Monday, October 20, 2008

Experiment in co-sleeping

When I was pregnant with River, I didn’t have strong feelings either way about co-sleeping. I thought the security and warmth sounded good for parent/baby bonding. I also thought that the parents having some bonding time alone could be a good thing.

I ended up not having to think very much about the issue. River demanded to be held while sleeping for at least the first two months. While we traveled during his third month of life, we were able to substitute a carseat for arms. When we returned home near his third-month birthday, he accepted his co-sleeper for the first time. We moved it from the side of the bed to the foot of the bed so we could all sleep a bit better. Less than two weeks later, with River waking due to the smell of milk, mom waking with River’s sounds and movements and dad waking with River’s cries, we moved his co-sleeper to his own room about eight inches from our own. I felt a twinge of sadness and nostalgia, but realized we’d all sleep better. River didn’t seem to notice any difference.

Each step seemed to come naturally, at its own time, without any fights or resistance. So for six and a half months now, we’ve been sleeping in our separate rooms and all is fine.

Last night however we returned from a long trip that was rough on River. He had a cold and didn’t sleep while traveling. So when we returned at midnight, he was sick and exhausted and suffering. Our house was also cold and River’s room was the coldest.

We put him down and he cried. I brought him back to our room to feed. I hated the thought of putting him back into a chilly room, where even the heater doesn’t reach easily. So Mark and I decided to let him sleep with us.

Both Mark and I put in earplugs. Mark has done this ever since River was born. I don’t usually wear them. But I hoped that putting them in would reduce my reactions to his little noises that used to keep me up.

At first it was great. I loved having him in the crook of my arm. I loved the sound of his soft breath, his high-pitched cough, the feeling of his limbs beside mine. I loved keeping him warm and protected, of the whole family being together, safe and comfortable. I could see how people enjoy co-sleeping. I did, at least until I took my earplugs out.

Don’t ask me why I did it. It was during the middle-of-the-night stupor. Perhaps I became too comfortable and didn’t think River was making much noise. Perhaps I feared I wouldn’t hear an important little sigh. Maybe it was just annoying me to have things in my ears. In any case, I took them off and threw them under the bed. Once I realized my mistake, it was too late.

I couldn’t move. River was lying peacefully, his two balled fists over his face. If I sat up and tried to retrieve my earplugs, I’d surely wake him. Same thing if I went to the bathroom. So I held in the pee, for hours and hours, did without the earplugs, and ended up listening to River’s heavy breaths through a stuffed nose and feeling his twitches throughout the rest of the night. When he woke at 7 a.m., I was exhausted and so was he. I put him in his crib with a bottle and he slept a few more hours.

Tonight I’m glad to know that he’s safe and comfortable asleep in his crib. I’m looking forward to heading toward a large bed where I can move freely.

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