Before I was a mother, there was this woman I knew who co-slept with her youngest daughter in her bed until the child was five or six years old. I was appalled by this and felt she was a horrible parent…selfish in the extreme, and probably doing irreparable harm to her child by causing her to be unhealthily codependent. I judged this woman and many others for making a very personal decision for her family based on circumstances I knew nothing about and scorned her in my words and thoughts to not only her, but others.
That was before I was a mother.
Years later, Batman arrived to bless my husband and myself with a love we had never known. It became one of the hardest obstacles I’ve ever had to face, and definitely has challenged the serenity of our new marriage. It also pushed the envelope of what I thought constituted a “good mother.”
Batman had colic. Screaming colic that makes a sleep-deprived new mom who is exclusively pumping breastmilk using a machine at all hours of the day and night start to vaguely hallucinate and lose all coping skills. The line between awake and zombie, the real and the not-quite-so-real becomes blurred in the colic mom’s world…ala Fight Club style. I became an expert at the Blank Stare. We tried everything. Rocking, patting, singing, reading, music, essential oils, massages, flipping, etc. Everything.
The pediatrician’s only real advice was just “time.” I admit, I wanted to punch her in the face. I paid you a co-pay for that nonsense? Get out of here. Thankfully, I left without screaming, insulting anyone, and free from handcuffs.
The other problem was my husband, bless his heart (don’t you love how we always say “bless their heart” when we’re about to politely bash them? Love you!), is a crash sleeper. When he finally passes out, he cannot hear Batman crying from his crib. Even if I nudge (okay, almost PUSH him out of bed), he would stumble his way into Batman’s room, bouncing off hallway walls, tripping into doors, only to pass out in the Mommy rocker, dangerously holding our son. He wanted to help, but he really couldn’t. So, the job was mine and mine alone.
I went back to work full-time, still exclusively pumping. I’m still not quite sure how I managed to shave my legs since I had to get up at 4:45 am to pump before work. It was insane.
The pediatrician was right (bless her heart! grr), and with time, the colic faded. Unfortunately, he still refused to sleep through the night. He would wake every hour or two screaming. I thought I was in heaven if I got a three-hour window of sleep. This went on for month after month after month. I would sometimes get so angry at other mommies in my Facebook mom group because their babies were sleeping 10-12 hours straight and going to the gym and losing weight, and I considered myself successful if I completed a day of work without drooling on my keyboard or killing anyone on the road in my sleep-deprived stupor.
In our quest to find solutions, the “Cry It Out” debate raged. Crib deaths vs. cosleeping deaths. People get ANGRY about this stuff! I had to tune these people out and research it for myself. I found that some babies are “tension-releasers” when they cry, and others are “tension-escalators.” Batman was the latter. Crying it out would only turn him in a vein-popping, blood-curdling mini-Monster that it just wasn’t an option. It stressed me out, my husband, and after reading numerous articles on how the baby’s cortisol levels remained high even after learning the parent wasn’t coming to help so they might as well not bother crying…we decided against it altogether. I actually envied the mothers who successfully got their babies to sleep in their cribs this way.
I was beyond exhausted after months of this. I just couldn’t do it anymore. So I started to bring Batman to bed with us. I was so ashamed of this, as if I was a failure as mother somehow. I was afraid to tell people because of the judgment and unsolicited advice from a generation of people who let their babies cry it out as a norm.
But for the first time, Batman slept. He would snuggle up right next to me or my husband, and sleep nearly all night long while briefly waking only once or twice. Sometimes not at all. He was in heaven and I found sleep again. Who knew!?
Now that Batman is almost a year and a half, we still do this. He squirms and gets his feet all up in Daddy’s face. He rolls and flops. But I cherish these moments and we both sleep better. (I’m not sure my husband does…paybacks!) I am trying to transition him a little more every night back to his crib where he will sleep for an hour or two, then demand to be in the warmth and comfort of our arms. Probably spoiled by now. I don’t care anymore…there’s such freedom in that. I’m sure once we can all have a fuller conversation in English, the transition will be easier to make.
There is something so adorable about waking up on a Saturday morning with a toddler’s beaming face in my face and hear the word “Dog!” Good morning to you, too, buddy.
I’m honestly not in a hurry at this point. This will be my only child and I look back on the woman that I judged so harshly and I understand her now. It is a precious time slot that disappears too quickly where they want to snuggle with us.
I’m slowly learning to stop judging. I judge myself harsher than anyone, but I judge others too. Mothers are so hard on themselves already with that constant stream of consciousness that whispers “Am I doing this right?” “Am I screwing this up?” “Am I a bad mother?”…daily. I don’t know what other mothers are facing and I need to give them grace. Especially since most of our judging comes from the facade we place on Facebook which is simply not real. Their decisions are none of my business.
[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Learning to find grace is the greatest gift a mother can give herself.[/pullquote]
Batman is alive, healthy, and thriving. When he’s 16 or 25 or 45, this won’t matter. I am doing my job and I am doing it well. I am teaching my son to pray before his meals, I am teaching him to read books, I am teaching him to laugh wholeheartedly, and teaching him to trust. I pray for him daily.
I think that makes me a pretty darn good mother, no matter where he sleeps.
Interesting Cosleeping Resources:
Co-Sleeping a SIDS Danger?
Safe Cosleeping Guidelines
Cultural Differences in Baby and Toddler Sleep
Why Human Babies Do Not and Should Not Sleep Alone