Before we started TTC, we hesitated for a long time. For years, actually. Gimli was afraid that once we had children we would never have fun anymore, never have adventures, never explore distant and exotic locations across the globe (which is in part why we’re in the Balkans right now – and he’s in Armenia – it’s in part to prove a point, I think, to himself if not to anybody else). I was afraid that somehow I would incontrovertibly damage my children – for a time I was convinced that if I had kids, they would inevitably commit suicide before they were 21. Because life on earth is that painful.
During that (admittedly dark) time, I wrote this poem:
Here is my dark baby son (who might be)
playing with marbles in the dust
of a thousand unlived days.
Dust bunnies scud across the floor
tumbled by the wind from an opening door,
to hide in panic under the bed.
I scry only thick boiling clouds
in the marble rolling endlessly through my mind.
Marbles in my mouth click against my teeth.
In the sky, a marble moon, black and round,
with a fingernail crescent of light
tipped like a shallow bowl
pours – what? – on the cold world
Here are the cracks in the earth,
where silent water has disappeared
into subterranean bunkers,
where the long shafts of engineers
have probed and penetrated,
sucking like the insatiable mosquitos
of parasitic cities.
Clouds scud across an iron sky and hide
my baby boy, kneeling in the dust to play,
rolling his marbles all around
over the swells and hollows of the ground,
marbles rolling out of reach and into cracks,
gone, one by one. So much to lose.
So much to bruise.
Even in moonlight your eyes are clear,
a cloudless sky where I intently stare,
waiting for an honest portent.
But your focal point is forever shifting,
a reed in uneven winds.
Here is the endless ledger of our indecision.
These are the tumbleweeds under the bed.
These are marbles spilled like water over the earth.
This is the empty moon sinking slowly into the west.
Here is the balance.
It sort of blows my mind, reading that now, and thinking of the face of my beautiful little boy – my son – my joyful, dimpled, happy boy – and how different motherhood feels right now from how I felt about it then.
I read this article this morning or last night, I can’t remember now, linked by Doctor Grumbles on FB, and I want to curl up and cry. What have I done to my beautiful boy? Here’s a quote: “… letting babies get distressed is a practice that can damage children and their relational capacities in many ways for the long term. We know now that leaving babies to cry is a good way to make a less intelligent, less healthy but more anxious, uncooperative and alienated person who can pass the same or worse traits on to the next generation.”
When Illyria was 9 months old, we were doing the whole AP nine yards – co-sleeping, breastfeeding on demand, baby-wearing, and she started waking up every 45 minutes at night to nurse. I was losing my mind. I was also leaving her with a babysitter for about 5 hours a day so I could do PhD work – at the time I was preparing for my comprehensive exams. (I don’t know; perhaps these two roles truly are incommensurable – mother and student. Mother and anything else, really. Or maybe it’s because of electricity. Maybe if we truly lived as hunter-gatherers, we would be living in a manner commensurable with our biological hard-wiring. Maybe I and my children would be getting enough sleep.) Anyway, we turned in desperation to CIO. It… sort of worked. It worked temporarily. Travel undid it all, and we went back to co-sleeping until she was almost 2, when we discovered sort of by accident that she would fall asleep on her own and stay asleep all night if and only if she was left to do so alone in her room. She still falls asleep much more easily if she’s by herself.
Any time I’ve tried co-sleeping with Oscar, it’s been disastrous for me. I really only sleep well if Gimli handles all the night parenting. Right now, as he’s out of the country, I’ve been bouncing back and forth between the two children all night and have been getting around 5 hours (not continuous, either) of sleep every night. With the grandparents here, I’ve been able to nap in the mornings while O naps which helps a lot. But still. We are so very, very far from being well-rested.
We’ve let O cry it out probably 5 or 6 times over the course of his life [*What I meant by this was not 5 or 6 isolated occasions, but 5 or 6 times when we’ve implemented a CIO structure for at least a week, until we ended up backsliding after things got better, or he started teething, or we went on a trip, or he got really sick] although I dragged my feet as long as possible in the face of Gimli’s insistence; by the third night he’s usually sleeping better, waking only once or twice. We go and check in on him after 10 minutes or so, 40 minutes at the longest. He is night weaned. But what damage am I doing to my beautiful boy? What have I done?
I just don’t know what to do. I don’t think there is a solution, really. I think that the only thing that would make a difference for us would be to move off the grid and live by the natural cycles of light and darkness, abandon our iPods and laptops, breathe fresh air and listen to the sound of the wind in the trees. But that’s not really an option at this juncture…
I don’t know. What do you think? I really want to know what you all think about this. I’ve read Sears, Weissbluth, Hogg, and Babywise. I’ve skimmed the No Cry Sleep Solution. I’m not really interesting in reading anything more, but I want to know what you personally think – if you have children, what have you done or tried? What do you believe is true about attachment? How did you arrive at that point of view? What has worked for you in practice?