Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Voulez-vous couchez avec moi, ce soir?

Bed Hopping

I have a guilty little secret that I need to share with you. I sleep with my child. Shock horror. Before CK was born I read all the books and all the statistics that said that SIDS was more prevalent when a child sleeps in bed with its parents. I had nightmares about smothering my baby as I slept, exhausted and oblivious. And then I had her, and my nights became a string of feeds and wake up calls and I became exhausted and oblivious and one day, I fell asleep with the baby in the bed with me.

And it was great.

She slept, I slept, she fed, I slept, she wriggled, I slept. Brilliant.

I mentioned it one day to my health visitor (lovely, but perhaps not the only source of useful advice one should rely totally upon) and saw the flicker of horror cross her face. I reassured her that I don’t take drugs or smoke or drink and she warned me of the dangers of exhaustion and obliviousness. I nodded sagely and assured her I wouldn't anymore.

But I did. And I do. And it is lovely. Except for waking up contorted into strange positions and aching all over from trying not to roll onto her in my oblivious exhaustion. Clearly, some part of my brain is not that oblivious.

I am not alone in my guilty pleasure. My lovely husband has now discovered the joys of sleeping with the baby too as, up until now, he has always been banished from the bed if she is in it - my theory being that some kind of maternal instinct will stop me from rolling onto her while he, sleeping the sleep of the dead (kind of loud snorey dead) might be truly oblivious. In the last couple of weeks though , now she is very nearly 1 (and obviously nearly a grown up), I have allowed it. I think he secretly quite likes an excuse to do it too.

I was talking to someone the other day who warned against co-sleeping as once you start, you just can’t stop (like Pringles). I am not convinced that CK will still be in my bed when she starts uni, or indeed when she goes to school, but even if she is, I’m not sure me or her dad will mind.


Sleeping with your baby or to use the modern vernacular – co-sleeping.

OK, settle down, get a cuppa, this is going to be a long one:

You are a few fragile cells growing in a warm, dark, quiet, secure environment. As soon as you have ears you spend all day listening to your mother talk and all night listening to the beat of her heart and the blood pulsing through her body. When life gets a little cramped in there it seems like a good idea to move outside.

This experience will depend on where in the world you are born, but let us assume for now that it is in the “Western Civilised First World” with its’ medical culture. Chances are that you will arrive in a blindingly bright, cold, dry and screamingly LOUD place where you will be handled by strangers roughly enough to set you wailing. From this moment on your life will be governed by a new set of rules, many of them handed down through generations of nursing staff who learned their art at the hands of spinsters, as married women were not allowed to work, and by someone who is called Dr. Spock or Gina Ford.

So, you are swaddled and taken away from your mother to lie in a far off lonely place where you can hear all sorts of strange noises and sometimes even your mothers’ voice. Then comes the night. We are not nocturnal, so all humans are out of their comfort zone in the dark. Where is the comfort of that heart beat, the warmth of the body, the smell of the breast? Somewhere across the room but it’s too dark to see and anyway your eyes aren’t clever enough for that yet.

Now I shall digress: when visiting Australia many years ago my daughter and I visited a little village in Brisbane called Early Street, a collection of settlers shacks and houses. In one of the meaner dwellings was a bed covered in a beautiful patchwork quilt and attached to the side of the bed was a tiny cot with two legs supporting it on the side away from the bed. All the mother had to do to comfort her baby was reach out a few inches. I don’t know the statistics for how many babies are smothered in their parents beds but don’t you think that if we stopped frowning and muttering and started thinking we might be able to come up with a cunning and safe plan, after all, we can put a man on the moon…

If you are female it will be twelve long years before you are even nearing independence and if you are male it may be twice that long (sorry guys, blame your mothers!) Yet in a matter of a few short months you pass some mysterious milestone and the powers-that-be state that now you can go and sleep, in the dark and all alone, in your own room in a socking great cot. Is it any surprise that as soon as you are able to climb out of your first bed and toddle – fast, really fast, through the dark- you head straight for your parents’ bed?

Once there, with mothers’ nose firmly grasped in one chubby little hand and a fist full of daddys’ back hair clutched in the other you can finally relax and go into the deep sleep you have been yearning for. The warm urine pong of a fetid nappy can rise freely between the bed sheets and if there is not enough room you can use your elbows, knees, feet, and fists to fight for your own space – bliss. At some point in the night you mother or father may leave the bed and go into your room, but do you care? Not a jot. You have been made to sleep there for two years, now it is their turn to be alone – hah!

Maybe if we were all a bit more relaxed about allowing our babies to sleep with us when they really needed to they would feel more confident of their ‘grown-up’ status when offered a room of their own? Of course it has to suit the whole family and it has to be safe.

Now that our daughter is 31, and hasn’t slept in between us for some time (well, OK, at least 27 years) Gramps and I have so many happy memories of those broken nights! Yes, it seemed never-ending at the time and yes it was like musical beds some nights but hey, it was worth it for all the giggles.

PS when said daughter was nearly five we made her a bunk bed with a real ladder and everything and bought her a digital clock, taught her what 7.00 looked like and told her to stay in her room until that time – worked like a dream…

Granny Bloggings

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