sleep, or even just breathing. For the first six weeks, our new baby slept in a handcrafted bassinet fashioned to look like a wooden sailboat, courtesy of my father-in-law. While she slept, I fussed. I constantly turned the light on to peer at the baby, to make sure she was breathing, to tuck her more tightly under the blanket I worried would somehow suffocate her, or just to watch her sleep. About three or four weeks in, I found myself shooting straight up in bed at five in the morning, sure I'd heard her cry out for me. By the time I got the light on and looked down at her, she wasn't moving--sound asleep, eyes peacefully shut. Turns out, the kid was just talking in her sleep. Turns out, we tried out her crib much sooner than we'd ever thought we would.

As for nursing through the night, well, some fun issues with overproduction made that seem impossible as well. In order to avoid choking my poor infant with fire-hydrant-strength streams of milk, I needed to be much more awake, sitting semi-upright to let gravity work against the flow, and prepared to catch what she couldn't with a towel or some other absorbent cloth.

Cut to two and a half years later, as our daughter transitioned from a crib to a toddler bed. It became a not-unusual sight for Mommy to check on Daddy an hour or so after bedtime to find Daddy and daughter snuggled up in a pile of blankets and pillows on the floor of her bedroom, next to the toddler bed. It wasn't long before I found myself on the receiving end of a pair of eyes hovering at the side of the bed at three a.m., intent on boring a hole in my eyelids and satisfied by only the invitation into bed with us. Some nights this worked; others, we trudged little one back to bed after enduring enough kicks, punches, and slaps to feel like we'd been in a mosh pit half the night.

A few months ago, our little one needed to graduate from the toddler bed to a real bed, so we moved the queen-sized guest bed into her room and fashioned the guest room into an office. We made this decision knowing we wanted to be able to snuggle with her at bedtime, aware that this might evolve into full-on bed sharing, and thinking it might keep her out of our bed. As it turns out, it doesn't matter how big the bed is; if it's not Mom & Dad's, it's not where she wants to be. Not every night, but enough nights that I "complain" about it to my mother, who constantly tells me I've "got to get that kid back in her own bed."

But before I do, I'm going to continue to enjoy/endure snuggling with our little one, who sometimes sleeps through the night in her own bed, sometimes snuggles between us in our bed, and sometimes spends the night with either Mommy or Daddy in one of the two beds while the other one enjoys a quiet, uninterrupted night of sleep alone in the other.

1 comment:

Annie Brown said...

Girl, I am with you on this one, 100%! I feel like it won't be long before we are pushed out of their intimate lives and will wish for these early days of cuddling.