When Wilbur was born, just 19 months after Joni, I only had experience of one child. Joni, as it turns out, was an easy baby to manage. She’s laid back and relaxed and generally compliant. She slept. She could have slept in bed with us or on her own – it didn’t matter to her as long as she was asleep. When Wilbur was born things were different.
Wilbur was a hungry boy who fed every 45 minutes, his sleep cycles were short and he slept lightly. Having him sleep in bed with us was a conscious decision but not for his benefit. It was for my benefit – remember ‘happy mummy, happy baby’? Well, that’s not always true in the long term.
I’m a firm believer in not feeling guilty about decisions I have made as a parent – I am always doing the best I can at the time I’m doing it with the knowledge and resources I have. However, that doesn’t stop me being able to reflect on things and realise that something’s weren’t perhaps the best. Obviously, there’s no way to know whether things would have been different if we’d taken a different approach.
It was the best thing for me to be within reaching distance of Wilbur in the short term when he was smaller as I could sleep more, but this was unsustainable. I didn’t actually sleep well beyond the newborn days – crammed in between a baby who likes to stretch and a husband who very tall and likes to adopt a ‘frog’ pose in bed at all opportunities. We don’t have anywhere else that Chris could sleep and I wasn’t keen on that anyway. The other reason, perhaps the most crucial, was that I liked the co-sleeping. The nose to nose cuddles, holding hands, that new baby smell and comfort of his little body so content next to mine. It was nice.
By the time we could move into a new house where Wilbur had his own room the precedent was set and his head didn’t smell quite so sweet. We fought this battle, that we are still fighting to get him into his own bed, to sleep through the night and to not scream and shout and be angry. Am I selfish for pursuing this battle? Perhaps I have made my co-sleeping bed and should be lying in it? It feels like the rod I have made for my own back is, in fact, impaling me elsewhere.
Co-sleeping, breastfeeding and Wilbur’s personality have meant that whilst our bond is strong the separation anxiety is intense for him. He goes to a childminder for a couple of short days a week, with his sister, and I feel like I get punished for it. He flits between aggression and clingy-ness when we do spend time together. He screams and shouts and scratches and pulls my hair. He kisses me too and stops playing to give me a cuddle. He’s intense.
Today I reached the end of my tether. Wilbur had a 40 minute screaming fit for no apparent reason at all whilst emails with bad news and things I needed to respond to where flashing up on my phone that did not stop ringing. One of those days, I know. Other people have it worse and for longer, I know. I can’t help feeling like I’ve helped this along though by presuming this little boy would be like his sister – so, do I just lie in this bed I have made and hope that one day it’ll improve? I dunno.