Friday, November 29, 2013

Co-Sleeping, Instinctive Parenting, and the Single Mom

How could I not want to see this face sleeping next to me at all times?
When I first began this adventure in becoming a mommy, I mulled over what type of parent I wanted to be in my head more than I should probably admit.  Some things were pretty obvious.  I wanted to be a loving mom who showered her bay with affection.  I wanted to breastfeed, although the time frame on weaning has still yet to be determined.  I wanted to raise a smart, independent yet cuddly, brave, honest, caring, thoughtful, respectful, spoiled yet not bratty, beautiful child inside and out.  Those qualities I will presume are pretty basic wants for ones child.  They are a no-brainer, except for the breastfeeding which women have very vast reasons for doing or not doing that are all pretty much valid, understandable, and ultimately very personal.  I also wanted my child to be a tummy sleeper, this is not the popular method these days, but I have my reasons, which I will discuss in a future blog if I get the balls of steel I would need to explain my reasons.  I certainly would not want to lose any readers due to my varied opinions on the matter, so I pretty much have mainly kept them to myself up to this point.  But I digress...

Yes, there are going to be a lot of sleeping and bed pics in this post!

She loves her pig, it's her favorite bed buddy besides me!

Waking up, such a joy to see her face!
One thing I wasn't totally sure on when it came to parenting, was the sleeping arrangements.  My initial idea was to put Piper in a bedside co-sleeper crib for the first few months, something that helped with my tummy-sleeping method, and then move her into her own nursery once she grew out of the co-sleeper.  What I did not anticipate, was how attached I would become to her being in my room.  I have read and heard what seems like hundreds of parent's stories about the woes of letting a child sleep in your own bed.  Mind you, most of these stories come from dual-parent households, where there is the added factor of interrupting marital/sexual relations due to a wee one in the bed.  I heeded these woes, at least I intended to as I didn't want to start a habit of having Piper sleep with me to my detriment later on, but all the heeding in the world has literally flown out the window over the past couple of months.

Sometimes she's a bit mischievous!
But it's all about play and curiosity!

And usually always with a smile!
I've begun to realize, after much deliberation on the topic, that my parenting style has kind of molded into what some would call "attachment" parenting.  Now mind you, I haven't done a lot of research on the terminology in all its facets, or perused many articles in relation to the topic, but I have had the term suggested to me and I have seen a few things regarding the method.  I would definitely say, without a doubt, that I do not follow any particular parenting method as a guideline, but I do see some things I do that fall into the "attachment" category such as the co-sleeping, the fact we have yet to be separated more than 2 hours since her birth, I am here to meet her needs consistently, and I do believe (for the time being) that a lot of wants and needs can be handled via less drastic measures of spanking and severe discipline.  In other words, I am still in the Utopian phase where I think we will be able to have meaningful communication with one another about likes and dislikes in behavior and discuss openly our needs and find ways to overcome fit-throwing by means of open communication lines.  Yeah, that makes me laugh just reading it!  I know this is a Utopian ideal, I am fully prepared to have it completely shut down the first time a temper tantrum occurs in a public venue, and I am all for changing my mind.  But I like to keep the hope alive that I will be able to maintain some level of parenting that I aspire to in the end.

But I love staring at her when she sleeps!

I may even overdue it a bit, lol!

And yes, I still take pictures of her snacking away!
What I actually like to call my parenting style is "instinctive" parenting.  I would describe this, in a nutshell, as basically throwing all the crap written by all the "experts" out there to the wind, and making decisions for myself and us that fit with our lifestyles, personality types, and immediate needs for the situation at hand. With this, none of my boundaries and rules are set in stone. I can go with the flow as needed and determined by life, and therefore have a more malleable means to learning how to parent and when to change my ways to better suit mine and Piper's worlds.  This style of parenting led me to allow Piper to tummy sleep, but had there been any signs of trouble, I would have had no issue changing her to her back.  As you can see, this thought of "instinctive" parenting has also now led to the co-sleeping situation.

