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.


Sidney’s Rules

2 05 2011

Attachment Parenting is a philosophy that principles the need for a parent to be
emotionally available and form a strong emotional bond with his/her child in
order for that child to form a secure attachment and to foster his or her
socio-emotional development and well-being.[i]

I wake up many mornings whispering an exasperated god help
me. This morning is no different. Sidney had been circling around me for almost
an hour like a cat trying to find the best spot in the sun. I can feel her raw
gums grinding against each other as she rests her head on my lap. She gives me
an occasional raspberry on my exposed stomach. I try to fight the losing battle
of early awakening by a dose of Colic Calm, soothing back rubs, endless nursing
and by playing dead. It is now 5am. We sleep together, Sidney and me. Just us
two in the guest room on the firmer mattress with guardrails that she finds
fascinating tools to use as a handrail for standing. (I observe all safety
concerns and never leave her out of my sight while she is on the bed.) We did
sleep as a family once upon a time. My husband, two of our cats, and us, but
that was when Sidney slept on my stomach and didn’t crawl around. Now she is
eight months old and sleeping life is different.

People think I’m utterly bonkers. Or they just don’t
understand. “You’re spoiling her rotten!” they say. Sidney and I slept at my
Dad’s house a month ago when toxic fumes from a plumbing stoppage (the fault of
which bears my name) forced us out of our cozy house. My Dad asked, “Do you
want to use the crib in the spare room and sleep in the other guest room?” I
replied, “No, that’s OK, we sleep together.” To which he replied, “Oh, you’re
bringing your own crib?” Sigh, “No Dad, we sleep together in the same bed.”
Well, our talk circled around and around for some time before my intelligent,
witty, curmudgeon of a father understood that Sidney sleeps next to me, in the
same bed, tucked safely next to my body with its supernatural motherly
instincts. The little hairs on my arms are like cat whiskers; I sense where she
is in relation to me at all times. Even my goose pimples can tell which
direction she lies in when there is a breeze about.

This co-sleeping arrangement was pre-determined, to an
extent. I read about co-sleeping and its benefits, especially to breastfeeding
mothers. But I wanted her next to me in a separate sleeping bed, not physically
touching me at all times. After all, Sassy, my poor fur-princess had been
ousted from my lap for several months when sleeping on my back wasn’t an option

To be economical, I decided Sidney’s full-size crib would
pull up right next to the bed with plenty of room. And it does. It just has
never been used for more than 20 minutes at a time.

And then there is the issue of safety. I was terrified
reading articles and hearing from nurses that my husband would roll over onto
my child and kill, or seriously injure her. I knew I wouldn’t, although you
still hear fears from outsiders that the mother might roll over onto her child.
I’ve had one cat or another sleeping on my lap for most of my 33 years on this
earth. If I haven’t rolled over onto my cats, I certainly won’t roll over onto
my child. In all fairness, I was concerned about my husband. He doesn’t have
the supernatural motherly instincts that I possess, which is one of the reasons
we’re now in the guestroom.

Despite my thoughts on co-sleeping, Sidney certainly had
other sleeping plans after birth. Sleeping in a large, scary crib was far too
overwhelming to her. How naïve was I? What baby wants to sleep by itself after
being in a dark, cozy, warm womb for nine months? Out of sheer desperation and
a desire to get more than 30 minutes of shut-eye at a time, I gingerly placed
Sidney on me, stomach to stomach, after each feeding. When she was a bit bigger
and we got the hang of side nursing, she would occasionally conk out on her
back after her arm flailed down toward the bed like an anchor, pulled down by
the elusive sleep gods.

On a good night, Sidney nurses herself to sleep. She wakes up
every two or three hours, nurses for five to ten minutes and then succumbs
again to the sleep gods. Surprisingly, I survive pretty well on this schedule.
But once or twice a week she throws me the dreaded curveball. Gas or teething
is usually the culprit.

Hence this morning’s early awakening. I couldn’t tell you
with certainty what the exact cause was. Teething can lead to stomach upset
from the overproduction of saliva and last night’s dinner of banana and mangoes
with brown rice could have made her gassy; likely a combination. Either way,
I’m pretty tired but thankfully good food perks me up, especially fair-trade
dark chocolate from a local chocolatier. After all, I have to keep up my
caloric intake to keep producing all that milk!

You may be wondering why on earth I go to such lengths, or
for those of you who believe she is spoiled, wonder why I don’t just sleep
train her and gain back my pre-baby life, to the extent possible. I don’t nor
do I care to because I firmly believe that listening to my baby’s needs and
following her lead – for now- is the best form of parenting that I can provide
for her. Call it motherly instincts; call it spoiling; call me crazy, but I
won’t change my mind. And please remember that she is only eight months old!

The reason I’ve started this blog is twofold. First, I need
a creative outlet. I love being a mom and I love Sidney more than life itself
(thank you Elton John for these beautifully sung words), but I need to express
my thoughts and feelings in order to process and learn from my actions. The
state of chronic sleep deprivation sometimes leaves my mind boggled and
confused, so in having this creative outlet, I hope to recover some of my
mental faculties. Second, I want to connect with other like-minded mothers and fathers
who find attachment parenting to joyous, but also challenging.

I hope you will join me on my journey and leave positive
comments. I’m here to inspire people who want to be inspired and hope to meet and
be inspired by others. Peace.

Definition rephrased from my interpretation of information provided by Dr.
William Sears on his website, and the definition of attachment parenting listed on Wikipedia. May 2, 2011.