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Bed-sharing – by order of the tiny tyrant

There were three in the bed and the little one said “roll over, roll over” so they all rolled over and Daddy fell out, Mammy took an elbow to the face and gave a shout.  That’s how we roll in my bedroom these days.

I remember us on our honeymoon, putting down time in an airport while we waited for our next flight to some other new fun destination.  Airports weren’t places of torture like they are now, they could be enjoyed to some extent.  We could shop, eat, drink and just pleasantly pass time.  I bought us two of those neck support pillows, one pink and one red, in the hope they would help make long flights more comfortable.

Fast forward seven years and the same neck pillows have been dusted off and are back in use.  Except we are not going anywhere.  Picture the scene – it’s cold and both parents are wearing warm hoodies in bed.  There are no pillows to be seen but both heads rest awkwardly on those damn u-shaped neck support excuse for a pillow.  The duvet only covers both parents to their waist.  And in the middle of the bed, all stretched out and delighted with himself is the tiny tyrant.

Bed-sharing didn’t come easy to me, I was terrified of sleeping with a small baby.  My older daughter had no interest in it whatsoever and while she couldn’t ever have been described as a good sleeper (although her categorisation did go up a couple of notches after her insomniac brother showed us just how bad it could be) she did sleep in her moses basket and cot.  She loved that cot, wouldn’t sleep in our bed at all, even if she was sick and I would have preferred to keep her close.  She slept in that cot until she was 3.5 and had to be prised out of it.  In contrast her two year old brother slept in it for one full night, just the once.  I’m not exaggerating.  Once.  The cot is long gone.

In that scene above we had decided to give bed-sharing a proper chance, seeing as he ended up in the bed with us anyway.  We took all safety precautions we could think of – no pillows, blankets etc., bubs was all cosy in his grobag, we were cold but hey cold and asleep beats warm and awake in my middle-of-the-night parenting reasoning.

From the moment he was born my son knew what he wanted and most definitely knew when he wasn’t getting it.  And what he wanted was me.  Always and forever, me.  I wanted to keep him close too and didn’t have any expectations of putting him down – his sister didn’t have any time for mama’s arms substitutes either.  But I didn’t anticipate that even when he was already asleep he would know so clearly, and so quickly, each and every time he was moved to the crib.

The midwives on the ward saw in him immediately what I would come to accept, and one built me a “fort” of pillows in an attempt to allow me get some sleep while he was in bed with me.  That terrified me altogether as even though they positioned the pillows in a way to make it as safe as possible, I remained unsure.  But he slept, I didn’t really and that was that.

Varying attempts at home to get him sleep in the moses basket failed.  Maybe he hated the moses basket and would like the space of a cot we thought!  But space wasn’t what he wanted, he was happiest when tucked into the crook of my arm.  We also took the side off the cot and positioned it at my side of the bed so he could technically be “in” the cot but still beside me.  That didn’t really work either.

He is two and a half now, and a few months ago we got him a toddler bed.  The very first night he slept through the night in it!  We didn’t sleep of course as couldn’t relax wondering what was going and where he was.  That was a initial anomaly in the sleep pattern though and hasn’t been repeated.

He goes asleep in his little bed after many stories.  When he first wakes he can be easily soothed back to sleep in his bed.  When he wakes a second time he could be helped back to sleep and sometimes is, but depending on the time it is usually just easier to pick him up (along with the three teddies that accompany him everywhere) and install him in the middle of our bed.  Most nights he cuddles up against me and goes back asleep.  Other nights, like last night, he has nightmares are screams out so I like being there instantly to calm him.  He still dislikes blankets and spends a disproportionate amount of time kicking them all off.

He will inevitably sit up and announce he wants to “lie on mammy” so I become his pillow.  Nearly every single morning I wake to a big smile from my little boy.  I may sleep on a 6 inch corner of the bed as he encroaches on my room, but I know it won’t last forever.  He won’t still be sleeping between my husband and I when he’s going his leaving cert.  If he is, we have bigger problems.

Bed-sharing isn’t for everyone and ideally I would prefer if we all slept happily and well in our own beds.  But when the option is sleep together rather than awake apart, it’s an easy one to make.

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Holy Night Terrors Batman

I keep waiting for our sleep deprivation journey to turn a corner, eagerly anticipating the darkness (and sleep) at the end of the tunnel.  And sleep, did I mention sleep?

So you would expect that a change would be welcome!  You would be wrong.  The latest development has seen the introduction of night terrors into our nocturnal routine.

It seems our nights weren’t busy enough what with teething related waking, not wanting to sleep waking and just general “Is it not time to get up yet? waking.  Oh no, clearly we were missing something, and that something has presented itself in a horrifying spectacle of hysterical wailing, thrashing and tears.  And that’s just me.  My fiercely strong willed toddler has taken to, over the last couple of nights, experiencing night terrors.  At first I wasn’t sure if he was in pain (getting his back molars, at 19 months – yay for that..) or what was going on, as the screams were different and he was inconsolable.  He kept screaming for his dodi, while it was in his hand/mouth and nothing could calm him down.  So yesterday I looked into night terrors and it sounded like a match, so I was better armed last night when one erupted around 11pm.  The poor little pet was so distressed, but I could do nothing for him.  I tried to pick him up and calm him, but he fought me tooth and nail.  In the end there was nothing to be done but keep him safe and let it run its course.  When it ended, it ended as abruptly as it started and he curled up and conked out.  Meanwhile my husband and I were left dazed and staring at each other wondering what on earth was going on.

