Category Archives: Co-sleeping

My husband asked me if I could make a strawberry rhubarb pie today while he was at work, and other ridiculous requests.

Just last week my daughter was in the car talking about how much she missed her Grandpa Jim (Liam’s dad, who lives in Connecticut). I told her that we couldn’t make a trip to visit him because daddy didn’t have time off from work. She suggested that I take her and her siblings, without her father, as if this were the obvious and easy choice. And, she suggested that we leave immediately.

I told her we would not be leaving immediately, but that I would consider making the trip without Liam. And so, this past Sunday, I rallied the troops, packed a small boatload full of stuff, and hit the road. It should be noted that my husband, as he was seeing us out of the driveway, was simultaneously loading his golf clubs into the trunk of his car and donning his golf rain jacket, hoping to make a scheduled tee time at 10:00. He sure wasted no time starting his bachelor weekend events. 

The ride north went somewhat smoothly. We stopped for the first time about an hour and a half into the trip, still in Pennsylvania, at a fireworks store. After I peed behind a tree near the parking lot, I pulled Nora’s old potty chair from her potty training days (an absolute necessity for long road trips with small children!) and plunked it down onto the asphalt in the lot. After she did her business, I nursed both little children while sitting on the floor of the car in front of and in between the two captain’s chairs, and changed their diapers. The new minivan is proving to be an excellent investment! Lots of room for road-tripping shenanigans inside her. Because there was no way this mom was trying to drag three little ones into a rest-stop restroom! Firstly, it would have added too much extra time on an already long trip. And secondly, I have nightmares imagining the four of us crammed into a crowded bathroom stall, while I have to negotiate peeing as well as holding a baby and making sure two little ones don’t put their hands all over every stall surface and then put their fingers in their mouths.

The middle part of the trip was a little stressful. The baby screamed off and on for awhile. Frances napped, but older sister Nora refused. Instead, she whined a lot, asked 326 times how much longer until we got there, and twirled knots in her hair like a nervous wreck, something I’ve never seen her do before. I think it was a mixture of being exhausted, excited, and stressed out; the baby crying was rough on us all.

I think I was finally able to relax and drive comfortably with shoulders not hunched up around my ears after our second pit-stop, just inside Connecticut, once the baby fell asleep. Unfortunately, our second stop was in a less private place than the first. Nora did her business on the potty seat inside the car. And, I may have too. Yes, I’m sure you’re visualization of a grown-ass woman squatting down, pants around her ankles, inside a cramped minivan to use a child’s potty seat is spot on. Especially when I add in the details that the girls were giggling like crazy and screaming, “I can see your booty!” the entire time. So humiliating. Thank goodness for shaded car windows!

I made the oldest promise never to tell anyone what she had seen.Yet, here I am revealing it all. Oh well. It was either use the potty seat, or drag the kids inside someplace, which I’ve already mentioned I was reluctant to do. After I confessed the above to my husband, and listened to him laughing for a few minutes, he admitted it was a brilliant idea, really, and that we should probably invent an adult seat to be used on road trips for just these kinds of situations. I’m sure there is already one out there somewhere. I will have to look into purchasing it for our next journey.

We made the four-and-a-half-hour trip in about six hours, stopping twice for about a half hour each time. Not too shabby. And, I only had to use my 130-decibel-level voice a couple of times to ask everyone to shut the hell up, but in slightly more polite terms than that.

The afternoon we arrived proved to be the nicest in terms of weather, and the only real beach day of the four we stayed. So, even though the water temps were in the high 50s, the kids put on their suits and headed down to the water to splash about in the surf and dig around in the sand.

Some other highlights over the next few days included spending time with grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins, eating lots and lots of desserts (always a fan favorite at Grandpa Jim’s), playing on a playground at the beach (I just can’t get over how cool it was that the kids could slide down the slides and land in the sand), and having a seafood dinner with Grandmère (Liam’s mom) while trains rolled past on one side, and boats rocked calmly on the other. I also enjoyred a quick visit with my college roommate. Although, between the chasing after and minding of children, we really just got to see what the other looked like these days, exchange a few smiles and laughs, and document the whole blur with a bunch of photographs.

