Friday, April 12, 2013

Crib Notes

Michelle slept in her crib! For almost an hour! Hey, it's a start.

While I was pregnant and decorating her nursery I never imagined that Michelle wouldn't actually be sleeping in her crib at all for the first 8 months. She hasn't been in it more than a few minutes here and there since I brought her home from the hospital. Until I actually brought her home I had no idea what it would be like. I had a bassinett in my room next to the bed to have her close to me for the first couple of months and then planned to put her in her crib at 3 months. It didn't quite pan out that way. She hated the bassinett and wouldn't sleep in it at all. I wound up selling it. The crib being that much further away seemed even more impossible.

Lying down was the only breastfeeding position that was comfortable for me and it seemed only natural to have her sleep with me since she was up several times a night to nurse. She would wake up and feed and then we'd both go back to sleep. It was the perfect arrangement. Lifting her up and putting her in the crib after each feeding (risking waking her up and having to sing, rock or otherwise get her back to sleep only to have her wake up in about an hour anyway to nurse again) wouldn't make much sense. It was just far more convenient to have her sleep with me. It was also a bonding experience for both of us. I am 100% an "attachment parent" (I can't relate to the "detachment" or "tough love" parents who would say I should just leave her to cry, should be weaning her etc.) I have to do what feels right for Michelle and me. Attachment and detachment parents will never see eye to eye. Attachment parents put baby first, detachment parents put themselves first and figure baby will just have to conform to their rules. Detachment parents argue that children who are left to cry will become tougher, more independent. Attachment parents would argue that children who feel loved and whose needs are met will be more secure, compassionate, happier and healthier overall (there is some research to back them up as well). Most parents probably try a compromise somewhere in the middle. You may try to cater to baby's every whim but sometimes baby has to conform to your schedule. It is definitely a tricky balance and until you are a parent yourself you really don't know what you'll do. I'm sure it's different when you have more children as well. Since Michelle is an only child she gets all of my love and attention. Someone with several children would probably have to leave them to cry and tough it out on their own a lot because there wouldn't be much time to devote to any one child.

Maybe things would be different if I had a partner who was pressuring me to have Michelle sleep in the crib so we could share a bed together -- I don't think so though. I think even if I had a man in the picture he'd have to fend for himself while Michelle and I shared a bed. (I've heard it isn't safe for a man to sleep in the same bed with a child because men don't have the same maternal instinct and may sleep too soundly and roll over onto the baby.) As it is, I'm all Michelle has and she's all I have. Sharing a bed makes sense for us, other than the safety issue now that she's so rambunctious. I will always do what I feel is best for Michelle, always put her first, no matter what the sacrifice. I believe that love is the greatest gift I can give her. If she feels loved and her needs are met then I believe that gives her a solid foundation for the rest of her life. Obviously not everyone agrees. I don't pretend to be an expert. I'm a first (and only!) time Mom and learning as I go. When it comes to nutrition etc, I try to do the right things according to the experts and the latest research. The doctors all agree that breastfeeding is one of the best things you can do for your baby and the longer you can nurse them, the better. There are health benefits, physically (it boosts their immunity) and mentally (studies have shown that breastfed babies are more intelligent) as well as emotional benefits and bonding. When I have questions or problems I'm grateful to have a support network (namely my Mom and sister!) to turn to for advice, support, encouragement. They have been a lifeline for me. Though I don't always agree with my Mom (her generation did many things VERY differently) I still depend on her expertise as a Mom of four. Sometimes there are so many conflicting answers and no clear solutions and I just have to rely on my own instincts, what I feel in my gut to be right.

To me, it doesn't feel right to let Michelle cry. Since she can't talk, it's her only way of communicating. It wouldn't feel right to ignore her if she needs something. Even if I am spoiling her, I can't help it. Someone told me you can't spoil a child with love. The only time Michelle ever cried more than a minute was when it was unavoidable (like when I was driving on the highway.) As a single Mom, it's not an option to leave her. I have to take her with me everywhere. Sometimes I did avoid driving or going out just to avoid upsetting her (as I mentioned I even started ordering my groceries online.) Even while driving I'd try to comfort her by reaching into the backseat to give her her soother etc. Or singing bar after bar of The Wheels on the Bus (because for some reason that one song stopped her from crying) until I ran out of people and things to be found on the bus (it was getting rather ridiculous but if it kept her happy, I'd keep it going. "The cow on the bus goes Moo, Moo, Moo...")

Though I do still plan to co-sleep with Michelle, I have learned (the hard way -- if you read my last post, "Off the rails." She fell out of bed. She may not have been traumatized by it but I was!) that I can't leave her to nap in my bed anymore if I'm not going to be there next to her. She moves too quickly and can crawl over the edge in seconds. So in the early evening and during her afternoon nap, I've been trying to put her in her crib for her own safety. One night I even managed to transfer her from the bed to the crib so I could have a shower and know that she was safe. I still rushed just in case she woke up and got frightened (I always imagine I hear her crying when I'm in the shower so I never really get to enjoy a shower. I used to like long hot showers. Now my showers are about 2 minutes or less.) But at least I knew she couldn't roll out of it. I was relieved to turn off the water and hear silence.

