Friday, September 3, 2010

Independence, Part 1


One of the lasting results of my baby's death is that I cling ever so fiercely to the babies I have, in a way that I feel certain I wouldn't have if Charlotte had lived.
One example of this lies in the fact that for the first seven or eight months of her life, Fiona Clementine's preferred place to sleep was tucked up in my armpit, nestled tightly into my side. This is how we slept, all night long, she and I occupying about two-thirds of the bed while Greg cooperatively hugged the side of the mattress on his side, the third wheel in the intimacy of newborn love. Fiona and I slept beautifully together for a time, and I was often heard reporting how well rested I was, since I didn't truly wake to nurse my baby.
Things began to change at the beginning of the summer. With increased mobility, and also perhaps with the increase in the temperature, Fiona Clementine began to demand more space in our bed. Not only this. She was frequently restless, squirming and crying out. Finally, after hours of switching her from side to side, of patting, and cooing, I would sit up in despair, not knowing how to make her sleep. At this point Fiona would stretch her little, chubblet legs into the air, swing them over to the side, and flop down onto the spot I had previously occupied in a tidy little letter 'L'. In an instant, she would be fast asleep. There was no room for me anymore. Many mornings I would wake up curled at the foot of the bed, like a cat, while Fiona alone occupied what used to be our two-thirds of the bed.
In addition to this, while Fiona only slept for an hour or two at a time at night, during the day she would put in two very long naps-- 2 to 3 hours at a time, and she slept alone. Her naps were regular and deep, and when the kids cried and yelled and slammed doors she'd sometimes wake for a minute, and then easily drift back after a few coos. What was this child, seemingly nocturnal, but obviously a good child at heart?
I knew at the beginning of the summer that our time in the bed together was waning, but as we were leading up to two weeks in Alberta without a crib and then five weeks in Ontario, I didn't see the point of separating then. Plus, maybe things would change, no?
They did not.
Fiona continued to log long, luxurious hours during the day, conk out at 7 PM and sleep solidly and deeply until the moment I came into bed, at which point she would squirm and fuss and nurse not so deeply and squirm some more and ultimately take up most of the bed while Greg and I huddled on the edges. It was, in a simple phrase, not so cozy to co-sleep anymore.
So when we came home, I did it. I sat in my bed, alone, the first night, and cried. Well, I wasn't exactly alone. Greg was there, of course, but what good is a husband when it's a dear, sweaty little baby you want to curl up with? Fiona had gone to sleep easily in her room at 7:00, it was now 10. She was always used to nursing around then, and I tossed around the thought of nursing her in her sleep to tide her over. But in the interest of the grand experiment of separation, I decided to wait.
At 3:20 AM, she stirred for the first time. I ran down the hall, practically skipping, and fetched her up as quickly as I could. I lay down on the mattress on the floor in her room, folding her into me, smelling her soft, gorgeous head and stroking her back as she nursed. I decided I would stay there, on the floor with her, and we would finish the night out together.
She nursed on one side, and then the other. And then, she squirmed, and wiggled, and fussed. I reluctantly picked her up, put her in her bed, and she flopped over into a tidy little letter 'L' and fell promptly asleep.
I considered sleeping alone on the floor of her room, but decided I would try to make the break. This was how things were going to be, and my baby was happy. Isn't this what we all want?
I traipsed back down to my room, my feet dragging.
I woke up to the sound of my baby singing to herself at 6:45.
Our first night apart, but this is the beauty of separation from my living children: I jumped out of bed, ran to her, and scooped her up. Euphoria, almost, filled my heart. She was there for me, the night apart having had no impact on her love for me or mine for her. It was just where we were, and as any good mother should, rather than following the recipe in a book, or the wise words of one baby expert or another, I followed the signs my daughter had given me, and we were where we were.

7 comments:

Rixa said...

I went through a very similar thing with Dio...he was starting to sleep pretty terribly with us. Even in his own crib in our room was really miserable. So finally when he was just under a year old, I put him into his own room, in a crib (we'd tried a mattress on the floor, but he kept falling off and crawling around in his sleep.) It was like magic--he slept deeply and fairly quickly was sleeping through the night. As much as I was sad to miss the nighttime snuggling, I was so happy to feel more rested. I love mornings, because we bring him in and nurse and cuddle for a while.

Charlotte's Mama said...

So happy to hear another story that's similar... but I think that's what happens when we follow our baby's cues. It's the beginning of a long road to becoming their own people, and they all have their own timeline. It's our job to listen when they tell us.
Thanks for sharing, Rixa.

Meg said...

I experienced the same thing with my first. I held her for each nap because I just wanted to gaze at her and I loved feeling close to her. Around a year old, she started to not sleep as well because she wasn't as comfortable. So, we tried her in the crib and she was great! I always try to follow the signs from our kids. Not try to force them before they are ready.

butterflymom said...

What a beautiful post...I love hearing about all of your children. You are a wonderful mother to all of them.

Hope's Mama said...

As you know we've been through a similar situation. Angus still comes in with us, just much later now (around 4-5am for those last few hours). There were three of us in the bed and none of us were really sleeping. It just wasn't working. Sadly he still doesn't sleep so well in his own cot in his own room, but we're getting there. Oh, and his day naps suck as well. Think we just got a non-sleeper this time! But hey, I'll take it. It can always be worse!
xo

Ya Chun said...

Thank you for this post.

Kimberly said...

I love that statement "what good is a husband when you really want your baby next to you"!

Can I get an AMEN!

Really. truly. said.