She loves the camera even in bed!

And sometimes she's hard to keep up with!

Cause she's curious and wants to "help" with the pics!

And always playing with something if awake!

I love her curious, playful self!
When I first put Piper in her bedside co-sleeper crib, I fell in love with it.  It was wonderful to have her right next to me, yet safe enough away via a barrier so I could not roll over on her in the middle of the night.  I could pat her when she stirred, check to see if she was breathing when my new-parent-self freaked out because she was sleeping so soundly, and if she got hungry, breastfeeding was a snap!  Plus it allowed us both some space for a really good nights sleep, which is oh so needed when first learning the parenthood ropes.  Rather than rehash everything I've already written on the co-sleeper, go check out the Arm's Reach Co-Sleeper Review I wrote.  This should provide plenty of background information on my feelings regarding this sleeping arrangement.

She's adorable when snoozing away!

I could snap pics of her all day!

I even pose her with her dolls!

And sometimes she poses herself!

And sometimes she is my only focus!

Either way is awesome!

And not all pictures turn out perfect :)
Once Piper began to start trying to stand up in the bed, I knew the co-sleeper crib had to go.  But I wasn't quite ready to just suddenly shove her into the next room and no longer have that feeling of closeness we had become so accustomed to.  So, instead of making her sleep in her own crib, which I tried and will get to here in just a bit, I moved her into my bed.  At this point, she was big enough to cuddle without fear of me smothering her, and it turns out big enough to be a complete bed hog, too!  Moving from the co-sleeper crib to the actual cop-sleeping in the same bed, seemed like a completely natural transition for us.  Being that I am a single mom, there were no other people in bed to object to the fact they weren't getting any nookie due to the added human-bed-surfer in the mix.  If I was married or had a boyfriend/significant other, this may have turned out differently, but that's not my situation.  I can not admittedly address the thoughts I would have on this situation given another bed sharer in our lives, so I'm not going to even try.  Nor can I address what it would mean to me if I was a single dad rather than a mom, totally different situation.  I can only come at this matter from my perspective, as a single mom of a little girl who rules my world and my heart like nothing I ever knew could.

Sometimes she's a blur of pure action!

Sometimes I get a lucky shot in!

She's adorable regardless of the quality of the pic!

Am I right or am I right?

Look, there's pig again!

We sleep with a giant sock monkey, too!
When I first got rid of the co-sleeper, which I gave to some married friends of mine who were expecting a little boy and in need of a bassinet-like crib, it was a bit bittersweet, although very exciting to know my little girl had come to a new point in life and we a new point in our developing relationship.  She actually slept with me several nights in the bed before we completely removed her co-sleeper crib.  This made the transition a bit easier for us both.  If she got too wiggly, I could simply transition her to her own space, although she had learned how to crawl from her sleeper to my bed with ease, so that didn't really work all that well.  The co-sleeper also was very useful as a barrier to keep me from worrying about her rolling off the bed in the middle of the night, remember, she's the wiggliest of wiggle worms on the planet!  I'm serious about that one, it almost takes all three of us here in the house to change her diaper now.  My brother raised two little girls, he changed Piper's diaper for the first time a few weeks ago, and was astounded by her wiggliness.  He hadn't quite believed my stories of her ability to flip totally into the air while holding one of her legs until she was completely suspended and flipped the other direction.  I shit you not!  This girl is a circus contortionist who never quits moving, and I adore that about her!

Sometimes we play with flashlights under the covers!

Flashlights are totally awesome toys!

