Like so many parenting choices I've made in my two years as a mom, I didn't plan on co-sleeping. It just happened. If motherhood has taught me anything, it's that life looks down and laughs at my silly little plans; the plans I make with the best of intentions; the plans I swear I won't deviate from. Co-sleeping was another opportunity for life to laugh at me and what I thought would be my son's sleeping situation. It's also made me more open-minded, as I realized there are a few things everyone needs to know about a co-sleeping mom. While it's easy to look at someone and make assumptions about their choices, why they make the decisions they make, and if they are, in fact, doing something the "right" or "wrong" way, my co-sleeping situation was proof that every c0-sleeping mother is doing what is best for her.
That's arguably the one thing people need to know about co-sleeping moms: they're doing what works for them. Simple, I know. Honestly, it shouldn't need to be said out loud or written down or posted on the internet for all to see. However, it's easy to get lost in the "what a mom should be doing" or "how a baby should be sleeping" proclamations and suggestions, and forget that parents don't make their choices to prove a point or make a statement or upset other people. They do it because, well, it just works for them. Like every other parent to ever raise a child before them, during them, and likely after them; a co-sleeping mom is messing up and deviating form her plans and figuring out what works and what doesn't, one misstep at a time. Just like everyone else.
That's arguably the one thing people need to know about co-sleeping moms: they're doing what works for them.
Now, that isn't to say that every mom who co-sleeps did so by accident. Plenty of parents set out with very clear intentions of co-sleeping, and decide that either co-sleeping or bed-sharing will be part of their sleep set-up from the very beginning. Still, even when you plan on co-sleeping, you'll probably change around a few things, extend or limit the amount of time you co-sleep, or just alter your plan to account for the things you just couldn't have possibly prepared for. Babies are unpredictable; children are hardly if ever consistent; and parents, of course, continue to evolve as their babies grow and change and adapt to their surroundings.
I've talked openly about my decision to continue co-sleeping, and I see the raised eyebrows and unimpressed looks from certain parents who, sadly, assume that I'm trying to be one of "those moms" who feel the need to prove they love their child more than anyone else loves their own children. Some parents start to argue that by applying certain attachment parenting techniques to my (and my son's) life, I'm trying to be "supermom" or "better" or just insufferable. Of course, I don't blame them. The "mommy war" culture has become so prevalent, that it's almost become somewhat second-nature to be weary of other parents who talk candidly about their choices. We've built walls up around ourselves and our children and the decisions we make for their betterment, so we're unsure if someone else is being rude, being condescending, being judgmental or just looking for validation by way of cutting others down. I get it.
We're all making quick alterations to the picture we thought motherhood would be, altering our perceptions, usually eating crow and finding our way to the best of our ability.
Then again, that's no way to live. It truly does take a village, and I don't want to alienate that village just because I'm scared of someone telling me that co-sleeping is dangerous or I'm putting my son in harm's way or I'm being a "sancti-mommy" by talking freely about co-sleeping. I think it's worth mentioning that my son had problems regulating his own body temperature directly after he was born. I think it's beneficial to say that doctors and nurses told me that co-sleeping, skin-to-skin in the hospital, would give my body a chance to assist my son's and stabilize his fluctuating temperature. I think it's vital that people know that co-sleeping (when done correctly) isn't dangerous. In fact, it helped save my son's life and gave his tiny little 6 lbs, 14 oz body the chance to stay healthy.
I think it's worth noting that whenever we talk about a parenting choice — whether it was intentional or not — we acknowledge that no one is following their go-to, steadfast, perfectly plan they probably had before their baby was born. We're all messing up. We're all making mistakes. We're all making quick alterations to the picture we thought motherhood would be, changing our perceptions, usually eating crow and finding our way to the best of our ability. For some, that means sleep training and letting their baby "cry it out" and putting their little one in a crib in another room. For others, like me, it's sharing a bed with their baby-turned-toddler, saying goodbye to fluffy pillows and blankets and saying hello to tiny elbows and ineffectual fists and the corner of my bed because my kid takes up the rest.
So, the next time you hear a mom telling you about her co-sleeping situation, don't assume she's trying to "prove a point" or make you feel bad about choosing a different sleep method. Don't assume she is making the wrong choice or that she hasn't done her research or that she isn't co-sleeping safely. Most importantly, don't assume that she isn't as lost as you are, because she probably is. We all are. We're all making plans, changing plans, abandoning plans and making new plans each and every day of our parenting lives. A co-sleeping mom's plan is no better than worse than your's. It's just different.