Tuesday, January 17, 2012

To Cosleep, Perchance to Dream

Didn’t Leave Nobody But the Baby - Gillian Welch, Alison Krauss & Emmylou Harris (mp3)
Until I Wake Up - Dishwalla (mp3)
“Cosleeping” -- a practice in which babies and young children sleep close to one or both parents, as opposed to in a separate room. Also called “bed sharing.” Practiced regularly in many parts of the world.
A couple in Utah will soon face trial for the death of their 3-month-old child who died in bed with them. The baby suffocated. Their cosleeping is prime suspect number one.

I’ve known more than a few parents who regularly practiced the parental art of cosleeping. I don’t consider them bad or insensitive parents. If anything, perhaps they were too emotionally tied to realize the risks. Or perhaps they merely assumed what we all do at one point or another -- we’re smarter/better/more careful; ergo, bad things won’t happen to us.

I’m in irresponsible parent as well. All three of my children slept on their bellies in the crib.

Anyone who’s been or had an infant in the past 15 years knows this is a big no-no. In 1975, belly-sleeping was the recommended position of doctors, because that’s the position in which babies sleep more soundly. But as SIDS became a phenomenon, the best way to combat the crib death numbers, it seemed, was to force babies to their sides or backs.

To be fair, this change reduced SIDS and crib death. The change has been hailed a success of research.

But when you’re on your fourth or fifth night of tortured sleepless nights, and when your tiny infant refuses to sleep more than 45 minutes at a time, and when you have moments in the deepness of 3 a.m. where you curse God and your baby and everything else on the planet because you’re failing as a parent because you can’t even get your fucking infant to rest just two straight hours that’s all I’m asking please God tell me what the hell I’m doing wrong and I’ll fix it......

At times like that, there’s nothing more lovely, nothing closer to a Godsend, than the sound of a long-loved friend and pediatrician who says, “Maybe you should try putting her to sleep on her tummy... Just don’t tell anyone I suggested it to you.”

Of course it was a much longer conversation. Parents of first-borns are afraid every breath, every decision from laundry detergent to formula to color of blankie, can result in irreversible catasrophic damage to their sweet precious. So we made damn sure this doctor believed our child would survive the night before we went ahead with it.

The world changed the very next day. We slept. She slept. The house stayed quiet sometimes four straight hours, occasionally five. I don’t know if God had answered a prayer or we had callously broken the law, and I didn’t hardly care.

Belly-sleeping didn’t make all the problems of the world go away, but it sure as hell cut our sleep problems by half.

We put our second and third children on their bellies from Day One and never thought twice about it. Amazingly, here we are, with all three children safe and sound. You can call us lucky. I call us careful parents of children born healthy. Which is to say, we’re fairly lucky, but not because our children survived night after night on their bellies.

I am not President of the Belly-Sleeping Society. It is not a Cause for me. I merely rejoice in the notion that we are in a country where I’m free to make tough choices with the raising of my children, and I’m grateful all parents have such freedoms. And I’m grateful that doctors will sometimes color outside the lines and tell us things they’re not really supposed to.

So, back to cosleeping. This couple in Utah isn’t being put on trial because their 3-month-old son suffocated while cosleeping with them.

They’re on trial because this was their second child to die in such a manner.

Let me promise you something: if my first child had died of SIDS in our crib after we began placing her on her stomach, were we able to muster the courage to forgive myself and have another child, I sure as hell wouldn’t have put that next child on its belly in the crib. Not in a million gajillion years.

As George W. Bush so valiantly put, “Fool me once, shame on you; Fool me twice... won’t get fooled again.”

We have freedom and choices, and thank God for both. But if one of your freedoms or choices results more than once in the death of innocents... shame on you with sugar on top.

So, if you wanna cosleep with your infants, it’s your life, and it’s your child, and God Bless America. But...
If you drink a lot,
If you sleep in a smallish bed,
If you are a super-sized person or couple,
If you are a deep or heavy sleeper,
you’re playing a bit of Russian Roulette with your infant’s life.

And if you should lose that game, and you choose to play it again... well, God should have mercy on your souls, but the justice system shouldn’t.


auto glass installation said...

You are so blessed to have her. Such an angel.

Daisy said...

I completely agree! I can not imagine what losing a child must be like. I feel certain that if I was brave enough to have another agter losing obe to SIDS i would over analyze, obsess internalize and do my damnedest to make sure history did not repeat itself.