Sunday, May 23, 2010

My Co-ed Bed

Before I became a parent I had very fixed ideas about how parenting should and should not be done.  As soon as the reality hit, however, and an 8lbs screaming banshee landed in my living room, all those fixed ideas flew the coop one by one... 

Birth by numbers

While my birth plan played out like a fantasy (natural water birth = 6 hours from contraction to delivery), I know that labour is often the time when most women realize they can't, as much as they might like, engineer how everything goes down in mamahood.  Many women whose birth experience ends up in an epi or emergency Caesar experience frustration and upset that they weren't able to control the events of their delivery.  But it's probably wise to adopt a roll-with-the-punches approach early on.  After all, no parent can totally control their kid's universe, right?  All any of us can do is give it everything we've got, cross our fingers, and hope for the best.

How my proverbial bubble was burst

A few days after my idyllic labour, despite countless reassurances that LGO was nursing just fine, he became seriously dehydrated.  Overnight, I had to relent and give him formula.  Overnight, I had to adapt to the idea that I couldn't feed my baby the way I had planned, the way nature had intended, and the way every Tom, Dick, and Harry insisted I should.  Even though my son thrived on the bottle, I took the end of the breastfeeding era hard, and fell into a deep depression.  What was wrong with me?  Why couldn't my body nourish the baby it had created?

Tit for tat

As with boobfeeding, I had firm ideas about co-sleeping.  Right from the get-go, we'd be warned off the practice of sharing the marital bed with our progeny. Well meaning friends and experts said it was habit-forming and would only lead to a long battle we would regret.  Visions of our nine-year-old future son crawling in between us in bed was a scary enough prospect for Mr Green and I to heed the advice.  Besides, there was the very real threat of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) to consider.  And back then LGO was, hard as it is to believe, oh so teeny tiny.  Mr Green and I installed the Moses basket next to our bed and again, heeding some other Dick's advice, we moved LGO into his own room and crib as the earliest opportunity.

Hind sight being what it is

I wish we'd read fewer books and listened more to our hearts.  Dangers aside, instinct and common sense make co-sleeping not only a practical but precious bonding experience -- one I feel my whole family missed out on during those early months.  If I had been breastfeeding, maybe LGO would have remained in our room, if not in our bed, a lot longer.  I still remember the beautiful cuddles we shared while I nursed him those first few days.  Losing this closeness to the distance of the bottle (though it needn't necessarily have been that way), at a time when mother and son both desperately craved it, played a definite part in my ensuing depression. 

I'll never get back those days

Now, at 19 months, I'm making up for lost time.  When LGO is poorly or wakes in early bird mode, he gets to crawl into the Big Bed with mommy.  He rarely falls back to sleep.  But it doesn't really matter.  Often we lay there just the two of us, stroking each other's hair (in his case, fuzz), staring into each other's eyes, sharing a pin-drop quiet kind of intimacy.  I wouldn't trade those moments for all the golddust in the world.  I know they have a shelf life.  I also know that regret is a futile emotion.  Still, a niggling part of me will always wish for what never was. 

What would you -- or did you -- do differently, given a second chance?


  1. That is beautiful. So many are against co-sleeping, but I would be the walking dead without it. My 1st son was a gem for sleeping in his crib. My middle child was not. I was co-sleeping with him for months until around 18 months old. My new baby, well he is 11 months old now is a co-sleeper as well. Sleeps ok at nap time in his crib and then at bedtime until midnight, then he has to come to bed with me. Moms are always aware with the baby beside them. Each and every parent should always do what feels right to them. This was right for us :O)

    Take care,

  2. I've always done a mix of both for both kids and that's worked pretty well for us. Dylan is cuddly only when it suits him but he probably spent more time in our bed than Anwyn, especially since I breastfed him longer. Anwyn on the other hand is about as affectionate as it gets and just bubbles over with kisses and cuddles at all times. I really don't think co-sleeping or not affected this - I think it's just their nature.

    There is definitely something to be said for those stolen moments memorising each other's faces in the wee hours though! And now at 4 years old if Dylan asks for an extra cuddle at bedtime I jump at the chance to crawl into bed with him and snuggle up because I know before long he'll be much too cool for it!!

  3. Out of all the advice I recieved as a new mom, no one ever said don't listen to all the advice and go with your heart. This is essentially the only piece of advice you really need. I feel for you with the breastfeeding and how it can contribute to depression. My kids are lovely Ferberized sleepers but the result being after 6 months old they no longer want the cuddles before bed. I miss that. And I too bring them into bed at any opportunity.

  4. Such a good post! I would have spent more time just watching my baby and relaxing in bed when he first came home instead of trying to do it all!

  5. I would have stayed on mat leave longer (went back when he was 4 months old), and not worried about digging into the savings so much. Money can be earned, time never comes back.

  6. Ouch, 4 months! You are so right, Prodigal: money is always nice, and sometimes we don't have a choice; we have to live and provide for our children. But if you do have the chance, stay at home for as long as possible. Time spent with your baby is priceless and that first birthday is here and gone in the blink of an eye...