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Skritch. Scratch. Skritch.

These are the sounds that I hear as I lay, not quite awake, hoping they’ll stop. They don’t. I know what they are. My 8 month old is on his belly grabbing handfuls of sheets, probably marveling at his hands and his own ability to use them. It’s only a matter of time until he grabs a handful of my hair and yanks. I’m just conscious enough to sweep my hair away from him. I lay squeezed in next to him telling myself ‘it’s the middle of the night. He’ll go back to sleep.’ I pause. Silence. I exhale. DADADA. My eyes involuntarily pop open and I see two big blue eyes and a big smile looking back at me.

Damn. Cute, but damn. I grab him, shift my weight over, and pull him to the other side. Then I try nursing. If it is the middle of the night that’ll eventually work and he’ll drift off to sleep. I feel him latch and again I feel relief flood over me.

It only lasts a second. He pops off to continue his narrative DADADA. I have a sneaking suspicion that despite my hopes otherwise, that my day is about to begin. In about 2.5 seconds his older brother is there, beside him. This boy takes some serious work to wake up on school days. Otherwise? All it takes is a peep.

About 2.5 minute after that- the cat joins us (she’s obese, it takes her awhile). I’m still struggling to get my eyes open. This is my morning, most days.

We make approximately 453,672 parenting decisions and for the most part I stand behind mine with unwavering conviction- probably to a fault. This one, however, the decision to cosleep, this one was the hardest one I’ve had to come to terms with. On paper I should be all about cosleeping- I’m the natural birthin’, baby-wearing, cloth diapering, extended breastfeeding type- cosleeping is just one more to add to the pile. Yet somehow this one seemed to come with the most pushback, the most judgment, and the most unsolicited feedback about how I was doing irrevocable harm to my child, and I was wholly unprepared for that. The first time around I spent years agonizing over it; I was told he would never self soothe, that he’d be in our bed until he was a teenager. It was all we could do though. it was the only way he (and we) could sleep. I lost pediatricians and friends over it. It made me constantly question my ability to parent “correctly.” It helped make that first year- a year that would have been difficult regardless- perhaps the hardest one in my life.

But now- now the oldest is in his own bed, in his own room, and I’m feeling confident in my ability, and my right, to tell people to shove it.  It works for us, and if I’ve learned anything it’s that that’s all the reason I need. So a family bed we have. A happy, cramped, hilarious, frustrating, family bed. What about you? If you have (or had) little ones around, do your mornings start out with an elbow or two in the eye? Are you a “nightmares only” kind of house? Or is it no way, no how, not in my bed? I promise I won’t judge either way- I’ve had enough of my share to go around.*

*unless your kids are sleeping in dog crates, then I’ll probably judge

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  1. March 23, 2012

    My boyfriend’s sister is a midwife in Georgia with three daughters of her own. In GA, home birth is illegal (as it is here in Chicago.) It is strange how people are quick to judge small things that have no effect on them at all (such as co-sleeping), but will sign themselves no problem to the associated procedure of a ‘traditional’ birth in a hospital.

    If you have not seen “Born in the U.S.A.”, I think that you would really enjoy it.

    Best! Thank you for the though provoking post and for sharing your life!

    • Becky #
      March 24, 2012

      Wow, that’s insane it’s illegal! I knew some states were more supportive than others but I had no idea it was illegal.

      Thanks for the recommendation on the film- I haven’t seen it, and I’m a bit obsessed with birthing practices so I can’t wait to look it up.

  2. March 23, 2012

    We’re a “I was so tired that I had to get into your bed” family. It makes no sense, but it’s what Becks says whenever I ask. We’ll go months with nothing and then WHAM, I wake up to him suck his lips next to my ear. Oh and I wake up angry, afraid I’ll fall off, and never going back to sleep.

    • Becky #
      March 24, 2012

      If I couldn’t sleep next to him, that’d be a deal breaker. We started shoving Wyatt out when he started hitting and kicking us in the night. The part I can’t understand is- why does he turn completely upside down in our bed, but in his own it doesn’t look like he moves much?

