I had dreams you know. Dreams of having a baby that would sleep in a crib; happily cooing at its mobile, living in the beautifully serene room I had decorated. A baby who might sleep through the night after 8 weeks (lies).
We have a first floor master, a good friend whose twins were 9 months when my son was born said: So you’re going to be down here and the baby is going to be upstairs? He laughed. He laughed the laugh of a man who was preparing the many “I told you so’s” that would come down the pike.
(My son is adopted. That’s not crucial to the story, although it explains why we spent our first two weeks in a Residence Inn in Texas.) After my son was born and they shooed us out the door without a manual, trusting us to care for this teeny tiny alien; I should have known. I had held him for 3 days straight. We would go to eat dinner at the hospital – I would barely be able to lift my silverware because my arms were so weak from being in the same position for 12 hours.
We came to Texas with all the accouterments of new parenthood. Brand new minivan, pack’n’play, stroller, car seat, 24 side snap tees (essential for those of you who go through the ritual torture of circumcision), 12 cases of diapers, 12 baby bottles (glass, ha!), every baby outfit I had (two suitcases), baby sling, Baby Bjorn, the list goes on. The diapers were too big, the stroller never made it out of the box, we used mini-formula bottles with attachable nipples (can you say God-send?). As for the clothes, we could only use the tees because if he was un-swaddled he would scream bloody murder. And did I mention this was AUGUST in Texas? The first time I took him outside at night, I swear he stopped breathing. I think he thought he was back in the womb. Anyway, all the clothes I had for him were GIGANTIC, so there’s that.
Our plan was to use the pack’n’play bassinet for him to sleep in. We put it right next to the bed. (Not like there was any room anywhere else, it was a hotel people!) Whoa! Was I in for a rude awakening. This was a child that could not be put down. The first night I was so sure there was something wrong with him that I called my good friend in the middle of the night. She had a 6 month old at the time, I figured he must be sick because all he did was cry. Seriously, what people don’t know about having a baby. The only way he would sleep was lying on my stomach. Well, crap. There was no way I would do that in bed. My husband snores like a Mac Truck and plays tennis in his sleep. Not a good combo. I was sure my precious son would be smothered, deaf or lobbed by morning. So I sat on the sofa laid him on my stomach (which was flat then, you know, so he wouldn’t roll off) and watched TV. All night. Not that I was going to get any sleep anyway, he was eating every hour and a half and peeing through his diaper in between. When day dawned, my bright and chipper husband would take over. He would swaddle him, lay him on the bed in the 2nd bedroom surrounded by pillows and work. I would try to sleep, but my husband was afraid to feed him, so I still had to wake up every 2 hours. Two weeks of this. In Texas. No help.
Fast Forward: We are home. Somehow, I still have this idea that my child will sleep in his room. Ha! This is the scene: Child will only sleep in the bouncy seat, with the vibrator on and someones hand bouncing it. I slept on the floor in his room, on a makeshift bed next to a bouncy seat. Really? Yes really.
I had read “The Baby Book” by Dr Sears before my son was born. I don’t know why I resisted the obvious. I had been using a sling – unsuccessfully because I was sure he would suffocate. I wore him in the Baby Bjorn – once, and I was sure he was going to overheat and die of heat stroke. So why not co-sleep? All the other Attachment Parenting things had worked so well for me. We bought a co-sleeper. Cause you know – tennis, Mac Truck. This contraption attaches to your bed nice and tight so your child is at your level, but in its own encompassed area. I had worked out a system of keeping prepared bottles in the pockets of the co-sleeper. However I still had to sleep with one hand on his stomach, or he would not sleep.
Fast Forward: 16 weeks, the boy has eczema. We feel like we are more competent parents (and by we,I mean I). I try everything to keep him from scratching his face to shreds. Baby mittens, socks, socks taped to his PJ’s, filing his finger nails down to nubs. Nothing worked. He would scratch himself so badly while sleeping that he would wake himself up crying every 3 hours. For all of you Ferberizers, my son woke up every 30 minutes to 3 hours until he was two. YES TWO. It got to the point where I dreaded falling asleep. After 3 or 4 weeks of this, we (and by we, I mean I) came up with a brilliant idea. The boy would sleep between us and we would each hold one arm down while we slept so he wouldn’t scratch. Call DCFS, I dare you. At 9 months we had the big aha! – when we realized through trial and error that he had severe food allergies. (And by trial and error I mean projectile vomiting after eating a baby food containing egg.) Our new journey began, doctors – firing doctors – new doctors – firing new doctors – Great Doctor! Once we found Great Doctor our lives changed forever. We medicated him (which I loathed), covered him in horrible poisonous ointments, and my child, Stopped Scratching. This is him; covered in steroid ointments, a layer of Aquaphor over that. See how shiny his face is, how his hair looks like it has Jeri Curl in it? Yeah, that was our NIGHTLY ritual, still is.
Fast Forward: At 7 years 10 months 8 days, he is still sleeping in our bed. Yup. We moved his bed into our room when he was 5. It was basically like having a sofa in our room. After about 15 minutes in his bed – he would crawl into our bed. I figured why the charade? The bed went back upstairs and we had two guest-rooms.Voila!
A year ago he was determined to move into his own room. He wanted a blue room. We painted the room blue. He slept there about 2 weeks. One of us slept there too. I would trick Mac Truck by asking him to read the boy a book. Mac Truck would fall asleep so hard, in the middle of a book, that I would be off the hook. Mac Truck’s back started to go bad and the jig was up. I told boy he had to sleep on his own because he was a big boy in his big boy room. That lasted two days. He came back to our room and never left. As far as I can tell he has no intention of leaving. Since we finished the basement and my husband got his luxurious man-cave complete with 2 Lazy Boy sofas that fully recline. The boy and I basically have the bed to ourselves. So, as long as Mac Truck falls asleep in front of the TV I’m good. If he doesn’t I either do the King Tut (sleeping in a 12″ space, arms crossed on my chest, not moving all night), or I sleep with an elbow or large cranium in my side.
Thank you Dr. Sears. Co-sleeping: Something the whole family can enjoy.