Do the Right Thing: Trust Your Instincts
Livermore, CA USA
From NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 17 No. 5, September-October 2000, pg. 169
We provide articles from our publications from previous years for reference for our Leaders and members. Readers are cautioned to remember that research and medical information change over time.
I attended my first LLLI meeting when I was six months pregnant. I have to admit the format was not at all what I expected. I was used to a corporate/academic world where there was a topic, a speaker, and everyone spoke in turn. Suddenly I was in a meeting where children were running around "interrupting" the meeting, and everyone spoke about what was right for them. At first I was frustrated that there was no "one right answer," but now I am very glad there are many options given at a meeting. The best thing I learned from that meeting was that it was okay to follow your own inner guidance and that whatever worked in your situation was the right thing to do. Even though I still wasn't exactly sure what to expect after my child was born, I felt empowered to do what I felt was right, rather than conforming to the status quo.
We had planned to birth at a Birth Home and the majority of my labor was spent there. However, when I started pushing, my son's heart rate was not recovering well after my contractions. We transferred to the local hospital so that my son's heart rate could be constantly monitored. Happily, the only intervention needed was an episiotomy in order to deliver him sooner. He was a great nurser from the very start, latching on easily. Even though I'd been through 25 hours of labor, I couldn't sleep that night. The nurse would come in and check on me and my son, usually putting him into the isolette next to my bed when she was done. I'd look at my son, he'd look at me, and I'd get out of bed, pick him up, and climb back into bed with him snuggled in my arms. It just didn't seem right to me to leave him all alone in a little plastic bin.
The next night at home, I had the strong desire to have him sleeping next to me. I was surprised by the intensity, the sense of "rightness" with which I felt it. Luckily my husband felt just as strongly as I and agreed it was the best place for him. I never thought twice about how my son "should be" sleeping in the bassinet or in a crib in the next room. I was able to ignore the stereotypes of the ideal infant-care and go with my instincts. Since then we've tried various sleeping and night nursing arrangements, usually based on what was working best for my son and myself at different times.
There have been times, however, that I have listened to other's advice. I have a wonderful pediatrician, but his guidance, however well intentioned, wasn't always the best answer for our family. When my son was nine months old, he recommended that this was a good time for my son to make the transition into his own room. At the time, my son was sleeping in a crib at the foot of our bed but woke three or four times in the night. I felt I was at a crossroads. I could put my son in his own room and help him work through the sleepless times at night or I could bring him back into bed with us and let him nurse himself back to sleep as needed. Although I knew it was "not the norm", I decided to bring my son back into our bed until he was ready to leave. At that point, I also started getting more sleep overall. Although nursing at night is not a panacea, it was a way for me and my son to get more sleep in general. Later, my pediatrician was somewhat surprised by my decision, but was also passively supportive.
When my son was 13 months old, we found out we would have to move rather suddenly. In two months we had to find and buy a house, pack, and move everything over an hour away from our former home. It was an intense and stressful time for us, but one thing remained constant throughout; no matter where we were sleeping, at the old home among boxes, at motels waiting for the new home, or in our new home on an air mattress on the floor, our son always slept well at night. All of the usual people were there, no matter where (or what) the bed was. It was nice to always give him that sense of security and consistency, especially since so much had changed so quickly. Since my husband also has to spend more time away from us and commuting to work, bedsharing also allows some bonding time between them that they might not otherwise have.
As my relationship with my son grows, I have learned that it is best for me to trust my heart and what my son shows me he needs. When he pushes on my back to turn over so he can nurse, I know that he is asking for both nourishment for his body and his heart. And that, to me, just seems like the right thing to do.