Thursday, June 18, 2009

Our Crowded Bed

Somehow we ended up practicing attachment parenting. I'm not sure how it happened; it certainly wasn't in our plans. This was not a topic I delved into during my pre-birthing research but what little I knew about it didn't appeal to me. How would I get anything done if I held the baby 24/7? I definitely didn't want her sleeping with us - too dangerous. Babies die every year as a result of co-sleeping and it seemed like an all-around bad idea to me. I didn't want to raise a needy, clingy child who was afraid of letting go of my hand.

The reality of parenting is far different from what is presented in books. For one thing, newborns are unable to sit up on their own so unless you leave them in cribs, car seats, bouncy seats, etc, all day long you are holding them. Little Sam had a tough time adjusting to the harshness of life outside the womb, and was very fussy. To calm her we would hold her, rocking her, bouncing her, soothing her any way we could think of or was suggested. And once she was calm, it was natural to continue holding her, reveling in her sweetness, the wonder that is life, feeling the love flowing from our every pore for and to this tiny being. I was frequently nursing her through our own meals and thus we would put her down only for diaper changes and to sleep. Not that we were against putting her down in her bassinet at other times, but she objected to that rather loudly and we couldn't bear for her to be upset. Thus we end up holding her most of our waking hours.

The feeding-on-demand was easy and encouraged in the hospital. When you are breastfeeding and your baby is crying, it is the most natural thing in the world to offer her a meal and see if that is the balm to her discomfort. In addition to nourishing, breastfeeding is very comforting to babies. There were days and nights that she was otherwise unconsolable and I would nurse her for hours - she would erupt into screams if I removed her from my breast. I don't know if she was hungry and I wasn't producing enough or if she was just upset at life and found comfort in this act. Regardless of the reason, I fed her whenever she wanted me to and continue to do so. It can be difficult to schedule activities, or to leave the house, for that matter, but after a while I began to see her eatting pattern. As she gets older it is easier for her to wait a few minutes for a meal, allowing me time to leave a store and find a place to nurse her without her screaming hyserically until the meal is provided.

The co-sleeping took a little longer, and again happened accidentally. We had set up the pack & play in our bedroom, with the bassinet insert attached and ready for sleeping. It was right next to my side of the bed and with our platform bed the height worked out quite well -- the edge of the pack & play is the same height as our bed. I could sleep with one hand on her, so she could feel my nearness without the danger of her sharing our bed. The perfect set-up, or so I thought. To feed her in the night I just had to reach over, pick her up and feed her. We even had the changing table attachment set up so there was no need to leave the room to change her diaper.

Our second or third night home from the hospital found me dead tired during one of those late-night feedings, and I started nodding off. Fearing that I would fall alseep and drop her I laid down to feed her. And promptly fell asleep. When I woke up I put her back in her bassinet, but of course at that point it was time for her next feeding and so I picked her back up and laid down to feed her, again falling alseep. After that I couldn't get her to sleep on her own. Why would she? She spent the first nine and a half months of her existence sleeping next to me and now that she was born, no longer held, fed and kept warm automatically I was asking her to sleep alone, on top of all of the other adjustments she was forced to make. Our little girl has a strong mind and she wasn't having any part of that.

Fast-forward two months to the present day. Sam and I are always together. Always. I have left the house once in her lifetime without her, and that was for a trip to the supermarket. She was sleeping when I left so her daddy stayed home with her. While that trip was quite glorious in its freedom, I miss her terribly when we are apart. She often naps in her swing in the afternoon, which is set up in whichever room I am in, and will sleep for hours in it. I get a lot done during those naps but am always glad when she wakes up and I am holding her once again.

Her bouncy seat is another source of pleasure for her. It is a sling-type chair that vibrates and has an activity bar attachment that plays music and lights up when the dangling toys are moved. This occupies her for about 10 minutes, sometimes longer, and gives me the time to bathe and sometimes prepare dinner, two activities for which I need both hands.

I've done a little online research on the subject of attachment parenting and co-sleeping since Sam's birth and many people feel that the constant companionship and immediate addressing of a baby's needs makes for happier, more secure children. By never making your baby wait for comfort or pushing them to be independent before they are ready they grow up confident in your love and support, and are then free to explore the world without fear or insecurity. Perhaps that is true, perhaps not. I do feel that it can only be beneficial to a child to feel her parents' love and acceptance continually.

