Sunday, December 10, 2006

A room of one's own

Four years ago, when my best friend was pregnant, one of our other close friends and I co-hosted her baby shower. At her request, we got her the Arm's Reach Co-Sleeper, and when she thanked us she told us that she hoped we'd both borrow it from her when our times came. M did indeed use it for her second child, but it then served as a laundry basket at M's house for a long time, while my time failed to come.

(Side note: chronologically speaking, I didn't actually spend a very long time in the infertility trenches. However, we had had to delay TTC longer than planned, as we went to add maternity coverage to my self-employed person's insurance and were told that there was a nine-month waiting period. Altogether, it took almost two years from the time we decided we wanted to have a baby to the positive beta. It felt like a long, teary time of childlessness even though we weren't actively trying to get pregnant for much of it.)

As soon as I did get pregnant, I knew I wanted the babies to co-sleep with us for the first couple of months. I was hell-bent on breastfeeding from the very beginning, and I knew that having them in our bedroom would be essential for that. Their sleeping in bed with us was never an option -- not only is it a lot harder to share a family bed with twinfants, but my husband is a dangerously heavy sleeper, and it wouldn't have been safe. So the co-sleeper was the perfect option, and we had it set up and waiting for us when we came home from the hospital.

I never did manage the ideal of rolling over and nursing without really waking all the way up. For one, breastfeeding was just too complicated in the beginning for me to do it without a lot of focus, especially if I tried to tandem-nurse. For another, the co-sleeper wound up being on my husband's side of the bed; the first week home, I couldn't scoot down past it to get out of bed because of my c-section incision, and we just never got around to moving it after that. Still, it was the ideal solution to having them in the room and close to us while they were waking to nurse in the night.

We knew we didn't want the babies to stay in the room with us long-term, though. Several of our friends are struggling with getting their four- and five-year-olds out of the family bed; while I know that infant co-sleeping doesn't necessarily cause problems with toddlers and post-toddlers, and that sleep problems can develop later even if infants don't co-sleep, it is certainly a battle that's easier to fight if the expectation is that the children will sleep in their own room. My husband was (as I think most husbands are) somewhat more eager to get them out of the bedroom than I was, since he associated that with beginning to relate to each other again as husband and wife, rather than as mother and father or husband and pregnant whale.

I flat-out refused to even consider putting the girls in the nursery as long as I was going back to sleep after feedings -- I'm lazy, the nursery is upstairs, and the setup isn't really good for nursing infants. However, when they started sleeping through the night, I didn't have a good reason not to put them in the nursery any more, or at least not one that was about their needs. With different children, I might take a different approach, but the fact is that my girls are ideal candidates to sleep by themselves. Once they go down, they sleep fairly solidly, can soothe themselves back to sleep if they do partially awaken, wake up for good at a decent hour, and amuse themselves with their crib toys for a while.

I considered doing a gradual transition to upstairs, but ultimately decided that it would be easiest to just take a deep breath and put them up there for the night. Last night, we cleared out the outgrown preemie and newborn clothes that I was storing in one of the cribs (and oh, how tiny those little clothes seem, just a few weeks later). We rocked them until they were well and truly asleep, then carried them upstairs (much to the amusement of the poodles) and tucked them into the crib. Then we turned around and came downstairs, and I may possibly have cried a little bit -- upstairs seems so far away, I worried I wouldn't hear them over the baby monitor, and developmental milestones always make me a little sad.

The babies themselves took it completely in stride, sleeping through the night as usual. I woke up at 8 AM to the sound of them cooing and chatting, and nearly ran upstairs to see them. You wouldn't think you could miss them when they're just in another part of the house, but it seems that in fact you can, and I did.

To me, putting them in the nursery was the second step of their becoming independent people, which you could look at as a series of losses. First they're removed from your body, then from your bedroom, next from your breasts, later from your house when they start school, from your exclusive influence when they're teenagers, and ultimately from your authority when they become adults. I feel like it's already gone so fast thus far, like I blinked and found three months had passed, and I'm afraid that toddlerhood and childhood are just another blink or two away. I'm trying hard to hold onto every last sweet moment of it, but every milestone they reach reminds me that it's a losing battle.


Claudia said...

We just moved our twins out of the co-sleeper and into their nursery this week as well, and I have to admit, I cried the first night. I didn't realize how often I was looking at them throughout the night until they were no longer beside me. The transition was definitely easier on them than on me.

Now if they'd only sleep through the night like yours!

Eva said...

What an eloquent post. It is a strange transition, huh? We moved our twins earlier, but the room is next doors to ours so we can still hear them and it is easy enough to get to them to nurse (as like Claudia, we're still waiting on the through the night thing!).

If you're like me, you'll often weigh the cost/benefit of checking in on them -- Are they okay? It's beautiful to see them sleeping, but will my squeaky floors actually wake them up?

Oh my goodness, teenagers, I can't even imagine. It's great that you're writing it all down to cherish it now. I'm told that's the only way we'll ever remember these crazy, glorious days with them.