All Together Now
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 18 No. 2, March-April 2001, pp. 54-55
I don't wake up to a loud buzzing noise or the traffic report or a disc jockey announcing the next top ten hit. I have never been jolted from bed by the distant cries of a hungry or frightened baby, or some muffled sounds that struggle to be broadcast through a monitoring device. I am roused each morning by the cloud-soft hands of my daughter gently pushing against me, using me for balance as she maneuvers herself to an upright position while rubbing the sleep from her eyes. My first view every day is of my baby's smiling face, awake and refreshed, lit by the morning sun and beckoning to me to let the games begin! For over ten months, my now year-old daughter, Starr, has slept between my husband and me, right where she belongs.
I thank God for having allowed me to discover this joy so early in my parenting career! At first, I didn't realize that children could make their nighttime residence with their parents. When we brought Starr home from the hospital, she slept in the bassinet next to my side of the bed. I believed, naively, that this was the closest I could be to her and that this arrangement would make night feedings easier. Fortunately, because of our nursing relationship, I learned to read her hunger signals long before she would have had to cry. I always awoke at her first gurgle, and we never heard the sound of a screaming baby pierce the night silence. Little did I know that this pleasant situation was about to get even better.
When Starr was just entering her sixth week, she developed a slight gastrointestinal problem that seemed to be relieved by having her sleep in more of an upright position. Coincidentally, that same week my husband was working long hours on an important project and needed the little sleep he could get whenever he was home. To stay upright, and to be sure that we would not disturb Daddy, Starr and I camped out on the couch with my feet on an ottoman and her propped on a breastfeeding pillow which fastened around my waist. Much to my surprise, I nursed her effortlessly throughout the night, barely noticing the frequency of the feedings. For the first time since her birth, I actually arrived at the next morning feeling rested and refreshed! In fact I greatly enjoyed our night nursings and began to appreciate, as I still do today, the quiet intimacy of our special time together.
When our couch camping ended, it seemed only natural to return to bed with Starr right beside me. The easy night feedings continued and even improved as I learned to become proficient at side-by-side nursing. But the arrangement proved to be more than just a feeding aid. Lying next to Starr gives me the opportunity to gaze at her with no distractions, to study her features and to remember to thank God for her every night. It enables me to be one hundred percent certain of her safety. It allows my husband, who often leaves for work before Starr is awake and comes home after she is asleep, to connect with her, and vice versa. Often Starr will stir in a half asleep state and search for her daddy, finally resettling when her hand finds his arm and rests there for most of the night. Since early infancy, she has known that her two parents love her and will protect and actively parent her day and night. Her presence has allowed my husband and me to stay connected as well. Some of our most loving conversations have occurred with Starr between us, and have usually centered on something as simple as whether her 'sleeping face" most resembles his or mine. In short, sharing our bed with Starr has helped us to fall in love with her.
I know I have many critics. Some are straightforward; others are what I call "closet critics." I politely smile as numerous people warn me about "spoiling" Starr.
As for me, I never had a good night's sleep until I tucked myself in next to my two best friends. I don't worry about when Starr will leave our bed any more than I worry about when she will stop nursing or wearing diapers. I just trust that she'll do all of this when she's ready, as nature intends. So for now, we fall asleep and rise and shine together in the same bed, right where we all belong.