And they are pretty tasty, too!
So Anyways, I finally gave away her co-sleeper crib and confidently moved her into my bed, and here is where things get crazy.  I am a night owl, and babies need their rest.  Unfortunately for me, Piper also has a pension for night-owling, although she has slept through the night since she was three weeks old (back sleeping joy), so being in my bed, where I'm trying to read or watch a video on the laptop, well let's just say her curiosity gets the better of her.  At first, she would fall right to sleep after a good boob and my reading or watching a video (mind you with earbuds and with a shawl over the bedside lamp to reduce the amount of light shining in her eyes) didn't phase her.  She especially didn't care when she was in her co-sleeper.  But soon after our transition to sharing a bed, her little curious mind kicked into overdrive. Whatever mama is doing, little miss Piper wants a part of the action.  It has gotten to the point some nights where I cannot even pull out my cell phone and try to sneak Internet reading while she is trying to nurse. And if she falls asleep and I then try to open the laptop, if she wakes up I am so screwed and have to put it away. Now mind you, if she is sleepy enough, she will oftentimes drift right back out without a second glance, but many times it takes a little extra boob to entice her eyes to close again.

It's always a task when diaper changes happen!

She likes to "help"!
And try and crawl away!

While trying to look all innocent!

But she's not fooling anyone!

Not even Sake the sock monkey!

And I love a cute booty pic!

Who doesn't, right?

I mean, it's the cutest dang baby booty on the planet!
Besides adjusting to what I can and cannot do whilst trying to get her to sleep, which is never before 9 and usually closer to 10 no matter what I try, she's a night owl.  I can also very rarely sneak away for anything like getting dinner, a snack, some water, to wash my face, brush my teeth, pee, you know the usual nighttime happenings of an adult before bed.  Even if she is sound asleep, she senses my absence and  wakes up crying for me to come back.  As a matter of fact, she did this just a few nights ago and ended up sleep-crawling her way right off the edge of the bed.  I was coming down the hallway to her cries when I heard the thump and then the cries double.  Luckily she did not hurt herself, and we knew this day would come.  I'm sort of glad we have gotten past the fear that if she falls off the bed it might kill her.  Now me both know she will survive the tumble and can both feel a little more confident in that.  She hasn't managed to get remotely close to the edge again whilst awake if I have to leave her alone for a sec, so that is good.  As for her sleep-crawling though, that is a whole different matter.

Best bed buddy ever!
This leads to the next nighttime disturbance we deal with.  Yes, this girl crawls in her sleep.  She has done some sort of sleep wiggling since she was just a few months old.  It used to be the battering ram style where she would dig her head and shoulders into the bed and push with her feet until she ended up at the top, and usually in the corner, of her sleeper or her crib (she used to take naps in her real crib during the day).  Now she full-on crawls in her sleep, and I'm talking sound asleep, unable to be woken.  Her eyes will be shut tight, she'll be on all fours with her head swaying side to side like Snuffaluffagus, and just sort of moaning while moving around.  She is totally unaware of her surroundings, and I can even pick her up and try to cuddle her and she won't stop trying to crawl or open her eyes.  I'm hoping this doesn't lead to sleep walking when she gets older, but she is always on the go, so I'm not real shocked by her nighttime activity.  Only problem, it's disturbing to my sleep when it occurs.  I have to get her under control and usually pop a boob in her mouth to get her to settle back down.  So far, we have not been unsuccessful in settling her back down, so I really shouldn't complain, but it is something that awakens me and interrupts my sleep, although I rarely have a difficult time settling back down myself.

She loves the suckle cuddle!

When she's sick she cuddles even more!
Speaking of nighttime wakings, Piper in the last month or so has moved into a night-nursing  pattern that is quite new to us.  Before, when she was in her co-sleeper crib, she didn't nurse throughout the night.  If she stirred, I simply patted her back until she settled back into a deep sleep.  With us now being so close together, now when she stirs, she knows the breast is just a mouth-reach away.  I have taken to actually sleeping topless most nights, as I now do not seem to leak at night like I used to, therefore if she gets the urge she is able to snuggle up and nurse at will.  Sometimes I am able to put her hoppy (pacifier) in her mouth and cuddle her and that will suffice, but she is not much into her hoppy at any given time of day or night.  So mostly we stick to the boob-in-the-mouth method.  She won't nurse much, sometimes and usually just a minute or so, and go right back to sleep.  I also can go right back to sleep as I am not having to fool with taking off shirts, bras, nursing pads, etc. Having full access to the goods at will, well it has helped tremendously with our sleep patterns.  She does eat more at night than she used to, that is for sure, but not so much I'm worried about excessive over-eating.  I have actually cut out one nursing session a day at work, we used to have two sessions at the office, so I assume she is making up for this at night.  So much for that slow weaning process, eh?

