Monday, March 22, 2010

Survival of the Fittest

**Originally written, but never finished, on March 9th**

The other day, I was speaking with a first time mom of a four month old baby girl.  Like any attentive mom of a four month old, she was sleep deprived and wondering if her baby would ever stop nursing through the night.  

I remember those days.  I remember the days when I wasn't confident enough in my own mothering abilities that I doubted my only working practice to get my first born to sleep, which consisted of nursing him to La-La Land each and every night and not being able to move for fear of him sensing a wayward boob in the middle of his drunken sleep and waking in pure anger.  How dare that boob try to get away?

Back to the mom. When I asked her if she considered bringing the baby to bed with her, I heard my own doubts in her answer.  "Hmmm, but then to get her out of the bed is just too much of a problem.  We only have a queen sized bed and you know, she needs to learn to sleep on her own."  I briefly brought up sidecarring the crib, but knew I'd hit a wall.  I never feel like I know what to do when I hit the wall.

I remember the day we gave in and decided to just bring J to bed with us.  It was around the 5th day post partum.  We'd spent two days at home, doing everything possible to get him to sleep in his bassinet.  It was as if it had pins in it.  I remember Ray telling me to lay on the pillow for 15 minutes so it was hot and smelled like me and then trying to "transfer" the baby to the hot pillow, hoping that would work.  I remember putting my milk stained bra in there.  I remember rocking. Singing. Crying.  I remember wanting to hold my baby in my arms all night long and feeling like I couldn't.  I remember going online the next morning and making sure we weren't doing permanent damage to him if we did sleep with him.  And I remember finding Dr. Jay Gordon.  

Back to the mom.  What I wanted to tell her was to read Dr. Gordon's book on cosleeping.  What I wanted to do was explain that now, as a mother of two little ones who sleep in our bed, our upgrade to a king was not only the most useful purchase ever, but also the most enjoyed.  What I knew I shouldn't do is tell her is that in the last five years, my confidence in my judgment as a mother had grown, and that my almost 3 year old still nurses about 3 times a night (and has yet to fall asleep without a boob in his mouth).  No need to make her any more scared than she already was. I know enough about people and am humble enough at times to not push my ideals onto others. 

When Jonathan was around 1, I remember searching on the internet and coming across this amazing article from talking about this very thing and helping me to feel normal.  Who cared if my newly categorized "toddler" had switched from waking up 3 times a night to every hour on the hour?  Pshhhhh, who am I kidding??!  I did!  I was sleep deprived and pregnant and working 40+ hours a week.  I get it.  I get that mom and all the other moms worrying about their kids and sleep, as if all the other kids in the same age bracket that they know don't have the same issues.  But after nursing for 16 months, I'd also gotten that two things always rung true when it came to parenting.  Half asleep, I remember chanting my mantra..."This, too, shall pass".    And I also learned that other parents lie. A lot.  As much as I hated it, I knew it was temporary.  I knew that for a reason I was not privy to, my baby needed me more than I needed sleep.  What a crazy thought!

There's a part of me that lets me look at children in different times, cultures and settings.  I think about where my child would be sleeping if I were Japanese.  Would it be culturally accepted if I tried to put my kid to sleep in a different room?  What if I lived in a cave...  would my baby who sleeps through the night just two feet away survive?  Or get eaten by a saber tooth tiger?  Was there a reason why pacifiers were invented?  Does it mean that the need for my baby to "pacify" himself at the breast is a very real, innate and dare I say, normal behavior?  My years of nursing were leading me to believe so.  Not because I'd come across any amazing research in my studies, but because I needed some sort of rationalization for the way my children behaved.  The truth is, thinking about these what ifs validated the way I mothered.  And it helped me cope.  Forget the fact that now, after nursing every day of my life for the last 4 years, 11 months and 25 days, I finally realize I really was right.

The other day, I had the honor of shadowing one of S. Florida's best lactation consultants.  She's also a doula and as part of her doula services, she does a lactation consultation at any point post partum.  We went to visit a mom of a two month old who was nursing wonderfully.  During the consult, the mom mentioned that her husband was frustrated by the nursing.  She said he'd said he felt "breastfeeding was highly overrated" and didn't like that the baby was "on top of his wife" all day.  He told her that if she put the baby down for a second, the baby cried.  Knowing this husband personally, it was one of those situations where you had to walk the line between empowering the mom without pissing off the very controlling husband.  It's a fine line.  A very, very fine line.  

