I have been thinking a lot about sleep lately. Partly because I haven’t been getting enough of it with two sick children, and partly because I bought a new mattress which has been a bit of a disaster (long story, but it was very expensive and promised great things but has left me with a sore lower back and a big headache about what to do with it….)
As a result of these things I’ve been reflecting a lot on sleep and thought I’d share my ramblings.
For a start, we ‘co sleep’. I didn’t know that we were ‘co sleepers’ until quite recently – meaning I had never heard that term. I thought we just all slept in the same bed. And I was made to feel pretty guilty about it for a long time with BC. All those ‘experts’ in the early days told me it was a bad idea. I ignored them. It worked well for us and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I wish I knew that it had a ‘label’. I guess the experts might have liked it a bit better if I said we ‘coslept’ rather than all bunked in together. They seem to love jargon enough.
So why did we start cosleeping?
That goes back to the very beginning, starting the night when he was born. I knew very clearly what I wanted. It was written down in the birth plan- skin to skin contact without delay. I wanted him with me, immediately for the whole of the time we were in the hospital. That’s why we chose a family birth centre in a small hospital. Intervention and separation were not on the agenda.
Of course, that didn’t happen. Instead I watched him being resuscitated from the other end of the room then whisked away in an elaborate humidicrib to another hospital, half an hour away It was 2am and the doctor recommended I stay put until the morning with just a blurry polaroid photo. I was exhausted, but devastated. So we spent our first night apart. It was days before I held him and 3 and a half weeks before we spent a whole night together.
That first morning after BC was born was awful. I awoke from a few hours of restless, dreamless sleep to the reality that I didn’t even know if BC had made it through the night. I was wracked with guilt that I’d gone to sleep. We raced to the hospital where he’d been taken and they found me a bed but for 3 nights I barely slept. I paced the hallway from my bed to his bedside. I loved the night nurses that looked after him and I loved being with BC in the hospital at night because there was no-one poking and prodding him, no-one speaking about him using big words I didn’t understand and unable to answer any of my questions (which looking back were pretty much all just variations on the same question – ‘Will he be all right?’). I sat next to him on those long nights and just marvelled at what on earth he was doing there, with all the tubes, machines, drugs. He just looked so perfect. And so big and strong compared to all the gorgeous wee little premmie babies that shared the room with him.
On the fourth day, his condition was not stable. He was still very sick. But I was fine, so the hospital insisted I checked out. Without BC. My husband and I went home. It was horrible. We’d expected to be returning with our hands full. Instead, the house was so empty. We didn’t know what to do. We were lost.
Then my darling husband had a brainwave. He suggested we go back to the hospital and camp out in our car in the hospital car park. I couldn’t have loved him anymore than at that moment. It was the most brilliant idea I’d ever heard. It was the first time I had smiled in days. In fact, I may have even laughed. It was just the perfectly crazy thing to do in our crazy situation. We ate our dinner, then packed a doona (bedspread), pillows and snacks in the back of the car and headed back to the hospital.
Looking back, that night was weird, but wonderful. A zillion times better than the loneliness we would have felt if we were at home. My husband and I took it in turns to go and sit with BC while the other napped – and I was also regularly expressing milk in the desperate hope that he WOULD be able to drink it, eventually. None of the nurses asked where we were sleeping. None of them probably even knew that I’d checked out of the hospital and we didn’t tell anyone what we were doing. It was our crazy little secret. It made us both feel alive and strangely in control.
By the morning, BC’s condition had stabilised. Somehow I knew it would.
And the next night, we stayed at home. It was lonely, we missed him like crazy, but I had a hotline to his room and every three hours when I got up to express milk, I would call and ask the nurse on duty a whole heap of dumb questions. Just anything to make me feel like I wasn’t far apart. And the nurses were very kind. It wasn’t exactly the best case scenario, but everyone involved was really caring and those calls kept me sane.
There’s more to say, but it’s sleeping time for ME now. So I will continue my ramblings later. zzzzzzz