So it turns out that this is normal, he won’t remember it and the best thing to do is not touch him (as it can only distress him more as he can’t actually see me, even if he is calling for me) and just keep it safe and wait for the storm to pass.  It can be brought on by a number of factors like sleep deprivation (and he was already over-exhausted thanks to those teeth), genetics (and with both his parents susceptible to bouts of sleep talking and walking he didn’t stand a chance), disrupted routines and so on.

Like the back molars, the only silver lining on this cloud is that when they stop we are just glad it’s not happening any more.

Is it bedtime yet?

 

 

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Bed sharing with a toddler vs those first few nights with a new partner.

As I lay in bed last night (who am I kidding, as I hung on to the edge of the bed precariously and shivered as there wasn’t a square inch of duvet anywhere near me) I thought about how sharing a bed with a toddler is like those first few nights with a new partner.

  1. You wear something you imagine they will find attractive to bed, despite the fact that you might prefer a different nocturnal outfit yourself. However, the sexy undies are banished and fluffy pyjamas that are perfect for little heads to snuggle up against are in.
  2. You are nervous trying to sneak out to use the bathroom during the night. Not because you don’t want to remind them that you’re an actual person who does need to answer the call of nature, but because you are terrified that you will wake the sleeping monster.
  3. You sleep in positions that aren’t all that comfortable. While in the early days of a relationship that might mean keeping up the pretence you like to spoon as you sleep (when in fact you need to have your backs to one another to avoid having someone breathe on you), with a little person in the bed you discover that having feet, a nappy-clad bottom etc. positioned in your face is the norm. And you will put up with it if it means s/he stays asleep.
  4. You ideally want to wake before them and have a chance to get yourself “freshened up” before they see you for the first time that day. These days this means managing to make it to the bathroom to drag a brush through your hair, scrub your teeth and lather on some cream which promises to make you look ten years younger all before the all-demanding tyrant wakes.
  5. You go to bed at the same time and try to fit into their sleep habits. Gone are the nights of marathon book reading and not caring about having the light on. You go to bed together and stay in bed together. With a toddler this doesn’t have the romantic overtures but more to do with grabbing some shut eye when you can. If the toddler will only sleep if I give in and go to bed with him, I will admit to often succumbing and having an earlier night than I had planned. But hey, ultimately it means I get more sleep, as does he. So win-win. And maybe less of that expensive face cream is needed.
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Because he’s worth it.

My toddler is in love with me (to be fair it’s reciprocated but I do seem to do all of the running…).

You know how in the early days when you love someone there are moments you just can’t believe they love you back so much?  Or you start worrying that you’ll do something silly to mess it all up?  Those concepts don’t apply in the toddler kingdom.  He has no doubt whatsoever that he is deserving of every ounce of love.  He is, of course, even though sometimes he makes it more difficult than others (we’re going through the ever so fun hitting and hair pulling phase).  He throws impressively elaborate melt-downs over the most unworthy reasons (not being allowed hit and told to stop pulling his sister’s hair) and then sobs for Ireland as he clings to me and I comfort him.  I marvel at his lack of any sense of personal responsibility as he hiccups while trying to catch his breath following his tantrum and curls up in my lap as if the world was against.  He owns me, I know it, he knows it and he knows I know it.

So this got me thinking about how once you are a mother your most consuming relationships are with your kids, your partner is still there of course but he also has a new relationship dynamic as the mini-me’s clamour for more time and attention.   We both joke about how our favourite person is no longer the other one, as the kids top the polls.

As I lay in bed (who am I kidding, as I hung on to the edge of the bed precariously and shivered as there wasn’t a square inch of duvet anywhere near me) I thought about how sharing a bed with a toddler is like those first few nights with a new partner.

  1. You wear something you imagine they will find attractive to bed, despite the fact that you might prefer a different nocturnal outfit yourself.  However, the sexy undies are banished and fluffy pyjamas that are perfect for little heads to snuggle up against are in.
  2. You are nervous trying to sneak out to use the bathroom during the night.  Not because you don’t want to remind them that you’re an actual person who does need to answer the call of nature, but because you are terrified that you will wake the sleeping monster.
  3. You sleep in positions that aren’t all that comfortable.  While in the early days of a relationship that might mean keeping up the pretence you like to spoon as you sleep (when in fact you need to have your backs to one another to avoid having someone breathe on you), with a little person in the bed you discover that having feet, a nappy-clad bottom etc. positioned in your face is the norm.  And you will put up with it if it means s/he stays asleep.
  4. You ideally want to wake before them and have a chance to get yourself “freshened up” before they see you for the first time that day.  These days this means managing to make it to the bathroom to drag a brush through your hair, scrub your teeth and lather on some cream which promises to make you look ten years younger all before the all-demanding tyrant wakes.
  5. You go to bed at the same time and try to fit into their sleep habits.  Gone are the nights of marathon book reading and not caring about having the light on.  You go to bed together and stay in bed together.  With a toddler this doesn’t have the romantic overtures but more to do with grabbing some shut eye when you can.  If the toddler will only sleep if I give in and go to bed with him, I will admit to often succumbing and having an earlier night than I had planned.  But hey, ultimately it means I get more sleep, as does he.  So win-win.  And maybe less of that expensive face cream is needed.

I will end by saying I was never a bed-sharing advocate.  My 5 year old daughter never slept in our bed, not even when she was sick and I wanted to keep an eye on her.  She just had no interest and was happier in her own space.  So bed-sharing wasn’t on my radar until the tiny tyrant burst onto the scene a year and a half ago and refused to sleep anywhere else.  He has it figured out and wants the company, warmth and security of me beside him.  And he has no qualms about demanding the best and objecting to all else.  Why should he?  He deserves it after all.