Monday, February 27, 2012
There's Never a Good Time
I am not a “by-the-book” mom. If you asked me what method of child-rearing I use to make sure my daughter is not being totally traumatized by her early years, I wouldn’t be able to name an “ism,” or refer you to a doctor or parenting guru. For the most part, I’m just parenting “from the hip,” the way my gut tells me to. I’ve been using my instincts as my compass, and hoping for the best. When I run into a real parenting fix, I have a wise older sister who I consult, as well as many online parenting forums that will either tell me I am doing a horrible or super job, depending on their perspective.
So I’ve made some major parenting decisions over the past 17 months, not because I read about them being amazingly beneficial to my daughter, or because a professional told me to do so, but just because they felt “right”. I’ve chosen to breastfeed my daughter for an extended period of time, and have been co-sleeping with her since the day she was born. Again, I’ve made these decisions not out of an allegiance to “attachment parenting” (though I’ve been told that is what I am doing), but just because they made me feel like I was mothering the way I wanted to mother.
Of course, these two decisions have had quite the impact on our family lifestyle. Up until this point, I’ve let Emmy breastfeed on demand, without limits, regardless of whether nursing was being used as a source of nutrition or as a source of comfort. Nursing was the first way we bonded when Em emerged from my womb, and has remained a steadfast way for us to have some important mommy-daughter time over the past many months. But as Em’s now nearing the year-and-a-half mark, the process of weaning has been pretty huge on my mind, and I am beginning to think we need to start pumping the breaks on our endless feeding sessions.
As for the co-sleeping, well, as a family we’ve half-heartedly attempted (on many occasions) to get Emmy to sleep in her crib for more than an hour or two, but it hasn’t worked. So I’ve gotten used to having Em in bed with me, her arm slung around my neck, or her entire body draped over me in some weird, contorted position that only a toddler finds comfortable. To be honest, I kind of love it. I love watching my daughter’s sleeping face, or kissing her when it seems she is on the brink of having a nightmare. But I also really miss cuddling with my husband. And I miss sleeping for more than two hours at a time (without being woken by a breastfeeding or screaming Emmy). And I know that as long as Em’s in bed with me, the night feedings are not going to stop, which means that the process of weaning cannot begin.
I’ve been talking about transitioning Emmy away from co-sleeping for months and months now, as a first-step towards the weaning process. In my mind, I’ve been waiting for a “good time” to begin this transitional phase, but that time never arrived. First, Emmy started teething, and I hated the idea of making her sleep by herself in her crib when she needed more comfort than usual. Then she got sick, and I didn’t want her sleeping by herself for fear that she would stop breathing because of congestion, or choke on her own vomit. Then Em started teething again. Then she started daycare, and I was afraid that too much change at once would send our little girl over the edge into a state of toddler-sized depression. Then she got sick again. Then she started teething again. And on, and on.
As my husband told me (during a long heart-to-heart session this weekend that proceeded an argument about our current family dynamic), there is never going to be a good time for change. If I continue to wait for the perfect time to transition, I will still be breastfeeding Emmy as she walks down the aisle on her wedding day, and her future husband will have to be ok with us all co-sleeping together. None of us want that to happen.
After a long good look in the mirror, I have admitted to myself that the excuses I have been making, in waiting for a good time to transition my daughter out of co-sleeping and breastfeeding, are excuses born out of my own fears. I am the one who is afraid of change, because I am as attached to my daughter as she is to me. It may make me a horrible mom, but I kind of sort of definitely LOVE Em’s dependence on me. It makes my heart a little sad and heavy to think about the fact that she is growing up, and she doesn’t really NEED me for her basic human needs, like eating and sleeping, anymore.
So the truth? I need this transition as much as Em does. I need to learn how to show my mommy love to my daughter in new ways, and how to encourage her independence as a part of that love. I need to understand that my daughter will still love me, even if she is not curled up in my arms for eight hours a night. I get it. I need to do this. And as much as I want to say that now’s not a good time, it’s probably as good as its gonna get.