And now, for the lowlights. Mostly, these happened during the night. I knew they would. Co-sleeping works great for us at home, but not so much when we travel. At least, not when we are limited on space.

Our sleeping arrangement was an air mattress on the floor next to a twin bed. I told Nora to expect that she wouldn’t be able to sleep next to me. She accepted this, at first. And then, in the middle of the night, she fell out of the twin bed and onto the air mattress at my feet. She then refused to climb back up into the bed, and so, slept in a small crack of open floor between the mattress and dresser instead. This seemed to work out well. Frances also managed to roll off the air mattress a couple of times and got banged up by the piano pedals on the floor. Only my kids.

And so, nearly every bedtime was a complete disaster. At home, Liam and I usually take turns putting kids to bed, one or sometimes two at a time. Never all three. However, each night in Connecticut, I managed to have all three awake at 9:00 p.m. or later. Not a good scene. I just didn’t have enough body parts or bed space to nurse, hold, and comfort all three at the same time. This was a time when I certainly wished we had the kind of kids we could just tell to go to sleep and they would, while I sat out in the living room nursing a beer and enjoying some alone time.

As it is, over the past six days, I have enjoyed only an hour-and-a-half of alone time, a world record for me. The thirty-minute car ride home from my parents’ place on the tail end of our trip home from Connecticut (it went about as smoothly as the ride up, except I used the potty seat twice, as I’m an old pro at it now), when I insisted Liam meet us there and then drive the kids home in the minivan, while I drove home in his car in SILENCE. The thirty-minute bath I enjoyed two nights ago, even though the middle girl yelled, “I watch you, mommy!” nearly the entire time from outside the locked door.

And the past fifteen or more minutes that I’ve been writing this post, which I began many hours ago, and have only just neared the end, after I put the baby to sleep. Other than this time, I have been holding a baby in my arms, or had a baby strapped to me in a carrier, or, I’ve been in the presence of one or more of my children, within a five-foot radius or less, for the past 144 hours. I’m in need of a vacation from my vacation.

Which is why, when my husband asked me this morning, before he left for work, if I had time, could I make a strawberry rhubarb pie, I gave him a look that said: You’ve got to be effing kidding me, right?

I don’t think he was kidding, but I think he read me loud and clear, that there would be no pie making happening. At all. Likely ever again. Perhaps he should have scheduled his baking plans in between rounds of golf and dining out, while I was in Connecticut visiting his family.

DSC_0774

Eating fried seafood with her uncle. Incidentally, she looks more like him than her own two parents. Funny how that happens. Love this photo.


DSC_0802

Testing out the frigid waters on a frigid day. Crazy girl.


DSC_0877

The kids and their Grandpa.


DSC_0784

Cousins waiting on ice cream!


DSC_0827

Girlfriend time at the beach.

To TV or not to TV. That is the question.

I keep seeing commentary about the last couple of episodes of Grey’s Anatomy on social media. Most of it negative. Apparently, fans didn’t like the ending. I used to be a fan. Grey’s was the ‘one show’ I used to watch. Most of my time as a parent I seem to have only ever had time enough for one show in my life. 

However, midway through this past fall, I stopped watching. A friend and colleague had gotten me hooked instead on How to Get Away With Murder. So that became my one show. I watched the first half of the season, and never finished the second half. Life got busy.

So that’s two shows now I’ve invested in, without knowing the outcome. No spoilers, please.

In addition to these two shows, I’ve been known to watch an occasional episode of New Girl, Modern Family, NCIS, Million Dollar Listing, or House Hunters. All very educational and enriching, I know. Just the way I like my TV.

Pre-latest-baby I’ll say I watched an average of an hour of TV a week. Now, the only TV I’m watching is that which the kids watch, and there’s a LOT of that going on these days. Daniel Tiger, Super Why and Cat in the Hat just aren’t doing it for me, though. 

What I’m wondering is: How do people have so much time to watch TV series? I keep hearing about all these must see shows, that, truth be told, I’d love to be able to watch. Or binge-watch. Binge-watching Lost years ago, before I had kids, was one of the greatest TV adventures of my life. So addictive. 

I know of parents of two or more kids, just like us, that seem to have time to watch lots of TV, so I can’t use family as an excuse. So what, then, is wrong with me?