  3. March 23, 2012

    This was so familiar it made me chuckle. We dutifully bought moses basket and cot neither of which were ever used, just like the pram ! When my boy got to be about six months old we gave up all pretence that it was a temporary situation, bought another mattress and squished them all together on the floor. He’s almost five now and still sleeping with us. I think I’ve got over people’s shock and “advice” and tutting. It seems to be a very modern, Western idea for the family to sleep separately so I tell myself that we have history and many other cultures on our side. When he wants to move into his own bed and own room I think it will be harder for me than for him ! :0)

    • Becky #
      March 24, 2012

      We didn’t even bother setting the crib up with the 2nd one. I can only imagine the comments this elicited from our family. I went with the history/cultural bit too. I heard once that humans- if living as hunters/gatherers in a tribal arrangement- would have to have the child next to us at night to ensure its safety. Thus this is why they prefer it, they’re ingrained to be that way. I clung to that bit for years.

  4. March 23, 2012

    i never thought i would be a co-sleeper, but with henry it was the easiest way for us all to get sleep. for the first 2 months he slept on matt’s chest and then he would pass him to me for feedings. by 2 yrs old henry was sleeping nightly in his own bed. so, when bea came we had no doubts what we would do. now, they both go to sleep in their own beds (most of the time), but by morning there are 3 or 4 of us in the family bed again. i wouldn’t have it any other way (even when i wake up with little feet in my face). i know they aren’t going to sleep with us forever. i’m going to enjoy it while i can.

  5. Kate #
    March 23, 2012

    We were decidedly not cosleepers. We knew that it was dangerous – I could roll over in my sleep, and like a lumbering walrus, crush her. I knew she’d never, ever be independent – forget college and a career, she’d cosleep her way to couchsurfing into my retirement. And for the first almost-year of her life, we fought her on this. We made that tiny baby sleep alone in a dark room against her very vocal protests. She used to start screaming as we made preparations for bed or nap, she’s scream through rocking and singing – sometimes for hours, just to be with us. And then, at a year old, she got very sick, so I moved a mattress next to her crib and noticed on our first night, that she crushed her tiny body against the rails in an attempt to be touching mommy. That was that. She’s two now, a sidecar crib girl (she to this day will not sleep with us in our bed – she cries and fights and protests that – we did a number on our child, issues with sleeping with us or away from us). I don’t think I’ll ever get over the guilt of doing what clearly was in the interest of the greater community at a cost to her. I’m not a cosleeping nut…or a pro, or anti-crib nut, but this particular baby needed to sleep with us, and we blew it. First time parents, so worried about screwing it up so we read every book and followed dr’s advice to a tee. Next time ’round, hopefully we’re chilled out enough to actually listen to what our child needs.

    • Becky #
      March 24, 2012

      I laughed out loud at couch surfing into your retirement. Your thinking sounds like mine- if I give in to his demand that we (fill in the blank) he’ll never learn boundaries, and he’ll think we’re pushovers, and fast forward to 15 years he’s on tlc show about being addicted to meth.

      It’s hearbreaking to hear other people struggled with this too. If I could burn all the baby books I think I would. I mean, I know the authors are just trying to be helpful with what they think works, but if I could write one it’d consist of one page: “trust your gut.” Thanks for sharing your experience.

  6. Laura #
    March 23, 2012

    I deleted a post I left earlier…TMI : )
    I came back though to say that you’re post has stayed with me all day. I love it…not only for the beautiful photographs, but because of it’s honesty and candidness. Learning to trust yourself as a parent is so hard and the judgement that comes from everyone just makes it so much more difficult. I’m glad you found your way and the ability to tell people to shove it : ) We never really did the co-sleeping thing, although I did used to take the kids into the guest bedroom …so I guess I did some version of it. It all goes by so quickly…anymore I just try to block out the criticism and savor where we are.

    • Becky #
      March 24, 2012

      I appreciate your concern about tmi, but I did appreciate you sharing your experience, though it made me well up. Why in the hell are women/mothers so damn judgmental of each other? Honestly all you, me, and all other mothers are trying to do is our best- whether that’s cosleeping or not, breastfeeding or not. It’s all hard enough without judgement piled on top. Savoring where we are indeed. I’m still working on this.

  7. jppowel #
    March 23, 2012

    We did this with our two daughters. We are still vewry close. They call us all the time. Independent and strong, yes, and connected. Besides, in the winter it was cold and we all stayed warm.
    JP

    • Becky #
      March 24, 2012

      Independent, strong, and connected. That’s about all I could ask for.