I don't hold my baby constantly or feed her when she says she is hungry for the future security some experts say it will provide. I do it because I want to. I hold her because she is the most precious gift I have ever been blessed with and I cherish her very existence. I feed her because she is hungry, no matter that she last ate a few minutes ago. Her body is still developing, her digestive system hasn't learned how to store food yet so she is frequently hungry. As for sleeping with her, it makes for a crowded bed, true, but I miss her when we are apart and don't wish to be parted for the night. I sleep better with her lying against me. I can hear and feel her breathing and it comforts me. I wake up when she is distressed and sleep when she is calm. She was a part of my body for nine and a half months and I am not ready to be separated from her. Not yet.

The day she leaves our bed is coming soon. Once she learns to roll over she will have to sleep in her own bed, for her own safety. We cannot put a rail on our platform bed so have no way of preventing her from rolling out of bed. It will be a tough transition, one I am not looking forward to. My husband would prefer to move her out of our bed sooner, for it is quite crowded with the three of us and the cat, but yields to my desire to keep her with us. In truth, I am paranoid for her safety and worry that she will stop breathing if I cannot hear/see/feel her doing so, and this paranoia fuels my conviction to keep her sleeping with us. I will have to get over it, as she will have to deal with sleeping by herself. It will be difficult for both of us, but necessary for our healthy development as mother and child.

I find my reluctance to remove her from our bed humorous when I recall my original stance on bed-sharing, just as I scoffed at people who spoke of attachment parenting. Thankfully I scoffed silently, to myself, for here I am now happily ignoring my own parenting plans. I've been wrong before, I just hate to admit it.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

No More Chocolate for Me

This is my first child & I'll be honest - I don't have a clue. That's not to say I haven't looked for a clue. I read books; I talk to other, more experienced moms; I regularly do research online. All in an attempt to figure out what the hell I am supposed to be doing with, for and to this child of mine.

It took three or four weeks to discover that her almost-incessant crying was due to gas, as a result of the foods I was eating. It took another week to figure out how to help her with the gas as I was still discovering which foods bother her. Just when we had the hang of that she started spitting up excessively - so badly that she spit up almost everything she ate at night and spent the rest of the time crying. A week or two later I found the solution to that and after 3 days was feeling that I was making progress and finally getting the hang of parenting. Famous last words and they weren't even verbalized.

That very night she was inconsolable and we were up until 3am - a new record - until she was finally comfortable enough to sleep. The culprit? Chocolate, of which I had consumed copious amounts from the afternoon until late in the night. Chocolate, my beloved friend who brings me such pleasure, is now on my taboo food list. The signs had been there for weeks, signs I purposely ignored, choosing instead to eliminate various other foods and administer an almost-daily dose of gripe water to the wee girl, all so I wouldn't have to face the simple truth that chocolate bothers my baby. How did this happen? How did my body create and grow a person who doesn't like chocolate? To be fair, it is not the flavor that bothers her but whatever chemical components that pass into the breast milk. I should have known, I should have seen this coming. During my pregnancy I developed an aversion to chocolate ice cream, opting instead for vanilla-based mixes. When the Girl Scout cookie order form circulated my office I bought a box of every flavor save one, and it was the non-chocolate types that appealed to me. My old favorites didn't taste right and never settled well, although I ate every last cookie of course - who wouldn't? So, as I said, the signs were there, I just didn't want to read them.

We set a new record last night - 5:30 am. Yes, technically that is today, this morning, but in my book the day is not reset until slumber has been achieved, or a new work/school day begun. I am not sure what went wrong last night. When the gas issues started after dinner I reviewed my chocolate-free (sob!) day, looking for the culprits. A small amount of chili for lunch and broccoli at dinner seemed likely, although I had taken Beano with each meal to forestall any negative effects of those foods. When we passed 3 am I decided to try to force sleep, thinking perhaps sheer exhaustion was part of the problem. That lasted about 15 minutes before she loudly filled her diaper. A clean diaper brought smiles and I thought we were on the right track when I fed her and again went to bed, around 4. Which was also short-lived, ending in a large episode of vomiting. All over my bed. And me. And her.

I'm still not sure what provoked last night's tummy ache, from which she hasn't yet fully recovered. Perhaps it had nothing to do with what I ate and was more a result of yesterday's heat, or perhaps it was set off by something else entirely. Sometimes all I can do is record and file away the details of the day, waiting for the next time we have a night like last night to compare the two, looking for the similarities. I do know that these sleepless nights and vomit-soaked sheets don't matter in the least when we finally solve the problem of the hour, when the discomfort has passed and my sweet baby girl looks up at me with those big, brown eyes and smiles. For that, my friends, is worth more than all the chocolate in the world.