And then I realized. Two words: breastfeeding and co-sleeping. The two things responsible for strangling the would-be-free-time from my life. (Incidentally, I also like to blame my lack of exercise on these two activities as well).

As I was falling asleep last night, I calculated, roughly, that I have been breastfeeding for three years and eight months out of the past four years. That’s about 1,340 days out of the past 1,460. And, I’ve had one or more children in bed with me as many nights or more.

What does this mean? I have consistently nursed my children to sleep, and many times, fallen asleep with them, unable to wake at a later time and make it to the couch to watch TV. I guess not having eight hours of uninterrupted sleep for a thousand days or more is enough to make anyone go to bed early, if not cuckoo.

A couple of weeks ago, I agreed to watch my friend’s toddler for the day since his normal babysitter was unable to do so. Crazy, I know, given I’m barely able to care for just my three. Before I agreed to do it, I checked with Liam to make sure I wasn’t a nut job to offer. He thought the lot of us would be OK for the day. 

I also checked in with my friend to see about the little guy’s routine. Specifically, I was concerned about what naptime would look like with me trying to get three or more children to sleep at roughly the same time.

“So what’s his nap schedule like?” I asked my friend. 

“He takes two naps. A morning one around 9:30 and then in the afternoon at 1:30.” she said.

“And what’s his nap routine?” I said.

“What do you mean?” she said.

“Well, do you rock him, or walk around with him until he falls asleep? Sing to him?” I said.

She paused for a bit before she answered, as if silently acknowledging my lunacy. “Um, no. We give him his blanket and tell him it’s time to go to bed. And then he just goes to bed.”

What?! “Oh,” I said, chuckling. We’ve never had one of those before.” Amazing!

“Really?” I asked, after a pause, incredulous. “You just tell him it’s time for bed, put him down, and he goes to sleep?”

“Yep,” she said.

And sure enough, he did just as she said he would, bless his little heart. It certainly made my afternoon easier, as I struggled with my two youngest in the other room, arranging both of my boobs and the kids every which way until they both were latched on and at peace. Gracious! I’m going to have chronic arthritis and a hunchback before all of this is through. But anyway, I digress.

When I told Liam about all the little guy’s sleep routine, he also was in disbelief. 

“Really?” he said.

“Uh-huh.” I said.

We both took a moment to sigh, wondering about greener grass on the other side.

“Must be nice,” Liam added. “They must have a lot of extra free time in the evenings.”

“Uh-huh,” I agreed.

So, basically, what I’m hearing is, if I want to be able to watch more TV and actually hang out with my husband, I need to wean my kids and sleep-train them immediately.

Seems like that might take more work than I’m willing to put in at this time, so we’re likely to be status quo over here for awhile. Probably another thousand days or so.

Guess TV can wait for now.



The Decision to Co-Sleep

I first learned about co-sleeping before it was ever relevant in my life. In college, I took two anthropology elective courses with Dr. James McKenna, a leading authority on co-sleeping and SIDS. Although the courses were not about co-sleeping exclusively, the subject did come up from time to time. The way he explained it was, babies have been sleeping with their mothers for much of our evolutionary past. There’s been a very recent shift (in terms of millions of years) that has taken place in which mothers have been encouraged to put their babies down to sleep in a separate environment, like a crib in another room. At the time, everything this man said made perfect sense to me. It still does, especially as a strong breastfeeding advocate. So, I suspected that when the time came, assuming my partner was willing, I would be up for this thing called co-sleeping.

When I was expecting with our oldest, I was still open to co-sleeping, but planning on getting a hand-me-down crib from my sister at some point, when her daughter transitioned to a toddler bed (this would have been some time when Nora would have been five or six months old).

In the meantime, I had purchased a co-sleeper, intending to park it next to my bed when Nora came home. Instead, it mostly ended up being storage for blankets and diapers. I found, in those early days, after we came home from the hospital, that when I swaddled her up and placed her in the co-sleeper I was tuned in to every tiny noise and wriggle she made throughout the night. It was awful. I was constantly waking and checking on her to see that she was still breathing, and I got no sleep. I suspect this has more to do with my anxious personality, and that calmer, less nervous parents would have had a much better go of it in this kind of situation.