But she's spunky as can be when she feels great!

And lovely as can be when she's ridiculously sleepy!
I will be the first to admit that her now sleeping in my bed has pretty much made it impossible for her to sleep elsewhere.  She refuses to ever sleep in her very expensive special ordered crib, ugh!  Not even for naps! Our cat Jack loves the crib, so at least someone is getting some use out of it.  I'd say it was one very pricey cat bed, but I'm sure one of these days, when she gets out of this extreme mommy attachment phase she is in right now, she will warm up to at least napping in her crib at times.  As of now, when we're home, I let her nap in my bed, which is easiest because I can lay down with her and nurse her into her nap, which keeps her sleeping longer as she is notorious for taking no longer than 30 minute naps, if I'm lucky.  Every once in awhile, I'll get over and hour out of her, and those are miracle days.  As a matter of fact, she is sleeping here next to me right now, having just finished up a nap time boob.

She knows how to sprawl!

And how to cuddle with her loveys!
As for this not napping or sleeping anywhere but "our" bed, I will also be the first to admit that I do sometimes get a tad frustrated with her when I cannot get her to sleep or every time I need to get up she wakes up and fusses that I have left her side.  This just comes with the territory, I presume, and that mommy attachment phase she is in right now.  My mom said we all went through this same phase about this same age, between 7-8 months, so it is completely natural and one she will learn to grow out of.  For now though, when I find myself tired and a bit frustrated, I just look at her and remind myself of the long years I waited for her, how fast it will be till the time she will no longer be so attached and needy of my closeness, and how much I love and adore every sweet smile, coo, squeak, snuggle, cuddle, breath, and yes, even her poots and burps.  Once I change my train of thought, nothing could keep me from cuddling back up with her and waiting till later to go pee if need be.  She needs me, she loves me, she adores me, she doesn't want to be anywhere that I am not, how can I not want her right next to me at all times, too?  And that's when it all comes rushing back in, all the frustrations go away, and I hold her just a little bit closer and thank my lucky stars for this amazing little girl snuggled up into my side, practically osmosifying (another one of my made up words) herself into my side.  At that moment, I wonder how I will ever be able to let her sleep in her own bed, ever.  Who has the attachment issues now?

Here's an old rare pic of her in her actual crib!
I have tried putting her in her own crib at night on a few occasions.  The first time was one of those nights I got frustrated with her rambunctiousness, and I "banished" her to her own bed.  It was with good intent for the both of us.  Well, it ended in disaster!  I had to watch from the monitor as she stood holding on to the edge of her crib, standing there blankly staring at the doorway waiting for me to come back.  After awhile she began to sniffle, holding back her tears.  I then started boohooing like a little bitch and went and showed the monitor to my mom and wailed at her about helping me to reason for what I was doing,  She encouraged me to keep trying, so I did.  I sucked it up and took the monitor back to my own room.  I then continued to watch Piper, and soon she started just flat-out crying.  Big sobs of dripping, lonely, I've-been-abandoned-by-my-mom tears that literally tore my soul a new one.  I could not handle the situation, and quickly went to rescue her from her crib-prison.  I think I cuddled her closest that night, for the guilt I felt still makes me tear up while writing this.  I'm just not good at handling her cries, not those kind at least.

