Co-Sleeping…The Chaos & The Calm

I always swore we’d never do it.

I’d always look at others and think that they were absolutely bonkers for doing it.
I’d wonder where on earth they had gone wrong, shake my head and think that we would be different. 

I said we’d be different.

Who was I kidding?

We are all exactly the same.

Parenting is not only about keeping your little human alive, it’s about survival as a unit. Who needs some random expedition to the outback beyond no-frigging-where with Bear Grills? Climbing pointless death traps, eating poisonous bugs and drinking filtered wee for fun hey? when the real knack to survival is tested right in your very own home. You do what you need to do to keep everyone alive on a daily basis and a lot of this involves doing everything you swore you would never do.

In our household, since day one of Elsie’s arrival, sleep has been our demon and our endless expedition towards survival.

I’ve been harping on about Elsie’s sleep issues for what feels like a lifetime. I’ll tell anyone with ears that my daughter is a terrible sleeper. People ask me how I am and within seconds I’ve got on to a one woman (shoot me now) monologue on the woes and dramas about the fact that my daughter is a terrible sleeper. I bore myself stupid with the same old tripe and I can hear the old me whispering somewhere in the long lost background saying, ‘oh please shut up you boring old cow.’ It’s surprising I’ve got any friends left to be honest. 

Her issues with sleep have consumed me in ways that will take me and my husband years to recover from. The stress and strain of having a frigging nightmare sleeper is soul destroying.

I blame it on my struggles to enjoy being a new parent.

I blame it on my having post-natal depression

I blame it on my inability to see the good in everything and everyday because I am just so bloody exhausted.

So having tried everything except shipping her off to sleep camp, (if this exists please send details asap) we’ve become fully fledged co-sleepers without ever meaning to. By co-sleeping it means that I don’t have to get out of bed countless times to soothe her back to sleep. It means that with a sleepy hand she taps my arm to check I’m still there and this reassures her enough to send herself back to sleep. It means that for now I get endless cuddles from my girl, who will one day be too busy to give her mum a proper hug as she flies out the front door. It means that as she wakes in the morning, the first thing she does is put her arms around my neck and nuzzles her face into mine so soft and full of love. It means we get to see her first smile of the day as she opens her eyes, so happy that we’re there, her Mummy and Daddy – her bookends. It means that I get to treasure all her lovely baby-ness for so much longer. The soft fluffy head all nestled under my chin. Her chubby limbs that reach out to check that we’re there. Those quiet, still, precious moments that won’t last forever just knowing that we are everything she needs in the world.

But what if you’re tired of co-sleeping?

It’s not all lovely. She still wakes at least five times a night on average. Fifteen times on a really bad night. She is super tall for her age and so most mornings you wake up feeling as if you’ve just done ten rounds with a really cheesed off octopus. Sometimes she uses your head as a pillow and you only wake up just as your air circulation is about to be cut off. She calls out for ‘Mumma’ in her sleep, just to keep you on your toes and usually just as you’re drifting off to sleep for the umpteenth time. She can be awake for a solid two hours usually around 3am asking for ‘Peppa’ on the television or she simply lays there practicing all the words she knows on repeat. Co-sleeping for us is exhausting and it’s something the old me swore I’d never ever do. 

But the old me wasn’t a parent yet and it was all so very easy to observe from my well rested inexperienced soap box having had thirty-odd years of uninterrupted sleep behind me. The old me was a deluded knob. As a family, being co-sleepers is something we are still struggling to accept and I’ve been pondering the reasons as to why this might be, and why there is such a bad vibe around the idea of co-sleeping. 

As bedtime rolls around I torture myself every night thinking that we’ve failed miserably in some crucial area of parenting, and that by co-sleeping we are destined to bring up a recluse of an adult who will be socially inept. But is this really the case? Perhaps only time will tell. 

I’ve spoken to many friends about their children’s sleep habits, (of course, as it’s the only thing I bloody talk about) and I’ve been surprised to find out that we’re not alone in our bedtime dilemmas, co-sleeping concerns and the way we feel forced to justify our reason as to why we’ve ended up co-sleeping. It’s as if co-sleeping can’t be a choice and something that we feel ashamed to admit. So why do some of us feel as if co-sleeping is a sign of failure?  

It’s as if society has made us feel that by co-sleeping you’re too soft a parent. An idea which isn’t helped by the ‘Nanny SOS‘ craze and text book parenting know-it-alls – mostly written and preached by non-parents I might add. Hold on a moment whilst I go and tell a rocket scientist how to do his job when I failed my science and maths GCSE. It’s not going to happen is it? Let alone land me a book deal harping on about that trip to space that I’ve never actually been on! 

It’s not about being the hardest or the toughest parent. We all make our choices depending on our situation and more importantly the baby itself. They are all individual, bizarre little creatures who are  also finding their way in the world, just like their parents.  I’ll still worry how the next few months, years even, will pan out and how on earth we will ever get her to sleep in her own bed, especially with a newborn on the way. But whether we’ve done the right thing or not, we’ve tried to survive as new parents and co-sleeping has become our raft.

I’d love to hear about your experiences with co-sleeping, so let me know in the comments below! 

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