Thursday, April 1, 2010

{Guest Post} At Arms Length by Johnna Riddell

{Photo by Johnna Riddell Photography}

Our last guest post this week comes from my dear friend, a talented writer and photographer, and a truly beautiful soul. Johnna is a loving wife and a mother of three. You can visit Johnna at her blog, It's Times Like These.


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There was never a child so lovely but his mother was glad to get him to sleep. 
~Ralph Waldo Emerson


For 9 months we carry inside us, this tiny being, growing, kicking, listening. We hold in not in our arms but closer, waiting for the day when we will see those eyes, touch that skin and be able to cradle them. Birth and Babies are most miraculous and wondrous things. So why is it, that as soon as we have them we are so encouraged to put them down…

We hear a lot about skin-to-skin contact, about bonding and talking to our babies… and yet, when it comes to co-sleeping we are taught to do things in a completely opposite way.

In the first 3 months of having my first child, being a new mother, being excited and in love, I held her a lot. I loved having her, knowing she was mine. And I loved that she loved me. I loved that she felt comfort next to me. She would rest so peacefully in my arms, for hours even, or next to me in our bed. I would watch her sleep and thank God that she was mine.

I’ll admit, I had fears about co-sleeping. I still do. I was worried I would roll over onto her, that I might drop her off the bed, that I’d forget she was laying there, that I would roll her over and she’d smother. I think that’s normal. I think we are so aware of all the things that can happen that it’s a very uneasy time. And with all the recalls on cribs, the bumper pad scares and SIDS cases… that is only getting worse. It’s hard to know what to do, and you really have to pray about the choices you make.

Night time would come, I would bath her, rub her tiny little legs and arms with lotion, brush her hair, sing soft lullabies to her. I would wrap the receiving blanket around her, snug and warm… I would ease her into the crib, ever so softly… and she would erupt into a frenzy of tears, scared tears, “pick me up mommy” tears.

That sound cut me in two. I think about it now and wonder why I felt like it was so wrong to go pick her up. The words “Foster independence, help them become secure” kept going through my head. For 3 months we barely slept. My only relief coming from naps on the recliner. And letting myself collapse with her on my chest in the chair. I remember the first night it happened. I woke up, she was cradled safely. I hadn’t dropped her. And we were both rested. It was a wonderful feeling. I hugged her and felt like things might be okay.

My children don’t sleep with me every night . Eventually I moved out of the chair and Lydia moved into her crib. But when sickness or bad dreams or even loneliness strikes, my children always know they have a place next to me. Whether that’s in my bed, in theirs, or on the couch. I know I am fostering independence and helping them become secure. By knowing that I am there, they know it’s all right to venture forth… if something happens, I’ll still be there to help them through it.

Co-Sleeping, like most of parenting, comes down to the choices we make to suit our lifestyle best. I can’t imagine not having some form of co-sleeping… and I think of the mother’s, nursing every 2 hours through the night, I think of the new mothers and the women who only have one room apartments. I think of all the children that grew up in the times before the modern age. All of that speaks so loudly to the benefits of co-sleeping.

Like I said, I had fears about them being in bed with me, before the age of two especially… but I kept the crib an arms length away till they were at least 6 months and never felt bad about rocking them to sleep. The main thing, co-sleeping or not, is to respond to your child, to know when they are afraid and to help them feel secure by any means.

I would like to see people judge less harshly, the decisions of mothers and fathers. To know that the world is full of people, none of us the same, and that what matters most, is loving our children… if you love your children and seek what is best for them, you have already won.

4 comments:

Corinne April 1, 2010 at 8:00 PM  

"The main thing, co-sleeping or not, is to respond to your child, to know when they are afraid and to help them feel secure by any means."
This is why we do what we do :)
What a lovely read, thank you so much for sharing your experiences with co-sleeping.

Kim Klassen April 2, 2010 at 12:23 AM  

so sweetly said...

and a lovely image too! ♥

thanks for introducing your friend meg....

xxo, kim

{Amy} April 2, 2010 at 9:47 AM  

Johnna-
I have to say that I agree with all that you said. If only I had friends like you with so much wisdom or these blogs to read when I had my first baby.....things would have started off differently!:) Wonderful piece, off to check out more of you now...

Maeagan-
This was fun! Thanks for including me and introducing everyone to these other awesome women!

Beverly April 2, 2010 at 10:20 PM  

great post.