I was motivated to ponder the issue sleep once I found out about the July blog carnival going on here. I had no idea whatI could possibly blog about, at first. I mean, my kid is no longer in the family bed. We don't have sleep issues. What could I possibly write about!
Then I had the thought that perhaps we don't have sleep "issues" (at the moment! :P) because of how we've chosen to embrace most things in our family- with trust. Breastfeeding, sleep, food, "learning"- they all have involved deep searching into ourselves. Once we went into our fears, old beliefs, our assumptions, ect, and came out on the other side, we were left with a desire to trust our child, and trust our instincts that having a connection with our child was more important then just about anything.
When I was a kid I would occasionally- ok very rarely- here about "those people who let their kids sleep in their beds." The message I got was that it was not a good idea to ever do that. Not good for the kid, not good for the parents. And once you let a kid into your bed, OMG how would you EVER get them out!?!?!?!
Fast forward many years to when Kathrynn was born. Luckily I did a lot of reading prior to her being born, and thought co-sleeping was the coolest thing ever. Turns out that worked perfectly, because Kathrynn rarely wanted to be put down, let alone left alone to sleep. Sure it brought lots of change into our lives. After a year of the three of us sleeping in the same bed, Wes choose to sleep on a futon at the end of our queen sized bed because Kathrynn was a mover. :P Which ultimately meant that for 2ish years Wes and I slept apart. And it also ultimately meant that we were all sleeping. :)
When we moved to a different house when Kathrynn was 3 1/2 we got her a twin bed, with the coolest spider man sheets EVER, and we had the idea that she could eventually sleep in that bed, in our room. What I thought would be a gradual moving out of the family bed became radically different when she announced that she wanted HER bed to be in HER room, and wanted to sleep in there. Wait, WHAT?!?!?!? So we moved the bed into her room, and that is where she slept, and where she still sleeps, spiderman sheets and all. :)
It wasn't quite so cut and dry, however, because also what Kathrynn wanted was for one of us to sleep in her single bed with her, in her room. :) Egads! Wes and I were so close to being back in a bed together!!!!! And ultimately this did happen- one of us (usually me, since Kathrynn was still nursing) laid with her in her bed as she fell asleep, and then once Kathrynn was asleep I went to sleep in Wes and my room. We still used a baby monitor, and so heard when Kathrynn was waking up, and one of us would go to be with her until she fell back to sleep.
Again I heard plenty of responses to how we were going to mess Kathrynn up with these odd sleep habits, and how it was bad for our marriage, ect. But ultimately it allowed for Kathrynn to feel safe when she was going to bed, and allowed for Wes and I to have alone time in our own bed as well. Sure, it was sometimes rough when she was having a restless night, as it meant that one of us would ultimately spend most of the night in her bed with her. But as with everything, that ebbed and flowed.
As she got older she no longer wanted us to fall asleep with her. Instead she wanted to be read to sleep. :) Again, I got eye rolls and sighs, for how my 5 year old daughter was still not falling asleep on her own! I continued to follow my heart and what made my child feel safe. Eventually this morphed into reading before bed, but not to the point where she was sleeping. One of us would, again, lie in bed with her while she drifted into sleep. This phase was short lived, and it wasn't long before we were kissing her good night after we were done reading, and left the room while she was still awake. This happened by the time she was 6. Now, at 7, this is still the way her bedtime routine happens.
I find it helpful, for me, to look at all the stages that were involved over the years. Doing so allows me to see how each change in our sleep routine happened consensually. There was never any pushing or bribing or shame. Of course there were grumpy nights and aching backs along the way. Over all our nights have ebbed and flowed naturally, with Kathrynn, Wes and I all feeling safe and happy. Where this is coincidence or not, I honestly can not ever remember Kathrynn being afraid to go to sleep, or afraid of the dark, or scared in any way that involved sleep.
I can see how our breastfeeding relationship almost paralleled our sleep relationship, but that is for another blog post. The point is that when there is trust and connection- and communication (lots of that!!!)- involved, everything can happen with joy.