As summer quickly approaches, I have found it increasingly difficult to get my children to sleep. Of course, they are party animals anyhow, but they still maintain that if it is light outside, it cannot possibly be nighttime. Facing the prospect of another late night, I began to think back to my children's infancy. It was much easier back then to put them to sleep. I know, many parents may disagree, but for us it was only a matter of when and where they would go to sleep and never how. You see, we didn't plan it, but we were a co-sleeping family.
My daughter, our first-born, arrived in 2003 after a traumatic birth. Due to an injury to her scalp from vacuum-assisted delivery and aggressive suctioning, my daughter screamed at every attempt to breastfeed. She never did latch on. I was distraught. I did not know if I would be able to bond with her in the way I had wanted to. I had done research and knew the benefits of breastfeeding were more extensive than the obvious nutrition. Because of the trauma I, too, experienced, I also developed postpartum depression, which left me disconnected from my baby girl. Fortunately, I began treatment quickly and by the time my daughter was one month old I had begun feeling better. Still, we worked on developing attachment. It was about this time that my daughter caught her first cold. Concerned about her breathing one night, I brought her into our bed. Following the sleep safety tips I had read in Dr. William Sears' The Baby Book, we continued co-sleeping until the birth of our second child.
My husband and I found out we were expecting our son shortly after our daughter turned a year old. Though she was walking and talking up a storm, she was still very much a baby. I cherished our nap time and nighttime cuddles, knowing that soon there would be another little one next to me. I worried that I may not have as much love for another one or that my daughter may not receive enough of my attention and love and miss out. Little did I know that these moments spent together were building her confidence and our attachment to one another in a beautiful way!
When my son was born, following an amazingly peaceful birth, he immediately took to nursing. I was overjoyed! This meant, however, that we were presented with a new set of challenges. How to nurse the baby while still providing continuity for our toddler. My husband and I had purchased an infant co-sleeper that fit in our bed, which was fantastic. Still, our 22-month-old was missing out on mama cuddles and needed some extra attention. So, we laid a mattress on the floor of her room and she cuddled with my mom while she was visiting us after our son's birth. It worked out quite nicely. Once our son was older, we welcomed our daughter back for cuddles in the early morning hours. I'd often feel a little hand on my cheek or a tiny arm wrapped tightly around my neck. What lovely cozy mornings we spent together!
As time went by, of course, our children had their own "big kid" beds and rooms all their own. They slept in their beds all night long, but when morning arrived should one have looked in our room one would have found four in the bed! Our morning ritual has continued over the years, though it has become less and less frequent. Some days I long to look over and find a soft dark blond head snuggled next to mine...
This brings me back to this evening... "Yes," I thought, "How much easier it was when we were co-sleeping!" The cuddles through the night and the soft sweet breath of my babies peppered our dreams. My instinct this evening was to somehow go back to that time. Of course, I know that children must grow and change as years go by, but the memories of those moments are so precious. It was more than cuddling a babe to sleep or being nearby for that 3 a.m. feeding... it was about creating a bond between my children, my husband and I...about fostering security so that one day when things get tough for our girl and our boy, they will come to us knowing that we will always be there for them.
So, what did I do tonight when that thought crossed my mind? I went into my 7 year old's room, then into my 5 year old's room... and I held them tight.