I am a textbook Sagittarius. Independence is very important to me.
So when I was pregnant with Hannah, I just imagined that a baby would sleep in their own bed, in their own room and would therefore be independent!
I had never heard of attachment parenting and knew nothing about it. Then when I held Hannah in my arms, I knew everything I needed to know in an instant. It was the most natural thing in the world to hold her all night long. How could this tiny person, who knew only me, my voice, my movements, my smell and needed my milk be separated by any degree? It was unthinkable. My deepest maternal instinct kicked in, good and proper. I really felt I was doing what I was born to do. How wonderful was that?
I quickly realised that to have independent children I needed to let them make the move away when the time was right for them and they felt secure. I knew my job was to meet their needs as quickly and respectfully as possible. I knew if they were happy and secure they would naturally become independent. I knew all this that first night when I held Hannah and we just gazed at each other in wonder for hours. I knew it strongly too. Because while the birth pool languished, unused, at home I was in hospital. Not only that but having had a c-section birth instead of the lovely home birth I had planned. I had nurses coming in every couple of hours for three days taking Hannah off me while they took my temperature or whatever they were doing. I spent the whole time asking for her to be put back in my arms. They kept saying did I want them to take her away so I could sleep or shower. They said I should let her sleep in the plastic cot. They said alot of things, but I just smiled and hugged Hannah into me and knew deep within my heart there was no other way for me.
Until I was pregnant with Ollie. Then I started worrying that I wouldn’t love this baby as much as Hannah. I planned to keep the new baby in a cot in another room. How could I ever feel this much love again? Impossible. My mum wisely said, “your love doesn’t divide, it multiplies.” What did that feel like?
Of course, the night Ollie was born my heart expanded again and I fell in love like never before. I had a lovely homebirth, it was quiet and gentle, just my mum, Wayne and the midwives and entirely magical. What a relief for me – and no doubt for Ollie! For 8 months Hannah slept with Wayne, and me with Ollie in our separate double beds (we had a big bedroom) Such a blissful start to life.
When Charlie was born (another amazing homebirth with 11 of us present including both Charlie’s grandmothers, his great-Grandmother from England and Dane, who was 18 videoing it!) we took off traveling in our house bus for 18months. We had a queen size bed at the back and bunks for Hannah (5) and Ollie (3). Hannah was ultra independent and loved her bunk. Only occasionally would we wake up to find her curled up at the end of our bed. Ollie never went near his bunk. So the four of us slept in the big bed. Charlie slept on my arm until he was 9 months old, just to protect him from a thrashing toddler. He still sleeps with us, his legs entwining with mine through the night making sure I am still there. He is 8. Ollie slept in our room until last year, when he was ten. Then he felt ready to move and was so excited to sleep in his own room and he loves his own space there.
Children still have needs at night. You can’t stop parenting because of what a clock says. For me I would sleep with my children even if I had 10! It is the most natural and the most easy way. It has been well established around the world and through time. Most adults like to have human warmth and company while they sleep and well, children are people too so why shouldn’t they.
It upsets me the amount of books/advice/experts around who advise about ‘sleep problems’ in infants. This is a new phenomena found in our modern western culture and at no other time in history or in the world. There are some lovely stories about attachment parenting in other cultures – that you will never hear a crying baby in Africa. How breastfeeding is a panacea to anything and everything in Mongolia.
The concept of sleep problems disappear if a parent just sleeps with their baby, parents them to sleep (breastfeeding, or singing, stroking hair, rocking holding hands etc) and parents them kindly through the night. Maybe it isn’t the infant that has the problem….I often hear mums with young ones striving for the goal of their baby sleeping through the night, so that they can get a full nights sleep.
For me sleeping with my babies was the best for getting lots of sleep. The number of times I have ever got up out of bed in the night I could count on my fingers. I would just latch them on the instant they stirred, so neither of us would have to wake up much at all, then we would both just drift back to sleep.
No, I have never woken up to find a baby at the bottom of the bed, or squashed under me. I only woke up to happy, gurgling babies and content toddlers full of questions.
I am so blessed to have been able to have this experience with my children I know. It has enriched our lives and done alot to ensure happy, emotionally balanced kids. Bedtime has always been a great time of day in our family as it meant lots of snuggles and books in bed and breast feeding for the youngest. No one has ever not wanted to go to bed! I am realising that although Charlie insists he will always sleep with us there will come a day in the not too distant future where he will take his pillow and de-camp into his own, independent world at night.
It is a good reminder that everything passes, the good, the bad, the easy, the hard, even the downright wonderful.