Despite all my own wonderings about saber tooth tigers, the LC said something I'd never considered.   She turned to the mom and said, "think about how it was when we were cavemen.  That baby who cried every second was the one who was going to get picked up by his mother for fear of that baby making such a ruckus that a wild beast might find them.  The baby who was content being put on the floor and quietly gazing at the sky while some beast snuck up behind him wouldn't make it," she said .  Then she turned to the mom and said, "your baby is the smart one.  Your baby knows about Survival of the Fittest."  Hmph.  Talk about inflating that dad's ego, if only he were there to hear it...

I wish I had a good way to end this post, but I don't.  Baby sleep is elusive and frustrating for everyone but the baby.  My "babies" still give me a hard time, as evidenced Saturday night when my husband and I tried to go out for his birthday, but no one could put either baby to sleep, despite them being 5 and 2.   But, I have a pretty good idea that the same way they won't be drinking kegs of breastmilk at college frat parties, they also won't be needing their momma to fall asleep either.  This, too, shall pass...


Jodi said...

I love(d) cosleeping and would smugly brag to any all within earshot that *my* baby sleeps wonderfully, all night tucked into my arm. She nuzzles in and snuggles in and sighs those baby sighs that you simply would not hear in a another room! The horrors! Other moms would complain about not getting any sleep and I would tell them I have no clue often my babies wake up, I just roll over and offer a boob. After a couple of months, I didn't even wake up. I had the happiest, most content baby ever. I was begging James for at least two more.

Then, Katherine turned about ten months old. And she gradually started sleeping less and less. My sleep was still fine so it took me a while to really notice it. I thought she was just going through a tough time, it was teething but months and months go by and no new teeth.....She started waking if I rolled away from her and God forbid I have to go the bathroom or take a phone call or *anything*.

I think an excellent mom would have just fought through (maybe it was a phase?) or they would have laid down with their toddler at 7pm and stayed there until the baby woke up. An excellent mama would have somehow forced the four year old to nap and laid down with the toddler to nap (which I tried for months). But I freely admit that I just do not have that in me. I do not have it in me to be that great. :(

And now It's like I have a whole new child. She is happy! She smiles all the time again. She is laughing and playing. She had gotten to the point that I could not even cross the room without her screaming. I can't tell you how many times I sat her on my lap while I went to the bathroom.

Anyway, I got the Pantley book and followed a few of her ideas. We sidecarred (is that the correct term?) the crib and eventually moved it out of our room and into hers. Josie is so delighted to have her in there, although lately Jos has been spending more nights in our bed now -what's that about, lol. Now, she is sleeping on average of 15 hrs a day as opposed to 9 or 10. :/

Here's the thing: I love cosleeping. If I ever have another baby, he or she will sleep with us until the baby is begging to get out. I literally sleep better with them with me. And our bed is never closed to our babies. I still recommend it to all my preggo friends of mothers of new babies. I will advise my own girls to do it, but there came a point when I just could not do it anymore.

Sorry for totally going off! Whoa! I know that this wasn't directed at me but it just happens to be the topic of the week in our house. And I started rambling. I should just write this in my own blog....Nah!

OH! One other thing, when I went to my all-time favorite IBCLC with Josie and admitted to co-sleeping and asked tearfully if that was OK, she told me the EXACT same thing about the cavemen. I remember feeling a weight being lifted of my shoulders and pulled them back with pride. Another favorite is the Kittie Fratz (sp?) article "Why the Breast Doesn't Work Anymore" - one of the quotes I live by is "Remember you're raising a human being, not managing an inconvenience."


ps I'm not editing this beeyotch!

Sheella said...

hmmmm, I loved co-sleeping but we ended up kicking Bella out of our bed at around 3. We got her a bed and I would lay down next to her for about thirty minutes till she fell sleep. The bed was in our room. Last year she got too tall for the toddler bed, so she finally got her own room. *sigh* We miss the co-sleeping a LOT but Bella likes to do gymnastics in her sleep and once she got to a certain height, we couldn't take it anymore. We were waking up with bruises and more tired than the when we went to bed the night before. *sigh* Every once in while we invite her back into the bed and we regret it each and every time. I am very jealous of everyone whose kids don't beat them up in their sleep.

Little Miss Me said...

I am going to make another post just to respond to Jodester. It's way too long and deserves special attention. <3

S, if the kids would bother *me* at night, they'd be out, too!! But I only hear Ray complain every once in a while, so I'm good! ;-)

Valkyrie said...

I love sleeping. And so do my kids. And they are great sleepers, always have been. I only co-slept for ~4 or 5 months with each of them, at which point they got kicked into the crib (next to my bed). As soon as they had their own space, they were great sleepers and we've all been sleeping soundly through the night ever since.

Whatever works for your family.