  8. Jill #
    March 23, 2012

    I can count the number of times on two hands I’ve slept with either one of my girls. And nine times out of ten, it was just Jordan and when she was much, much older (like fourteen). Maybe it was because they always each other in the room. Maybe it was because I just plain tuned them out when they cried. I really don’t have a reason for it, but it wasn’t for me, but I completely understand why people do it. You do what you need to survive and make your space a happy one. The nursing shot is priceless, btw . . . that one’s a keeper for all time.

    • Becky #
      March 24, 2012

      Thanks! Nursing & taking a picture is trickier than I thought it’d be. Every time the shutter clicked he’d look up and laugh.

  9. jboring #
    March 24, 2012

    We did/do whatever the kids need.

    My first always wanted her own space and was more than happy to lay in her crib looking at stuff till she peacefully drifted off to sleep. Which was not what I expected by the way, from what I’d heard apparently you either had to cosleep or cry it out so I’d figured we’d cosleep… I wasn’t complaining though. When she was 10 months-ish she decided she wouldn’t sleep anywhere but our room so she had a little bed on the floor until she decided to moved herself to the regular bed in her own room. She still crawls in with us in the morning though to cuddle. :)

    The baby boy we now have will only sleep in his baby swing with it rocking at maximum speed. A lot of people get all bent out of shape about that too… which I don’t get because the fear of having a 10 year old sleeping in an infant swing just doesn’t seem likely to me.

    • Becky #
      March 24, 2012

      So weird what everyone has opinions about! I laughed out loud about the mental image of a 10 year old in a swing.

  10. kathy #
    March 24, 2012

    co-sleeping? That’s what they call it? WOW…I thought it was me just being a lazy parent :) With my son it was so easy…easy to just roll over and pull it out in the middle of the night and still be asleep. His transition to a crib/bed…easy. Now, my girl…she was entirely different. When I thought she should be in her crib…it was hell. Long horrible nights for everyone involved…but I listened to the hype…which was a bad decision on my part. Not sure why I didn’t just go with the flow like I did with my son. Eventually she wore me out and she won the war. I would simply leave my arm out over the bed and in the middle of the night she would use it to climb into my bed…it became such a habit that even to this day I wake with her in my bed never even realizing that she snuck in. And I wouldn’t change it. I love waking up to her little sleeping breaths.

  11. March 26, 2012

    Yep you know we are co-sleepers too. Falon was such an awesome co-sleeper that I anticipated the same for Grey. Um no. Grey is a HORRIBLE co-sleeper. Up all night nursing or like the other night I woke up and he was at the end of the bed just jabbering. (our bed is on the floor). But you described our mornings perfectly! And the whole judging thing gets old. And I am tired of being asked how we “do it”.

  12. March 26, 2012

    Judgement is just an ant up someone’s butt in my opinion. As a family, we have been through too much to give a crap what others think. My partner and I have two sons. 11 and 7. When our oldest was 5 he was diagnosed with cancer. In an initial panic as to what was to happen and how sick treatment would make him we pulled him back into our bed. It was more for us than him. He is well now and he and his brother start off in their own beds and stumble back into ours at 4 or so in the morning. I love the cuddles and let’s face it, there is not much more before the hormones kick in and our oldest won’t be able to stand being in the same room as us let alone a bed! I absolutely love the night, all barriers are down and both boys are just cuddle bunnies. I’ll miss it when it’s over.

  13. Michelle #
    March 30, 2012

    I loved reading this post since I can totally relate. I too never thought I would be a co-sleeper and now 8 months later I can’t get my baby boy out of my bed:) The downside is he is waking up every 1-3 hours to nurse which just isn’t working for any of us. Thanks to your post I am reminded of all the sweet moments that do come along with co-sleeping. Reading what others posted reminds me that he won’t be in our bed forever. I was literally going to put him in his crib tonight and try the cry out method but now I just don’t think I can…. Here is to hoping his non sleeping phase passes sooner than later!

    • Becky #
      March 31, 2012

      I am all for crying it out it that’s what feels right/necessary for you. I would recommend not doing it if it doesn’t. We tried once ever though it never felt right & it was horrible. Our boy fell asleep sobbing and continued whimpering in his sleep. Then every time he woke up he was screaming & devastated all over again. That said, I know some families it worked wonders for, and quickly! This time around im taking it as is, and doing my very best not to compare my baby’s sleeping habits to others. Good luck, and know whatever you do it’ll pass.

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