She Ain’t Heavy, She’s my Daughter

6 05 2011

Sidney is equivalent to three and a half five-pound bags of potatoes on my chest. I have yet to try her wrapped on my back. I probably
should switch her back and forth; perhaps I can even out the soreness and muscle cramps. I’m not complaining though; putting her to sleep in my organic Boba soft-structured carrier with its cute 70s-style birds printed on the front is amazingly easy compared to the process of nursing her to sleep to stay asleep (for more than 40 minutes), cuddled up safe next to me at night and for the infamous morning nap.

The day the morning nap is officially a thing-of-the-past is a day I look forward to with utter glee. Continuing her tradition of
inconsistency (likely acquired from my consistent inconsistent nature), Sidney will span a few days with glorious two hour morning naps that abut frustrating mornings of no naps, 40 minute naps (or as Elizabeth Patel, author of the no cry nap solution calls, OCSS: One
Cycle Sleep Syndrome), or one hour “nursing naps.” Since I am either sitting reading or resting right next to her, I am ready at a moment’s notice to offer her ultimate sleep aid before she fully awakens – my breast. Some days it works, other days she immediately flips onto her stomach, pushes herself up and climbs on my face wearing a huge grin.

Regardless, co-sleeping has been my savior. I still ponder why it is considered such a “dirty” word in American culture when it is
practiced world-wide and has been for centuries and when safe crib sleeping can still result in deaths. I hope you don’t think I am making light of SIDS; the thought of Sidney passing away in her sleep, unable to wake herself up to catch her next breath makes my stomach shake violently, and my heart melts for parents who have experienced such a devastating tragedy. But Sidney never took to the crib, not even for a split second. Not even in the hospital when she was “supposed” to be sleepy. Sidney’s first moments outside the womb were amazingly
alert. Her wide, bright eyes and pink skin, free from vernix, shined gloriously as I looked down at her upon my stomach in a state of nirvana-shock.

Forcing Sidney to sleep in her crib, I feel, is cruel. Sure, shuddering sobs and choking gasps of breath may not harm her physically in the long-run, but what about her emotional well-being? Why do too many pediatricians focus only on a child’s physical health and not their emotional health too? After all, what I do throughout her infancy will set the foundation for how she responds emotionally throughout life. I’ve seen and lived with enough mental illness to try my damnedest to provide my child with a loving, emotionally stable foundation.

But co-sleeping has also been trying. Physically it often has me in acrobatic poses that my chiropractor cringes at. My bladder has been
known to throb in over-capacity and my limbs often tingle in defiance. Even the common sneeze is an enemy of co-sleeping. Most of the physical side-effects of co-sleeping come from a lack of planning on my part. I forgot the Boppy or the extra pillow; I forgot to move down a few inches so my head isn’t tilted into the headboard; or I didn’t make that last pit-stop before heading into the bedroom.

Mentally, my mind drifts in funny ways. Some days I organize my grocery-shopping list. Efficiency after all has been drilled into my psyche since childhood days. Other times I find myself lamenting how many months longer poor Sassy cat has to share her father with spiteful Chloe cat. And other times, well, on second thought, I better keep that to myself. For you fellow breastfeeding mothers out there, you likely have felt the out-of-place euphoria that just seems blatantly perverse considering the circumstance.

Emotionally, co-sleeping provides peace-of-mind and comfort to me on goods nights. But as I have already mentioned, Sidney‘s sleep patterns are inconsistent. Once or twice a week I have to handle the effects of teething discomfort, gas pains or something I did but can’t figure out, likely the result of groggy mind. And then there is the monthly full moon when my whole house shakes in fright. With four cats and an infant, a full moon can bring about unpleasant and lively nightly awakenings. Whatever the reason, these “curveball”
nights can make me dream of pre-Sidney days, days where I slept until 10am on the weekends and nights of eight hours of solid sleep.

However, these feelings quickly vanish when I look down at Sidney and see her peaceful o-shaped mouth, relaxed and innocent,
and her full, fluttering eyes dreaming of comfort and love. I know I am making the best choice for her. When I feel we’re both ready to move onto sleeping alone, then I will gently take the steps necessary to make that happen. Until then, the occasional physical, emotional and mental hiccups are bearable sacrifices I will make, whether grunting in frustration to myself or feeling my heart lift in gladness. Peace.

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