The Co-Sleeping Closet: Part 2

By on Jul 10, 2012 in Mama Musings |

Click here to read the Co-Sleeping Closet: Part 1

So where was I?  Oh yes, co-sleeping with one child in the bed and the other in my belly, wondering how on earth we were going to make this work once he came out.  We tried not to stress too much about it, because if Medium Boy had taught me one thing, it was that no matter how much I planned, he was really in control, not me.  But I was definitely worried about how Medium Boy was going to deal with becoming a big brother and sharing his Mama, and how on earth we were going to apply our parenting philosophies to two small children simultaneously.

And sure enough, once Baby Boy came home from the hospital, our first few nights were full of tears, and not from Baby Boy.  All Medium Boy wanted at bedtime was his Mamaaaaaaaaaa, and of course his Mama was tied up taking care of the newborn who usually wanted to nurse for hours on end in the evenings.  So effectively, we hid.  Baby Boy and I stayed downstairs, out of sight, while Dada and Medium Boy went upstairs to do bedtime.  It took some adjusting, but after a few days it became the new routine.  Once he finally fell asleep, Dada would send me an email from his smartphone (could we be anymore technologically savvy?) and let me know it was safe to come back upstairs, where Baby Boy would sleep for at least a few hours in his bouncy seat or pack and play next to our bed (way more than his big brother ever did).  Then I would nurse him in bed, and usually spend at least a few hours in the wee hours of the morning with him sleeping on my chest, gassy as could be, while I whacked him on the back and willed him with ever fiber of my being to go back to sleep.  Was it a perfect system?  Absolutely not.  But I slept a heck of a lot more during Baby Boy’s newborn days than I ever did during Medium Boy’s.

After a few months passed by, Medium Boy became more accustomed to sharing me with his brother, and soon we were able to integrate ourselves back into bedtime again.  And as crazy as our new routine became, I will count these moments as some of my favorite memories.  At bedtime, we would get jammies on, brush our teeth, then gather on our bed.  I would wrap Baby Boy in one of his (fantastic!) Kiddopotamus SwaddleMe wraps as Medium Boy and I would sing, to the tune of the Raffi song Baby Beluga, a song I made up called Baby Burrito. Baby Boy would smile as his big brother and I sang to him, and my heart would melt a little bit more every night.  Then we’d lie down in bed and I would nurse Baby Boy to sleep as Medium Boy and I read our three bedtime stories each night.  Baby Boy would peacefully nod off, then I’d put my sweet, swaddled boy down in the pack and play where he would sleep for at least a few hours all on his own.  It was magic.  Once he was down, I could snuggle with Medium Boy until he fell asleep too.  And then I would instantly pass out from exhaustion. 🙂

Looking back at all the time I spent fighting with Medium Boy, trying to get make him go to sleep and stay asleep in his crib by himself, it makes me wonder how different things would have been if I’d adopted the same approach with him.  But hindsight is 20/20.  Hopefully we’ve more than made up for our missteps by allowing him to continue sleeping snugly between us for so long.

Baby Boy would sleep peacefully for a few hours, then I would scoop him out of the pack and play, unswaddle him, nurse him and curl up with him to go back to sleep.  Neither one of us fully woke up, so there was no battle to get him back to sleep again, and as long as I was close-by, he was as happy as could be.  Let me pause to say that we’ve always followed safe co-sleeping practices…when Baby Boy was a little baby, I made sure to dress in warm jammies so I didn’t need a blanket pulled up anywhere near where he was sleeping.  I was never under the influence of anything, and I’m a really light sleeper, so the second he stirred or moved, I was able to respond.  I also sleep like a rock, so I was never worried about rolling over on him or flailing around.  And he stayed on the outside edge of our bed, away from my hubby and Medium Boy, with me in between for protection.  Finally, our bed is not on a frame, so it’s very close to the ground.  Just thought I should probably throw that in so anyone reading this knows that I was very cautious.  Co-sleeping has gotten a bad name lately, and if you’re going to try it, you definitely need to do your research and find out how to do it properly.  In my opinion, most people fall asleep with their babies at some point and it’s better to do it intentionally and safely than accidentally and unsafely.

