Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Sleeping through the night

It's probably all my fault -- but I still blame my husband.

Earbaby, all of  "I'm 12, I'm not a baby anymore" attitude, still likes snuggling in bed with her mom. And apparently she's not the only one. When I've talked about this with my various mommy friends, more than half of them (and a nana too) can still count on waking up to find their bed shared with a preteen, who nonetheless "isn't a baby anymore."

The reason this is my fault is because when EB came home for the very first time, she was all of five days old (C-section gets you an extended hospital stay by law, ya know), and after her initial introduction to the family dog of the time, who sniffed her and deemed her family and worthy of our inner circle, was carefully laid down in her bassinet right by mom. Husband retired to the spare bedroom to give still-recovering mom some space, and the dog stayed in the hallway between the two rooms.

A couple of minutes into her first night in her first home, Earbaby cried. She had just been fed and changed so there were no physical needs to be met. But she and I had spent the previous four days snuggling as much as I could (except for night four when I was exhausted and said it was OK if they wanted to keep her in the nursery for just a little longer if she was fussy, buying myself a couple of more hours of shut-eye before the guilt kicked in and I asked for her back).

I looked at the love of my life mere inches from my bed and said, "You're brand-new, you don't even know anybody yet. Come in here with me." And thus, a little snuggle monster was born. Add to that the fact that she had lost a little more weight than the doctor liked after birth and at her first week visit, I was told she needed to put on a couple of pounds. The best way was to let her nurse, all night if need be. So we got into a routine. She was able to sleep with me, nurse when she woke up and go right back down. I could sleep facing her (I know all about the pediatrician warnings, but I never once worried about rolling over on her, I knew where she was every second, no matter how deeply I slept). At her next visit she had gained back all the weight suggested, and then some. And hubby? Well, he got used to sleeping in the back room.

A few weeks went by and eventually EB was moved to her crib, which was farther away. Now she was all of four feet from our bed. Hubby got back into his regular spot. But EB still wasn't sleeping through the night. Her pediatrician warned me not to come back in a year complaining that she wouldn't get out of our bed (what would she say 12 years later?). She knew what would happen. So I tried. I really, really tried.

Now here's the part that is my husband's fault. He decided the nursery should be closer so he could make sure she was breathing, instead of in another bedroom we could have used for the nursery. And when I tried to Ferberize her, so she would learn to put herself back to sleep, he would balk. "I need my sleep!" he would yell once she started crying for more than two minutes. At that point, he would get up, put EB in bed with me and go to the back bedroom. She would snuggle up to me, nurse herself back to sleep and we would both be down for the count. Since I nursed EB for almost two years, it became a pattern even when I went back to work when she turned six months old. I'm a night worker, but whenever I tiptoed in, it was like she could smell the milk. She would wake up, hubby would put her in bed with me and go to the back room.

When young mothers ask when my daughter started sleeping through the night, my answer is, "I'll let you know." Many nights three people in a house with three bedrooms would be in one full-size bed. Yes, we slept like The Three Stooges. She would wake up, make her way into bed, snuggle with her dad and massage his ear until she fell back asleep and I would come home, move her into the middle and get on my side. As she got older, dad would just move out when I moved in. Now, with her room all redone to her liking, it's still a mystery who will be waiting for me when I come home. I feel around in the dark. Cornrows or twists means it's EB. A larger head, with soft, thinning hair means hubby managed to reclaim his space for the night.

I told this story to my older sister and said at this rate, EB will undoubtedly be sleeping with me when she's 40. My sister said at that point, "You'll just tell her, 'you and your husband need to get out of my bed!' "

Like I said, it's probably all my fault. But to paraphrase Jaws star Roy Scheider, if we don't do something soon, we're going to need a bigger bed.

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