November 8, 2013

Why I Co-Sleep. ~ Jane Henderling

It’s bath time, and my son has decided to poop in the tub…again.

I’ve already drained the tub and refilled it once, and I will not do it again. I swiftly scoop out the floater with a baby wipe (what else do I use to clean everything?) and proceed with washing his hair. Oh well.

The turd incident is such a common occurrence that I don’t even mention it to my husband. We go upstairs, the three of us, the final push before bedtime. My husband expertly accomplishes his assigned tasks of lotion, diaper and jammies while I brush my teeth and wash my face. I take my sweet time, of course. We are a well-oiled machine.

I crawl into my son’s toddler bed with him and a book. We read and then turn out the light. “Time for snuggles and sleep,” I tell him. He babbles and sometimes he will stand up and walk around in a circle, like a dog, before settling back down. He rolls over and over and over again, onto his back, onto his side, onto his belly, onto the other side. His back is to me now. He is still for a moment before turning around and around once again. This time he stops when he’s facing me. He snakes his small arms around my neck and pulls our faces together. We kiss, and then he turns and turns and turns again until there is stillness. I think he has finally drifted off, and then he turns to me again and says, “Mama,” before planting another kiss on my lips. Now he turns onto his left side, and he drifts off to sleep.

I have nothing left to do today, nowhere to go. I lay there a few minutes longer with him, listening to him breathe, noticing my own breath for the first time today. I feel whole.

Later, probably after I have gone to sleep, my son will come into my bed. He will wake up and I will go to him and bring him back with me.

There was a long time (though, it is beginning to seem like a smaller and smaller amount of time) when I dreaded the night. I dreaded putting my son to bed because it would take an immense amount of time before he would settle down, and once he was down he wouldn’t stay asleep for long before waking up again and wanting to nurse. I was so tired, trekking from my bed to his crib to the glider to the crib to the bed—all night. Sometimes I would just give up and stay in the glider, one leg hooked over the side, doing my body a complete disservice.

There were a few reasons I didn’t start co-sleeping earlier. I had a hard time nursing on my side. I feared for his safety. But mostly I resisted because of the chorus of voices telling me that if I ever brought him into bed with me he would never sleep in his own bed. These voices were so loud that they kept me from listening to my intuition, and at this point in time, I was simply too tired to hear anything other than the cries of my child.

Finally, I listened.

At some point around the time he was 11 months old, I stopped fighting what my son really wanted: his mom. I believe all children are unique and some are simply better sleepers than others. I believe some parents need to take a firmer stance because they need to return to work or simply don’t feel comfortable having their children in bed with them. I don’t think there is any right or wrong in parenting, only survival. Well, okay, that’s a bit extreme, but still, for most of that first year I was in survival mode. It wasn’t until I started co-sleeping with my son that I started to sleep because he was finally sleeping for longer than three hour stints.

Since making the not-so-conscious decision to share a bed with my son (for part of the night, at least), my life has been better. Not just because we’re all getting more sleep, but also because of those tender, sweet moments that have become the parenthesis to my days.

I will wake up in the morning next to my beautiful baby boy. It will almost certainly be earlier than I would have liked, and he may kick me in the face, but that’s okay (we’re working on the kicking bit…). He will toss and turn and try to reach down my shirt. If I’m still really tired I will let him (hey, it will buy me another five minutes).

Eventually, he will lift his head up and say, “Mama!” He will give me a kiss and then he will immediately look for Dad and then yell, “Dada!”

It will be the perfect start to another day.

When it comes down to it, I co-sleep because it was the easiest thing for me to do during a time when I desperately needed sleep and sanity. If, when the time comes to transition him to his own bed, it does prove a struggle…it will totally be worth it.


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Editor: Bryonie Wise

{Photo: courtesy of the author.}

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