Let me explain something about me and sleep. I NEED IT. Badly. There are few things I will sacrifice for my sleep. I think it’s pretty telling that in college I had a strict, self-imposed weeknight bedtime of 10:00 p.m. Lots of my friends stayed up late burning the midnight oil. But me? It didn’t matter that there was a big test to cram for, or a paper to write. I needed my shut-eye. I think I pulled one all-nighter in four years of college, and it was probably on a physics test which I ended up bombing anyway.

So, waking every few moments to check on a gurgly, squirmy baby?  It was too much for my nerves. What did I do? I scooped that baby right up, placed her on my chest and spent the next two weeks sleeping with her there, propped up with oversized pillows to support my arms. It was all very comfy and secure. I told myself the kid wasn’t going anywhere. What’s the harm? She sleeps, I sleep. All was well. After those first two weeks, I felt comfortable moving her to the space beside me in bed.

The choice to co-sleep made breastfeeding easier too. Imagine me, the sleep hog, waking in the middle of the night to walk across the hall to pick up a baby, sit with her on a rocker to nurse, and then place her back in the crib, only to wake and do it again hours later. No thanks. I’d much rather stir only slightly, whip out a boob, get the job done, and then drift back to sleep, all while remaining in the warm comfort of my own bed.

Thankfully Liam was on board with all of this. He was nervous at first about us harming the girls in our sleep, but I think he came to quickly trust in my mothering instincts and the safety guidelines we followed. Also, I should note that having a king-sized bed has made all the difference. I can’t say that we’d have made the same choices if we had a smaller bed.

When I returned to work in the fall, when Nora was 4.5 months old, the decision to continue co-sleeping was an easy one. My niece was reluctant to let go of her crib, so that option was out. I knew I wanted to maintain the breastfeeding relationship, and losing sleep was not an option. I also recognized that I would only get to see Nora for a few hours each weekday evening. I thought if I could sleep with her, be physically close to her at night, it would make up for the time I was away from her during the day.

We ended up sleeping with Nora in our bed for almost two years, transitioning her to a mattress on the floor in a separate room right before Frances arrived. Even then, Liam continued to sleep with her there for many months. I am convinced this is why their relationship is as strong as it is today. She is her daddy’s girl for sure, preferring 19 nights out of 20 that he be the one to put her bed.

When we were expecting with Frances, I still brought the co-sleeper up from the basement, as though I might try and use it, be more relaxed the second time around. It never happened. She too slept on my chest for two weeks until I felt comfortable moving her onto the bed beside me. It just felt safest and most natural for us to do things this way. To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure I’ll even attempt to assemble the co-sleeper this time around with the boy.

Co-sleeping has brought us a lot of joy and comfort and bonding with our girls over the years. Few things are better than waking lazily a as family on a Sunday morning and greeting each other with cuddly hugs and kisses. But, it has its sure disadvantages as well. With the exception of a few months right before Frances was born, I haven’t slept through the night since the spring of 2011. Teething times are especially rough. And also those early-infant-development-milestone times when your kid is just awake for the hell of it for hours on end, wanting to hang out. During those moments we found ourselves frustrated and bickering with each other in the middle of the night, “Why the hell did we decide not to have a crib again? That’s it! We are going out tomorrow and buying one!”

We even experimented once or twice with one of the girls by bringing up a pack-and-play from the basement and letting her spend some time in there because we just couldn’t cope with her in our bed. However, after some time, that seemed cruel, watching her watch us, peering up over the top edge, screaming, longing to be back in our bed, nestled tightly among her parents. Of course, we relented and ended up pulling her right out.

Every time it seemed we were both ready to throw in the towel and move on with our lives and place the kids in a crib in another room, the bad time would pass, and we’d move on again to more peaceful nights, only to repeat the cycle over and over until each girl reached toddlerhood. The bad moments still came then, and still do come, but they were and are far less frequent. And, we’ve learned, we just have to patient and wait them out.

When you make a choice to share the bed with your children, you choose at the same time to give up time and space with your partner. This can also be a challenge. I know it’s for this reason alone that a lot of parents can’t imagine sleeping with their kids. It takes a concerted effort to make time to connect with your partner when you have babies around you at all times during the night. I like to think we believe it’s worth it. At least for the time being, until the next bad episode happens and we feel ready to to rush to a 24-hour BabiesRUs (do they even have these?) in the middle of the night to express order a crib.

