Grady was the brand of baby that did not sleep unless he was being held. For ten or so miserable days after he was born, Shawn and I strictly enforced the "no baby in bed" rule and put him in his bassinet beside our bed to sleep. And by "sleep" I mean "doze in 12-minute increments before realizing he was no longer on a human and fully woke up to voice his displeasure.") I vividly remember the first time I lay Grady on our bed beside me, in a late afternoon sunbeam, desperate for some sleep. We slept soundly for two straight hours and I woke up convinced the baby was dead because he hadn't yelled at me in the longest stretch since being born.
I went back to work when Grady was six months old. By that time we had given up on the bassinet completely and were co-sleeping. Co-sleeping is taboo, I know, but we made sure to do it safely and it worked for us. It helped keep my breastmilk supply up as I was gone for such long stretches during the day; Grady would breastfeed more during the night to make up for it. I didn't have to get up and go to him during his nightly wakeups; he was right beside me and I was able to get more sleep than I would have been able to otherwise.
And then I got sick. It was a tough time physically, obviously, but also emotionally. Grady was too young to remember me should anything go wrong during my surgeries. I was an anxious, emotional mess. Having Grady in our bed was comforting and convenient. My sleep was maximized and I felt like I was doing something for Grady, like he could soak up all my mama-ness through osmosis or something, just in case I didn't make it through surgery. (Fun fact: I was 100% sure I'd be fine after my first surgery and 100% sure I'd be dead after my second. It is really difficult to talk about and I'm still getting intermittent counselling for it but it is what it is and it's definitely shaped how I parented Grady during that time.)
I'm not trying to say that the way we've done it is the right way or the wrong way. Sleep is a very personal issue and it's also fluid - what works for you this month may be completely wrong for you next month. I once shared something parenting-related on Facebook and inadvertently portrayed it as something I believed was right for every parent and every baby instead of how I intended, which was that it accurately described what was right for my family and my baby at that time in our lives. A misunderstanding and a discussion followed and I hurt some feelings. It is never my intention to judge anyone's parenting decision so please know that I am not saying co-sleeping is the be-all and end-all of quality nighttime parenting. It's just something that worked for us and our circumstances at the time. (And clearly it isn't the be-all and end-all because now we're stuck "sleep-training" an opinionated toddler.)
Which brings us to last night. For some time now, Shawn and I have been gently encouraging Grady to sleep in his own bed. We set up his room with Avengers bedding and a motorcycle nightlight and lots of comfort items that he loves. Grady was having none of it. We have a king-sized bed but months of fighting rogue toddler limbs have pushed us over the edge. Last night we decided that enough was enough. Grady was sleeping in his own room. We talked about it all evening and Grady agreed it was a good idea. We all did the bedtime routine together. We read books. We sang songs. We negotiated with an angry 3-year old until he finally fell asleep at 10pm.
He stayed asleep until 11:45. I went into his room and gave him a cuddle until he fell back asleep. I crept back to bed for another blissful 30 minutes of sleep before Grady woke up and realized I'd escaped. So I took my pillow and a blanket and I slept on the floor beside Grady's bed until 4:30.
My alarm went off at 6:30 this morning and when I rolled over to shut it off I saw Grady curled up on the floor beside my side of the bed. He woke up at some point between 4:30 and 6:30, realized I was gone, came to find me, but didn't want to break the "mommy and daddy's bed is mommy and daddy's bed" rule. Heart = broken.
I tucked him into bed beside Shawn and he was still fast asleep when we left for work. I know that consistency is key and we have to enforce the bedtime boundaries again tonight, but I'm dreading it.
Parenting is so hard, you guys.