When my firstborn, arrived in 2002 Gina Ford frenzy was in full force. You weren’t a good mother if your baby didn’t sleep through by 12 wks and didnt have a routine you could set your watch by and you especially weren’t a good mum if your baby didn’t self settle to sleep in his black out blinded room.
I wasn’t a good mum.
My NCT class friends were good mums, their babies did what they wanted and what Gina said made them contented. Mine would only sleep at the boob/in my arms. If I put him down he wailed. They were good mums. I had failed.
So we tried controlled crying, I cried as much as my baby did. Then we moved onto Tracey Hogg. She made me feel a bit better, but not much. Every night we would try to get him to self settle, we would hold his hand/stroke his head through the bars of his £1000 handmade walnut cot that meant we couldn’t afford a holiday that year. Then we would slowly sneak out when his eyes closed trying not to creak the floorboard which made him wake and yell if we weren’t still holding his hand.
How I wish I had followed my instincts and let him sleep where he wanted and where I most enjoyed having him….but “good mums” didnt do that, good mums ensured they created confident children by making them independent as soon as possible at night.
My son is now almost a teenager and if he ever reads this will be mortified when I tell you he is desperate to sleep in bed with us as much as possible. He hates sleeping alone, has no confidence, is painfully shy and clingier now than he was as a newborn, when he hugs me I can feel the desperation and need in it still.
…..and then there was my daughter. She arrived 5 years after my first (with 2 more brothers in the middle). Five years of confidence, five years of wisdom, five years of regret. From day one (of her arrival in our own home) she slept in my arms. I gave her as much of me as she wanted and she I.
When she was 3 months we had her Christened. My Godmother rocked her to sleep whilst I fed and watered our guests. I bumped into her cradling my baby at the bottom of my stairs looking perplexed “where’s her cot” she asked me. I smiled. “She doesn’t have one”. “but where does she sleep?”………”with me”………”oh”. The silence spoke volumes. I knew what it meant……………
For 4 years 1 month and 14 days my daughter slept in my arms….and then it happened. One night she was fidgeting so much I couldn’t sleep. So I asked her to please keep still in our bed and suggested if she didn’t want to she could sleep in her bed (she has always had a bedroom and a bed that remained unslept in). It was 1am. She got up said “OK mummy” – walked across our hallway in the pitch black, got into her bed, pulled up the duvet and went to sleep.
The next night she announced “I want to sleep in my room tonight”. She took herself up, found her PJs and changed into them by herself and got into bed “reading” a book. I popped in to check and ask if she wanted me to read the story to her “no” she said, I asked if she was sure she wanted to sleep in her room “yes” she said. I asked if she wanted a hug “no” she said “but I want a kiss”. We kissed, said our “I love yous and God blesses”. She turned off her lamp and I left. With a tear in my eye.
She has spent every night since in her own bed. Our co-sleeping journey is over, a bittersweet ending of pride and letting go. How I miss her warm, small, soft body curled into mine. She gave me a gift in those 4yrs of joy and I gave her one in return. The gift of true confidence and independence.
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