Some days it feels like if all my kids are alive at the end of the day, and my partner and I haven't had heart attacks, we're doing pretty good. I wanted to be an intentional parent, but one of the things I've learned is that things work out the way they're supposed to, regardless. That's why I try not to pay too much attention to the #mommywars. Instead, I focus on listening to what my children tell me they need. Sometimes that means having to say things to people who question my decision to bed-share.
It's important to note, this is my experience. This experience will not resonate with everyone, and as the #mommywars seems to be capable of illustrating, the sharing of this experience may even upset more than a few individuals. I make no claim to know what is right for any other parent or child or family dynamic, nor am I recommending anyone choose to do what I did. In the end, the best any of us can do is find what works for us, stick to it, and ignore the rest.
So, if you are doing what feels right for your family, and that just so happens to be bed-sharing, that's what counts. With that, here are a few things I want to tell people when they feel fit to shame my personal decision:
"I Didn't Bed-Share With My First And I Regret It"
My first infant was hard. So. Hard. I was so sad and so very tired. There were many reasons that bed-sharing with my Biggest Little was not a good idea, not the least of which was that my partner and I were petrified of it. We knew all the risks and read everything there was on the American Academy of Pediatrics' safe sleep recommendations.
In retrospect, however, having bed-shared with the Middle Little and the Littlest, I deeply regret not having been able to so with my first child. Whether true or not, I worry that Biggest Little's rejection of the breast at 6 weeks when I went back to work, her difficulty bonding, and her sleep problems all may have been somewhat alleviated by the physical and emotional closeness of bed-sharing.
"I Almost Dropped My Baby Because I Was Sleep Deprived"
With the Middle Little we planned to room-share but not bed-share. The co-sleeper looked good on paper, but in practice it made breastfeeding at night even more difficult. Contrary to the advertisements I could not just roll over and nurse in the middle of the night. I still had to get up, pick baby up and nurse. This, combined with a 2-year-old toddler who still regularly woke up with inconsolable night terrors, made for a mama who was at a torture-level of sleep deprivation.
One night as I sat upright nursing I couldn't keep myself from falling asleep. When I woke with a start, my baby was gurgling, his body half way off the nursing pillow. My heart stopped. Was he okay? How long had he been like that? What did I do?! I can still hear the sound of his strangled cries five years later. I lifted him up and checked to make sure I hadn't hurt him. I have never been so scared. I didn't sleep for the rest of the night, so afraid that I was going to drop him in my exhaustion. Middle Little was less than 3 months old at the time. The following day I made our bed a safe-sleep space and he stayed there until Littlest came into the picture four years later.
"I Get More Sleep"
I don't think I can accurately stress just how much sleep is a necessity. I mean, we all know it, of course. However, until I was faced with the impossibility of sleep, when I really, really, really wanted nothing more than to just sleep? Well, that kind of unstoppable pain is indescribable. Bed-sharing with Middle and with Littlest lets me sleep more, and there is no amount of sleep too little to celebrate seven years into parenthood.
"My Baby Wants To Be With Me"
With Middle Little I was gone for up to 12 hours a day at work. When I got home my baby wanted to be with me more than anything. It would seem like absolute torture to put him into another bed just an hour after I got home. Since I primarily work from home now, I don't really have that excuse with Littlest. However, I think Littlest is an accidental attachment parenting baby (is that a thing?) so of course they want to be with me.
"Breastsleeping Is An Evolutionary Miracle"
I honestly hadn't heard this word until last week. Breastsleeping. Guys. GUISE! This is not only totally a thing, it's evolution! Breastsleeping makes so much sense to me, because it just feels absolutely right. No one had to teach me how to do it. Once I trusted myself to listen to my parenting gut and what my babies were telling me they needed I just naturally fell into a little cuddle-circle of breastsleeping love on the bed with my baby.
"It Helps Breastfeeding Last Longer"
This is not a moral judgment. I do not think that "breast is inherently best" or that all lactating humans have an obligation to, 1) nurse a tiny human from said lactating breast/chest or, 2) once nursing make it last as long as humanly possible. Nope.
However, I personally really love breastfeeding. And I want to do it for as long as feels nurturing to me and my baby.
"It Reduces Resentment"
When I'm breastfeeding and not bed-sharing, guess who is always the one who has to get up with the baby in the middle of the night? If you guessed the one with the lactating mammary glands, you'd be right! (Hint: that's me).
As much as I didn't want to resent my partner when this was our arrangement, I totally did. Resentment? Not good for a love-relationship (shocking, I know).
"This Is My Last Baby"
I'm totally done having kids, friends. Totally. When I lost three pregnancies after Middle Little, I thought the decision to be done having babies was taken from me. I despaired that I would ever have an opportunity to fully and clearly appreciate and remember my last baby as my last baby.
This may make me a cloyingly sentimental mama, but this is my last baby. My. Last. Baby. Just saying that pulls at my heartstrings in a way I really can't describe or would ever have known existed before parenthood. I am ready to have no more babies, but I also want to savor every last drop of this last baby's babyhood. Waking up next to the smallest, cutest, cuddliest face in all of the world? Why, it's the very best thing ever. And this is my last chance to appreciate it.