I'm also getting Michelle used to being in the crib by letting her play in it when she's wide awake and in good spirits. I put a couple of her toys in it and played peekaboo with her favourite fish puppet. Since I don't have a playpen, the crib seemed like just about the only safe place to leave her for a moment while I try to put laundry away. I can't turn away for a second now that she's learning to stand because she CONSTANTLY pulls up on everything and I'm afraid of her banging her head. She laughed and seemed happy playing in the crib until I tried to leave the room to put some laundry away. "Mama's right here," I assured her and came back before she could get too upset. She started really having fun with it and pulling herself up on the rails to stand. At least when she fell back on the mattress she couldn't get hurt. I even got some video of her playing in her crib:

Her first hour sleeping in the crib happened during an afternoon nap. She fell asleep in my arms and I thought, this is my chance. I very gently placed her in the crib. I thought that maybe if I left my pajama top next to her it might be comforting to her to have my scent nearby. It seemed to work. She slept for close to an hour. Later that evening I did the same thing and it worked again. When I went to check on her, I found her snuggling my pajamas. I had a flashback of her father. He was so dependent on me, like a big baby himself, even at 32 years old. He never wanted me out of his sight. He sulked when I had to go to work. One morning I came home after nightshift and found him sleeping with his face buried in my pajamas. It was so sweet I took a picture. I teased him about it later. He admitted that it was comforting to him to have my scent there. "Your pjs smell sweet, like you." I will still never understand how he could leave. Whether it was love or even just dependency, it seemed like he couldn't live without me for a second. Then inexplicably he disappears, forever. Maybe he resented being dependent on me. Maybe he realized that once the baby was in the picture she would get all of my attention and he would be pushed aside. Who knows? Seeing Michelle sleeping with my pajamas reminded me of him though. I still can't fathom how he could leave her. I know I wasn't always a picnic to be around (especially while pregnant and hormonal) but how could he leave his own child?

While I was pregnant with Michelle and getting the nursery ready my Mom suggested that I may not even end up using the crib. My sister had been co-sleeping with my nephew so he hadn't really used the crib. "Oh no," I assured her, "the baby will definitely sleep in the crib." I figured I would need my space, my privacy and my sleep. I was also nervous of the idea of sleeping with the baby. I thought I might roll over on her or suffocate her or something. Once I brought her home, all my plans were out the window. I realized that your maternal instincts prevent you from rolling over on your baby. As one nurse told me, it's only in North America that people frown on co-sleeping. In Europe, it's the norm. She said that unless you are obese or use drugs or alcohol, you would always be alert enough to wake up at the baby's slightest movements so there would be no danger of rolling on her. She did add that this doesn't apply to men who don't have the same instinct and can sleep more soundly(probably why when a baby cries in the night it's usually Mom who gets up, though maybe the men are just better at pretending to sleep.) As far as needing my space or privacy, that was out the window too. It's strange because although I never planned to have children, the moment I found out I was pregnant, a feeling of love and protectiveness came over me. A latent maternal instinct, that I never knew I had, rose to the surface. I couldn't imagine me as a Mom. I thought I was too selfish, too independent, too impatient. The thought of the responsibility terrified me. When my doctor asked me once if I thought about having children I told her I was too immature. She said that admitting that was a sign of maturity. She told me that because I realize what a huge responsibility children are,  I would make a good Mom, that some people blunder into it with no thought of how much work a child is. It was a strange feeling being pregnant. Something that I didn't even think I wanted, something that terrified me beyond anything was now the greatest joy of my life. Suddenly this little person who didn't even exist before was the most important person in the world to me. I have sacrificed everything for her -- body, soul, finances, lifestyle. I give her all of my time and energy. Everything is for her now. It's funny because I know women who wanted children so badly but then after having them felt overwhelmed and couldn't wait to get back to work to get a break, after just two months on mat leave. They went stir crazy being home with baby and back to work even though the cost of daycare was as much as they were earning at their jobs and spend only an hour a day with their kids after work, even getting a sitter on the weekends so they can go out. Meanwhile I never planned to have kids at all and now I can't even bear to be away from her for an hour! So the moral of the story is -- you just don't know. You may think you know what you want (or don't want) in life, until life actually happens to you and you find out who you really are. I knew that I wanted love in my life. I thought it was romantic love but it turns out it is the love of a child, which is deeper, more true than anything I've experienced. And it's worth all the sacrifices in the world.

I managed to sneak her into her crib again and she's sleeping as I type this (knock on wood!) My fantasy now is that one day she will actually sleep in her crib for the whole night. Maybe one day. When she's ready. Having my bed to myself again and being able to sprawl out would be a bit of a treat. I have to admit I would miss sleeping next to her though. I know that it will be tough on me (maybe even more so than on her) to give up breastfeeding when I do. I will miss that bond between us. Sometimes I watch her sleeping next to me like a little angel and I feel like the luckiest person in the world. It more than makes up for the times when she keeps me up all night driving me crazy!


  1. I love that she was sleeping with the pajamas! Shannon slept in the crib from 5 months until she was almost two and could climb out of it! She used to love sleeping with my pajamas too! She'd even get up holding them and carry them around like a security blanket! I have pictures of her with them! Too cute! Hope the crib works out. She's at a good age for it. May

    1. That's cute. Yes I'm hoping it works. Fingers crossed! See you soon. :)