So now here we are. Medium Boy is 2 and 3/4 and Baby Boy just turned 10 months. We still follow mostly the same routine except Baby Boy has long since rejected his swaddle, and he probably spends a few more hours in our bed now than when he was little.  He’s also much more aware and mobile, which makes him a little easier to sleep with because I don’t have to be as worried about his safety, but also harder, because he’s all over the place when I’m trying to get him to sleep.  Our bed, which I should probably mention is a king, is getting more crowded by the day.  And we’re finally, after a much-longer-than-anticipated renovation, getting ready to move to our new house.

We’ve always said that when we move, Medium Boy is going to move into his big boy bed in his own room, and we’re definitely going to give that a go, but as I’m sure most things have been with him, we’re just going to have to play it by ear and see how it goes.  I keep telling myself that someday he will be a surly teenager who wants nothing to do with us, so my hubby and I are both just trying to enjoy how much he loves us right now and give him a secure environment in which to grow up.  Aside from the fact that he’s two (you know, terrible and all), he’s turning into an exceedingly bright, loving boy, so I feel like we must be doing something right.

As long as Baby Boy is still nursing at night, and I’m not quite sure when we’ll nip that one in the bud, I’m going to keep him in our room for my sake, since I get a lot more sleep when I don’t have to fully wake up and walk between rooms to get him.  He may not co-sleep as long as his brother, but he very well may, and that’s ok.  While I will never know for sure if it’s a result of how we’ve been raising him or just his mellow temperament (or maybe a combination of both), Baby Boy is one of the sweetest babies ever, and he seems on track to be just as smart and curious as his big brother.

As I mentioned in the first part of this post, my husband and I did not go into this whole parenthood thing intending to be “attachment parents.”  And to this day, we don’t follow every single one of their principles (no, Medium Boy is not still nursing, and Baby Boy will not be nursing for too much longer).  But the more I read about attachment parenting in general, the more I agree with its philosophies.  It seems to make a lot more sense to me to follow my instincts while raising my children, and letting Medium Boy cry in his crib went against every instinct in my body.

Whenever someone asks me about our sleep situation (because, aside from poop, it’s one of the most popular topics of conversation among Mamas), I tell them that Medium Boy still sleeps with us and that Baby Boy does part-time, joking that we are “those people.”  I know that most people are smiling to my face while internally judging me as a nut-job, just like I did back in the day with my friend, and that’s ok.  We all have to make our own decisions on how to raise our children, then cross our fingers and hope they turn out well.  All of us just have to hope that our unique formulas paired with the temperaments of our completely unique children will create productive citizens in the end.

So to wrap things up…is it easy to co-sleep?  In many ways, yes!  Especially if you’re breastfeeding, you get a ton more sleep, and you will fight so much less with your children when you don’t have to keep trying to get them back into bed.  But also no.  Sometimes I lament that it would be so much easier if my kiddos actually went to bed at a normal hour like most children do.  My hubby and I don’t get much alone time, and I get very little “me” time, something I know most moms struggle with, but co-sleeping moms have it harder than most.  I wanted to write this post because I know how lost I felt during those long, long months that Medium Boy wasn’t sleeping and I was a human zombie.  I hope that maybe, just maybe, somebody who has one of those anti-crib babies will read this and discover that there is another option out there.  It’s a very different option from what most people think is “normal” but it can be a great option all the same.

As a Mama, I couldn’t be prouder of the wonderful children we are raising.  They are truly my greatest accomplishments.  And I love being a parent so much that the next question is not whether we’ll have more kids, but how many more to have, something I never in a million years would have guessed.

That being said, I think we might need a bigger bed.