While I was pregnant with our first daughter Gwendalyn I had lots of plans and lots of opinions on how kids should be raised. I think most first time parents do. I'll admit that I was that young woman in the mall, dressed nice with my hair fixed looking at all those frazzled moms with their hair in a ponytail and spit up stains on their shirts saying "That will never be me". But here I am 2 years later with spit up on my shirt and while my hair is not in a ponytail that probably would be an improvement to what it looks like right now.
I also had a lot of opinions on things some parents did. I said my kids would sleep not only in their own beds but also in their own rooms after a couple of months, if you had told me I'd be breastfeeding a 2+ year old I would have called you crazy. But like most moms learn, all those "I'll nevers" quickly go out the window when you have your own kids. You actually regret all those times you found yourself judging another mother for certain things and realize that everyone has to do what works for their family.
When our oldest daughter was born I had a nice little wooden cradle for her and we had a room that was painted and decorated very pretty. I'd so carefully chosen the colors, we went to several baby stores and picked out just the right crib, I gave thought to bedding and all the things that go along with a nursery. Now, 2 years later she has yet to sleep in that nicely painted room, that perfect crib that matches the molding so well is now attached to my side of the bed with bungy cords to make it an extension of the bed, and up until last night she spent every night for the last 2 years cuddled up next to me.
At first people thought we were just trying to make it through the wakeful 4 month period with our restless sleeper. They assumed that the bedsharing would be shortlived. Then as she approached 1 and people found out she was still in our bed we would get asked how long we planned on letting her sleep with us. When I got pregnant with our second daughter I think they all assumed we were in a tight race to get her out of the bed before the baby came along, we weren't.
I'll admit that in those 2 years I have had lots of restless nights, lots of nights with little cold feet pressed up against my stomach or a baby pawing at me to nurse for the 5th time since we had gone to bed. There were nights when we just wanted to carry her across the hall and put her in her own bed in her own room but we never did. Because for every restless night, kick in the face or crowded bed we also had a sweet little girl cuddling up against us, tiny little kisses on our cheek in the middle of the night and feeling that little girl reach out and grab our hands just to make sure we were still there. I know that 20 years from now I will look back and smile remembering all those nights we shared beside one another and all those cuddles that she shared with us and I'll be so greatful that I didn't give in to all the pressure and move her into her own bed before she was ready.
But our bed really is getting crowded now. Since our baby was born almost 4 months ago we have all been sharing a bed. Daddy on the outside, Gwen next, then mommy and finally baby sister Lila. That's a lot of people for one Queen size bed. And we've started to notice that Gwen just wasn't sleeping as well as she did before. I imagine that she was feeling very crowded herself. I had been testing the waters with putting her in her own room in her big girl bed but it pretty much failed everytime. But yesterday I realized that maybe I was pushing things too much. We are talking about a little girl who is used to spending nights in our room, next to mommy and daddy. So we pulled her mattress into our room to the foot of our bed. Put her princess sleeping bag and pillow on it and talked about how that was her special bed. She seemed excited about it.
So at bedtime last night after she fell asleep cuddled up next to me I moved her down to her own space. Tucked her in with her princess blankets and put her baby next to her. And that's how she stayed, without a peep, until 6 am when she crawled up onto our bed and snuggled in between daddy and mommy. I consider that success for our first night but don't count on it always being that easy and we both agree that our bed will always be open to our kids when they need us. So if tonight, or next week or even next month Gwen decides that she no longer likes sleeping on her own we will happily all crowd in again until she's ready to try out her bed again.
For now I will get all the cuddles I can during the day and enjoy those mornings I feel her scooting down between the husband and I. I'll remember how it felt to have a tiny little baby sleeping beside me for the first time and also how it felt to have a big strong toddler snuggled up on one side and a tiny newborn on the other. I'll remember how she reached over me every few hours and put her hand on baby sisters stomach and how it feels to wake up next to a smiling and cooing baby and later on an energetic and bouncy toddler.
“Growing up is never easy. You hold on to things that were. You wonder what's to come. But that night, I think we knew it was time to let go of what had been, and look ahead to what would be. Other days. New days. Days to come. The thing is, we didn't have to hate each other for getting older. We just had to forgive ourselves... for growing up.”
The Wonder Years