The next time I tried putting in her crib, it did not work out any better.  This time she would stand up, cry, and fling herself backward in a dramatic flail, which she definitely inherited from me.  I only put her in there long enough so she would settle down a bit, it wasn't to make her sleep the night away from me.  After a little while, although her wailing did not cease, she seemed to realize I was making a point.  Once I retrieved her and brought her back to my room, she settled down and went right to sleep.  Since then, I have tried this maneuver twice more.  I explain to her that she is not being put in her crib to sleep or be banished from "our" bed.  I am simply giving her some space to quietly play and wind down for the evening, as I find it impossible to get anything done in my bed, such as reading, when having to hold on to one of her legs so she won't go skydiving off the bed.  She seems to have learned this concept of time alone to wind down, and these last two trials have been very successful.  She will quietly play for a bit, and when she gets ready to come to my bed for sleep, she will stand up and make herself heard from her room.  I then come to her rescue, bring her to "our" bed, and will give her a quick nursing session to help her drift off.  It may not be the type of scenario a lot of co-sleepers with their babies choose to go through, but we have found it works very well for us when the method is needed, which is not every night.

And now for some off-topic pics, just for fun!

Cause they're cute!

And I want to post them!

See her band-aid?

It was from her flu shot booster.

She took it pretty well!

Was still up for crazy pics after!
Although there are some drawbacks from having Piper share my bed now, and some that we have yet to face I am sure, for the time being our sleeping arrangement is working out for the best.  It definitely has it's pros and cons, but I'd say the pros definitely are on the winning side.  The best pro, is that every morning I get to wake up to her smiling face, so happy to see me and snuggle up close.  That face so full of love and trust and bright shiny hope, how could I ever want to wake up to anything less?  I don't have a husband and/or significant other to give me that look, nor have I ever had anyone who has ever shared my bed look at me that way, so I bask in that look, try to bottle it up inside my heart and mind so I will never forget it, and I tell you it is the best, most amazing look one can ever receive from another person.   If I could wrap it up and sell it to the lonely, I would make gazillions of dollars!  But I wouldn't sell it to anyone, it is way too precious and I am way too stingy with it being all mine and not for anyone else.  I'm glad I have her to myself and don't have to share that look with anyone else, it gives me something of my very own that no one can ever take away or compete with me for.  I am her mommy, and she will never look at another as she does me, and that's the most awesome thing in the world.

She likes drumming on her wipes!

Cause she has rhythm in her soul!

And mama says if she learns to drum maybe she won't date a drummer!

She gets my humor!

But mainly it's just fun to make noise!

And she is really good at making noise now!
So there you all have it, a glimpse into my parenting style and how Piper and I handle our sleeping arrangements.  I would not say it is for everyone, and we have had to make adjustments along the way, but we have figured out what works best for the both of us and continue to make improvements and adjustments when needed.  We are happy, totally in love, and I find nothing wrong with us sharing a bed.  I didn't think this was the type of arrangement we would end up in when first contemplating mommyhood, but I do know it has been the right, natural progression for us.  We have a unique situation, and we have our own unique ways of taking advantage of that situation.  We are blissfully happy 99.99% of the time, and who could ask for more?  If we pushed for the extra .001%, well that would just be unrealistic and probably knock us back a few percentage points.  We have a groove all our own, and we dance well together.

And she loves to chase the cats!

They're not too keen on it, though!

But she tries real hard!

Sometimes she gives up and settles for a book!

Sometimes Q-tips get into the mix!

And boy are they fun!

And messy!

But then the cat calls again!

And she's off on a mission!

With great determination!

And purpose!

But succumbs to defeat because the kitties are just too chicken!
I hope you all have enjoyed this entry.  I hope for the other bed sharers out there this has given you some insight into how okay it is to choose this method of sleeping if it is right for you.  I encourage all of you to ignore the parenting "experts" and follow your own hearts and minds.  You know how to do it, it's all there inside you, and no one can tell you what is right or wrong with your choices as long as you express your love fully, meet your child's needs fully, and change with the flow instead of rigorously sticking to what others tell you to do even though it may not be working for your situation.  Follow your heart, follow your mind, follow your own instincts and you will be happy and confident in yourself and your own choices.

Yes, she still tries to pick my nose when nursing in bed!
Now you can all sleep better :)
...and now here comes the usual...

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