Liam wonders aloud at least weekly, if not daily, if we are not doing a huge disservice to our kids by not teaching them how to fall asleep on their own. I wonder about it too. Self-doubt creeps in from time to time, especially when we hear of friends’ babies who have no problems sleeping through the night from a young age. All of the co-sleeping literature says we won’t have a fifteen-year-old sleeping in bed with us. But at this time, I’m not so sure we won’t. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Ahhh…to be able to share the bed once again with just my husband. Until that blessed time comes, we will enjoy making the most of our precious time snuggling with our babies while we still can.

Twenty-four Hours Ago: A wicked, wicked night.

Last night was one of those nights I wanted to run away to Mexico. For about five minutes I seriously thought about leaving my house. Not necessarily for Mexico, but maybe the backseat of the car.  Our girls are still sick with respiratory viruses of some sort. Frances is also teething. Liam and I co-sleep by way of bed-sharing with Frances, our youngest, as we did with Nora until she was two. Although Nora now goes to bed in her own bed, she inevitably ends up in our bed at some point in the middle of the night. Oh, and I’m also still nursing Frances (more to come in a future post about the pros and cons of bed-sharing as well as breastfeeding while pregnant). Every now and then a series of events such as these come together to create a perfect storm of nighttime restlessness and misery for all those involved. Thankfully Nora slept through all of this particular mess. If only Liam and I had been so lucky.

A synopsis:

8:45 p.m. Go to bed with Frances.

9:00 p.m. until 1:30 a.m. Sleep soundly without incident.

1:30 a.m. until 2:00 a.m. Wide awake with pregnancy insomnia.

2:00 a.m. Frances wakes up and decides to be miserable for several hours.

2:01 a.m. until 3:50 a.m. Frances alternates between tossing and turning, laying on my face, playing with the window curtain, nursing, and moaning, “Noooo. Noooo!!!” Nothing I can do or offer makes her feel any better.

3:51 a.m. I break down and ask Liam to take her anywhere and do anything with her so I can just get one more hour of sleep before we have to go in to work.

3:52 a.m. until 5:11 a.m. In our bedroom: I get that blessed hour of sleep and enjoy a nutty dream where my mom is pulling hair out of mouth that keeps coming and coming as my family looks on in horror and I try to defend myself, “I swear! I don’t eat hair!” Unless I’m doing it in my sleep?

In the living room: Frances reads books with Liam, enjoys a bowl of Cheerios, climbs on Liam on the couch, cries a lot, and gets a diaper changed.

5:12 a.m. I wake up to the sound of Frances screaming “Noooooo!” and decide to go and get her from the living room.

5:13 a.m. I see Liam almost asleep at one end of the couch, and Frances losing her shit at the other end. I scoop Frances up and tell her as politely as I can that she’s going to sleep, or else.

5:14 a.m. until 5:24 a.m. I nurse Frances and she falls peacefully to sleep. Good little girl.

5:25 a.m. until 5:45 a.m. I roll over to face Nora. She, of course, is in our bed now too. Liam is still on the couch. Nora proceeds, after sleeping soundly all night long, to cough in my face, the really phleghmy, spraying kind, for twenty straight minutes. However, she remains asleep.

5:46 a.m. I turn away, back to face Frances.

5:47 a.m. until 5:59 a.m. Frances is awake again, tossing and turning and moaning “Noooooo…” This is starting to get really fucking old, I think to myself. Maybe I should run away to Mexico.

6:00 a.m. My alarm goes off and I hit snooze.

6:01 a.m. Frances decides to fall asleep again.

6:09 a.m. I turn off the second alarm and ever-so-carefully weasel my way out from under the covers without disturbing the girls who so desperately need more sleep. I march grumpily off to the shower, while Liam sleeps peacefully on the couch. The girls are passed out in our bed. Surely there is something wrong with this picture.

IMG_2608

The scene in our bed this morning. Queens of the Roost.

The only bright spot: The girls were in bed tonight, sleeping by 7:15 p.m. Fingers crossed things go better for us tonight!