Why we didn’t co-sleep, and why I kind of regret it

When I had Oscar, the hospital took great pains to communicate that they did not approve of co-sleeping. Either that or they didn’t approve of me, a plus size mama, co-sleeping with my baby. I don’t know what your experience of the NHS was (or even just RSCH), but I was told  that while they couldn’t tell me not to, how would I feel if fell asleep and ‘something happened’ and that it wasn’t worth the risk. I came home absolutely petrified of ever falling asleep even near him. Honestly, I remember an awful experience in those early days of waking up in bed, having drifted off and screaming blue murder because I couldn’t remember putting Oscar in his crib. My tired, petrified brain assumed I must have fallen asleep on top of him and the worst must have happened. As it was he was in his crib. Yes, a well placed comment to a super scared new mother really had done a job on me.

So we didn’t co-sleep. At all. Ever. It wasn’t until he was three that I started to allow myself to doze if he fell asleep on me while lying on the sofa. Sometimes I feel angry about that. Oscar is my only child and I feel like it’s a part of his babyhood I really missed out on. A bonding experience that we really should have had. Then, other times I think perhaps he wouldn’t have appreciated being in with us anyway. He is a good sleeper and has been since he was about 9 months old. When we explained this to his paediatrician, she was surprised, and attributed this to the clear bedtime routine he has had since he was tiny.

Either way, it’s something I’d never done. Until very recently.

A couple of weeks ago we went to Devon to see family. Oscar, the boy who is rarely ill, started throwing up about an hour into the journey and kept nothing down until he passed out in my sister in laws bed around 5pm. Poor dot. We decided not to move him and that I would sleep in with him and that Ben would take the ‘put you up’ bed in my nephew’s room next door. I have to admit I had mixed emotions going to bed that night. On the one hand I still felt a little scared, vestiges of old learnt behaviour I guess. But on the other hand I felt absolutely thrilled. It sounds so stupid, but I was just so excited that I was actually going to get to know what this ‘co-sleeping’ malarkey felt like. Even when he woke up bright as a button at 3.30am, I couldn’t be annoyed at him. Because he was there next to me. And when he’d watched the iPad for a while and then decided to wake me again at 6 because “I need hungry mummy”, I could do nothing but make him breakfast to eat in bed with me, while I sat there, in awe of him.

After he ate his breakfast (and kept it all down) he fell asleep again on my leg. I gently pulled him back up the bed and fell asleep with him in my arms. The way it should have been from day one. I felt a little sad that it had taken us so long to have this beautiful experience (and for him to be so ill) but I really was grateful it had happened at all and I can see why some people rave about it.

We did it again the next night at Oscar’s insistence and yes I did get a hand in the face and a kick in the thigh in the night. And the amount of space a little body can take up in an comparatively enormous bed was baffling (Ben says O sleeps like me!) and I couldn’t see it ever working with all three of us in the bed. But I’m just so grateful we got to experience it at all. Really, the only way I can describe it is magical!

Even if he did wake me by lifting my eyelid and asking “You wanna build a snowmaaaaaan”

 

Dream a little dream..

I know I’m lucky. My 2.5 year old son still naps. He naps plenty and predictably. Today I took him up to bed, same as most days. He was fussy about going. And he was fussy about having his nappy changed. And when I picked him up, his flailing head clocked me so hard on the jaw I nearly dropped him. I also shouted out. Loudly. Big up those parents who can take a pounding and never make a sound in front of their children, but I cannot count myself among you. Anyway, it upset him, obviously, and when I put him in his cot he wailed. It’s not unusual for him to be cranky at bedtime, it is after all why he has a nap, but this? Well he was so upset I picked him up and just held him. He flung my arms round my neck and wouldn’t let me go. So I sat with him and and told him about the first time I bought him up to his room. How he was so tiny and how it was so hot that day. How we’d sat in our chair, him in nothing but a nappy and vest and fallen asleep together in the middle of the afternoon. And he did today, what he did that hot May day two years ago. He fell asleep on me. And just like then, I let him sleep on me.

I never really understood attachment parenting when Oscar was a baby. We never co-slept, bar a couple of naps. I was always too scared I’d hurt him and hey I needed my sleep. I found it infuriating that we had days where he would cry every time I put him down. Didn’t he realise I had stuff to do, like go for a wee? I never breastfed. It’s a whole other post entirely, but despite wanting to with every maternal fibre in my being, he wouldn’t latch on, regardless of how much we tried, so we gave up trying. I used a buggy, rather than a sling, etc, etc you get the picture. And I was always fine with my choices, because after all that’s exactly what they were. Choices I made.

Only, I don’t know, the older he gets and the more he moves away from me, the more I sometimes wish I’d done things differently. Sometimes I wish I hadn’t been so scared to have him sleep in with us and I still (rather cruelly if you ask me) dream of being able to feed him myself (yep just the other night had another one, woke up in floods of tears). I feel like I could have been kinder and more understanding to that crying baby and maybe I should have just taken him to the bathroom with me (something I never did until he was old enough to come up on his own, which he does all the time now!) I know it’s fanciful and supremely unhelpful, but sometimes I just wish I could go back to his babyhood and do things, well just a little differently. I know feeling like this is futile, because you can’t go back and the choices you take lead you to where you are right now. But sometimes….

But I guess that’s what first time motherhood is all about. It’s the steepest learning curve you’ll ever experience. You can read as many books as you like and subscribe to as many parenting theories as you care to mention, but at the end of the day, when you’re thrown in, from a great height, at the very deepest end, you just do what you can not to drown. And it’s never been, or will ever be, any different. It’s just the way it is.

And as I sat there today, resting on his beanbag listening to him breathing and feeling his, no longer tiny, body move slowly up and down I was overwhelmed by the moment. I wanted someone to invent a feelings recorder. Like a video camera but for every sensation. I wanted to remember this moment in it’s entirety. How my two and half year old boy smelt, the weight of him on my chest, the gentle sounds he makes when he sleeps, the warmth of his hair on my face. People talk about living in the moment all the time, but it’s something I confess I struggle with. Today I wanted to seal the moment in perspex and keep it forever. I don’t think that’s what they mean by living in the moment. But I don’t care. The only way I know to try and truly keep the moment is to write about it. So after an hour I put him in the cot, and came downstairs to write this. My shoulder was still damp from his sweaty hair when I started.

It’s dry now.

 

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