It was exactly 9:07 last Tuesday night when my husband uttered the phrase, “Now that Lyla sleeps so well, I kind of miss those middle-of-the-night wake-up calls. Sometimes I wish she would wake up, so I could ‘rescue’ her.” Two nights later, our little angel granted his wish by waking up at 9:30 and refusing to go back to bed until 2 am. Because my husband had so longed for those sweet sleepless nights, I obliged him. I let him spend the night singing, feeding, rocking, walking, cursing, praying and shushing, while I spent it sleeping – ahem – like a baby. You’re welcome honey. Sometimes my selflessness amazes even me.
However, I wasn’t laughing when it was my turn on Sunday night. She woke up at 10 and I couldn’t get her back down until 1. I then spent the next hour or two tossing and turning, and snapping my head up to look at the monitor any time she made the slightest peep. I finally drifted off to sleep (it was actually more like plunging into exhausted oblivion) around 2:30 AM, where I dreamt my standard anxiety dream of waiting tables and realizing that I forgot to place a bunch of tables’ orders, over and over again until 5. It was then that I heard the siren call of my daughter. I tried to resist the call and let her fall back asleep on her own, but alas I could not. Instead I scooped her up and rescued her from whatever invisible assailant was tormenting her.
I sat down with her in the rocking chair to rub her back and caress her head. After a few minutes, she curled up on my chest, tucking her arms under her, and began to snore lightly. And despite the stiffness in my neck from trying not to move and the pool of sweat forming under my shirt from her hot little body, I didn’t miss sleep a bit. I now had a few hours to sit and study her perfect little features, inhale her sweet baby smell (it still hasn’t gone away, thank god) and think.
I make it a point to try not to judge parents. I know just how hard it is to be a parent and to make all the decisions that the title requires. I know that most parents are simply doing the best they can for their children and for themselves, and that every parent makes educated decisions based on what they think is right. My husband and I made the decision not to bring our daughter into our bed with us. That decision was based on some stories that friends have told us, some books that we have read, and mostly for the purely selfish reason that if my daughter was in my bed I would be too terrified to ever sleep. If she is even in the room with me, I am constantly jolted awake by nightmares that I have fallen asleep with her in my arms and have rolled over and crushed her. So, putting her in my bed is not really an option for me… not if I ever want to sleep again.
People feel quite strongly about the topic of sleeping with your children. There are some, especially the Attachment Parenting proponents, who feel that co-sleeping creates security for the child. Mostly though, I feel that co-sleeping is often villainized. Many doctors warn that it increases the chances of SIDS, which is hard to argue with. That is probably the root of my intense fears. However, my daughter is past the age where SIDS is a major concern, and still I never put her in my bed. It was the parenting decision that we made, and for us I think it is the right one. But sitting in the chair with my daughter sleeping so close to me, I totally understood why some parents choose to have their kids sleep with them… or let themselves fall into that pattern. I was struck by how close I felt to her – almost as though I was pregnant again, only now I could study her every feature in a way that she would never allow me to do while she is awake. I was reminded of how short our time is with our children. How quickly all of these moments will pass and then will soon be over. If every moment is so precious, then sleeping with your child somehow feels like a way to steal a few extra moments.
Now, this is not a story about how I suddenly changed my mind and invited my daughter and all my future children into my bed with me. I still stand behind the decision that my husband and I made. I like my sleep. I like my privacy. And I like my daughter to have her independence from us. All that I am saying is that I get it. I understand the beauty of those stolen moments with your child while she is sleeping. And while my daughter is going to stay in her own room, I just might join her every now and then.