My daughter and I co-sleep. I did not set out to intentionally be a co-sleeping parent when my son was born. It just so happened that from the first night he spent at home, the ONLY place he would settle down to sleep was lying on my chest. So, I propped my pillows and let him sleep where he wanted to, a little bit sad for my unrealized fantasy of ever sleeping on my stomach again.
I caught on pretty quickly that sleeping with him in the same bed was actually a really convenient way to nurse at night. I could literally feed him in my sleep. Let me go on record here as admitting that I am a huge fan of sleep. You know that great tidbit of wisdom everyone shares with you when you are pregnant: Sleep when the baby sleeps?
Yeah, I took that advice to heart. For about three years after each child was born.
So, Ian slept exclusively with me for about seven months. That's when I started back to school full-time to pursue my nursing diploma. And, as luck would have it, also when Ian turned into a full-on Ninja baby during every one of his non-waking hours. So, Ian went into the crib with a lot of tears and a lot of standing outside the door, hoping he would stop crying after I go in for this one last time to soothe him.
Although I would not say I followed the "Cry it out" philosophy to the core. We rocked and read and sang, usually for an hour or so, before bedtime and Ian always fell asleep in my arms. It was after I laid him down in his crib that the crying started. And of course, it broke my heart and I hated every second of it. Eventually, we ended up co-sleeping three or four nights a week until Ian was in second grade.
This time around, I'm having the same sort of sleep-disturbance issues with MaryElise in my bed. She's one of those kids that figures out a way to become perpendicular to your own body within a few minutes of your falling asleep. And she wants to nurse. Constantly. Which hurts.
So, about nine months ago, I set about preparing for Operation Big Girl Bed. I received a lovely toddler bed from a friend (who had inhereted it from another friend) and affixed MaryElise's pristine, mint-condition, never-slept-on-once crib mattress to the frame. I figured out a good place to set it up in my room, close to my bed but not so close as to tempt a little one to climb up and sleep with Mama. A few pink sheets and a bedskirt later, and I introduced MaryElise to the idea of her very own bed. Which she thought was a fantastic idea. For jumping, reading, lounging and pretending to sleep. But, sadly, not for sleep.
Fast forward to this winter. I decided to entice MaryElise with Dora the Explorer sheets from Santa Claus if she would try sleeping in her own bed. She slept in it one night, earned the right to claim the sheets on Christmas morning and never slept in it again. Months later, I decided to create an entire Big Girl Room for MaryElise to call her own. You know, a place to keep her twirling dresses, to have dance parties, and hopefully, well, you know...
Night number one started off too well. I should have known where it was going to end up. We did the entire bedtime routine: pajamas, teeth, books, stories, numnums, snuggles -- soup to nuts -- with MaryElise enthusiastic about every step.
Until it was time to go to sleep. Then, well, back to Mama's bed we went.
Today we were playing in her new room when MaryElise decided she was the Mama and I was the Girl and we were going to go night-nights. She kissed me, spoke to me lovingly and sang to me. She told me to look out the window. See, it's night time. It's dark outside. Little girls go to bed now. She then tucked me in and explained to me that she was not going to be going to sleep with me. She was going downstairs. Being the brilliant mother that I am, I thought I'd use this opportunity to get some ideas from her about what might just work to get her to sleep on her own. I was actually pretty damn proud of myself. Way to think on your feet, Heather. You rock at this.
"But I don't want to sleep by myself. I want to sleep with you." I said.
She called me darling and gently explained that I had to sleep in my bed alone.
"But why?" I asked. "Why can't I sleep with you?"
She looked at me for an extended moment and I was practially leaning forward and holding my breath in anticipation of what her reason would be. This was it. I could use whatever she said to me later when it was my turn to try to get her to sleep alone.
"Because." she said in her mother/teacher/grown-up voice. "Santa's coming."
So. Ive got that. I can use that one night this coming year. Maybe tomorrow she will give me something I can use on Labor Day.