Parenthood has made such a hypocrite out of me. In other words, I just need to flat out say, I’m a jackass. Because, before I had children, there were so many “absolutely nots” that have become “absolutely necessary” to our well-being. Around four years ago, I was planning a wedding and pretty much enjoying life. I was also not so secretly shocked that a dear friend was still co-sleeping with her daughter. It doesn’t matter whether they were in the same bed or just in the same room (to be honest, I don’t know which one is the truth), but I was clearly poo-pooing the idea of sleeping in the same room as an almost one-year old. If I’m honest, I’ll tell you I thought it was gross. I thought they needed to give their kid her own space.
A couple years ago, we had our own baby, who came into the world far too soon. Every day in the NICU, my husband and I would bare our skin to let our wee little son sleep skin to skin for the healing benefits of kangaroo care. When we brought our son home from the hospital, he was a small five pounds, which was almost double his birth weight. He was this amazing little kid who, like many newborns, slept in our room. I’d keep him in my arms at night until he fell asleep and then transfer him to his pack-n-play. When he wasn’t an amazing sleeper, we brought him into bed with us for modified kangaroo time. I could not believe how being close to us calmed our son back to sleep; how he slept “like a baby” when sharing our bed, mimicking our breaths and continuing to heal and grow.
It stayed this way, our son sleeping in our room, until he was nine months old. By then, his sleep was growing more and more interrupted and we knew he was ready for his own room. But, our co-sleeping habit didn’t disappear when we moved him into his own room. We had a crib and a bed in that room. His bedtime routine continued to include me holding him until he fell asleep. Eventually, when he got a bit older, I’d lie down next to him until he fell asleep. We’d leave him in the bed and transfer him to his crib hours later. To this day, when he wakes up in the middle of the night and cannot be soothed by a pacifier alone, I pull him into the guest bed with me, where we both collapse back into slumbers.
Even at 20 months, the hybrid-kangaroo time continues to soothe him. He inches his way over to me until our faces are mere inches apart and I can feel breath coming from him; other times, he will put his head on my shoulder; and still other times, he just needs to have his hand touching me. There is a peace that comes in these moments. Our breathing mirroring one another; eyes fluttering closed; bodies succumbing to sleep. I know you must think it’s weird that we don’t let our son cry it out. That we stay with him until he falls asleep. That we use our body and our breath to soothe him in the darkest hours of night. Heck, I thought I was weird just a few years ago. But, now that I’m walking in those shoes? It feels like the most natural way to parent a young child and I cannot imagine doing it any other way.