Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Giving is a Wonderful thing...

     I often tell my mom’s that they do as much for me as I hope I do for them.  They never really get it until I explain.  

     Imagine how it feels to know you have made a difference in someone’s world – for the better.  Imagine knowing that because of your skills, your desire to help, your desire to be the best you can be that you helped a woman overcome obstacles that would cause breastfeeding to fail.  Imagine knowing that because of those skills you were able to help a baby heal from traumatic birth, or birth injury or tight muscles or even a tongue-tie simply because you knew what to look for and who to refer out to and take care of the challenge.  And imagine how it feels to watch moms and babies pull it together and be successful at breastfeeding and bonding the way they both want and need to be – to find normal.

     Not all moms make it to breastfeeding every baby for a myriad of reasons, and that is heartbreaking.  But – imagine being able to counsel that mom and help her come to terms with that.  Imagine how it feels to help her be successful with a current baby after it didn’t happen with a prior.  What if she can’t breastfeed because of a hormonal or physical issue beyond her control?  What if she tried and failed with prior children but no one told her WHY?  Now imagine the relief she has when she finds out WHY it didn’t work and that it was NOT because SHE failed…it just is a situation that is beyond her control.  Bittersweet?  Absolutely.  To be able to give her an answer and ease her feelings of failure?  Priceless.  

     When I was a kid my family would ask every so often if I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up.  I had no clue.  I wanted to be a housewife, like my grandma, and raise children.  I also wanted to be an entrepreneur and make a lot of money, or own my own business – be the boss!  (I was kind of bossy back then!)  But the one thing I KNEW I wanted to do was make a difference.  Sadly, I grew up being told that was a silly thing to want and I never would.  I think my family simply wanted me to not fail – or something.  But at any rate that’s what I grew up hearing.  All throughout college I still wanted to make a difference – I got my degree in Child Development and went into the child care field as a pre-school teacher.  I LOVED working with the kids, but working for others who violated laws and ethics didn’t work for me.  I managed to stay on that career path for about 5 yrs before it wore me out.  I already had one awesome little boy and then I got married and had 2 more.

     I knew I wanted to work with kids, maybe be a psychologist or something along those lines and often thought about going back to school.  But, then I had my 2nd son who taught me so much about how breastfeeding shouldn’t be.  It was through my experiences with him that I found my calling – my way to make that difference.   If you like,  you can read about it here.

     I found this career through our breastfeeding challenges.  I had decided that if I could help it, no other mom would go through the hell I did to breastfeed my son.  And a dream was recognized (I get to make a difference) and a goal was reached when I became an IBCLC in 2000.  I get to make a difference – I am allowed to make a difference – I am encouraged to make a difference!  And it feels amazing!

     When I work with moms I always try to thank them for letting me help.  They really don’t understand and I love that.  You see, when they welcome me into their home, and ask me (a complete stranger) to help them with a scary, frustrating and often painful situation, I am honored by that.  I know how hard it can be to ask for help.  And I know how difficult breastfeeding problems can be emotionally, physically and spiritually.  I do my best to support my mom’s where they are at and give them the pep talks they need, and talk them off a ledge when they need; even if that is late at night, on a weekend or a holiday.  You see – they MATTER to me.  They are the ones who allow me to make a difference in the world – in THEIR world.  They invite me in to help.  And that then makes a difference in MY world.  The gift they give me is immeasurable. 

     I have become friends with many of my mom’s, and when things got really rough for my wife and me last year, without being asked, they came to our rescue and helped support us in so many wonderful ways - and we really needed it.  It turns out that, when you do your best to help others without worrying about all the little things you can charge for, and when you help because you love it, that you get things in return.  There are no conditions on what I do for and give my mom’s.  And I was shocked and so deeply moved by the help and kindness we have been treated to this past year.  It was simply not expected.  But it was deeply appreciated.  

     And so – to you moms out there who I have been honored to help.  Thank you.   
Really - You do for me as much as I hope I do for you…and don’t ever forget that.  I don’t. 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Sleeping together…it’s not just for us grown-ups!

My wife took a new temp job last week that went from working day shift to working night shift.  There was an immediate problem with that for me.  You see, I don’t sleep well alone - anymore.  

Jo and I hadn’t spent one night apart in the 2 years we have been together until her first temp job when she had to work a grave shift (a month ago).  I discovered to my horror that I can’t sleep when she isn’t there.  I didn’t know this, but apparently I have to be touching her in order to go to sleep and I do so every night without thinking about it.  However, this is not always great for her.  For some reason she doesn’t like it when my foot is draped over her ankles…something about pinning them down and cutting off blood circulation...and then there is the snuggling up to her and not giving her any room to move or sprawl out.   It doesn’t bother me any so I’m not sure what all the fuss is about.  At any rate, that first night she was gone I literally did not sleep.  At.  All.  The next night wasn’t any better.  Luckily, for everyone around me, there were only two nights of that nonsense (sleep deprivation and I do NOT get along!) and things got back to normal – until last week.  A new temp job went from day shift to night shift.  And there I was the first night, laying there, tossing and turning, trying to sleep – and not succeeding.  The pillows that have her scent weren’t helping either…they just made me more stressed and unable to get any closer to sleep than a light dozing off.

Now, it isn’t like I wasn’t well trained as a baby to sleep by myself.  My mother did the Dr. Spock cry it out with me and I slept by myself for many years.  If I tried to crawl into bed with my mom after a bad dream I was quickly ushered back to my own bed so that I could remain the independent little sleeper I was supposed to be.  In fact, I was so well trained that I really didn’t like sleeping with anyone else – even as an adult.  It was annoying.  They were in my space, in my way and woke me up.  How rude!  As long as the other person stayed on their side of the bed I was, for the most part, ok.   Then I met Jo, and developed a strong, healthy attachment to her and that is a good thing – but this not being able to sleep without her next to me?  Well, that is not.   Or is it?

There is a lot of controversy about co-sleeping and babies these days.  Comments range from you SHOULD do it to you should NEVER do it.  Well, let’s think about this for a moment.  We hear the following comments all the time, right?  
  •    You must co-sleep to be an attachment parent (see previous blog post on attachment parenting).
  •  If you allow the baby to sleep in your bed they will never learn to sleep on their own.  Or worse: They will never leave the parental bed!  
  •   Baby must learn to self-soothe and be independent

There are more, but we will stick with these for now. 

First – there is a difference between co-sleeping and co-bedding.  Co-sleeping is sleeping in the same room.  Co-bedding is sleeping in the same bed.  Now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s dispel some of these ‘myths’ shall we?  

Attachment parents do not all co-bed nor do they all co-sleep.  I am an attachment parent and yet:  My oldest son did a mix of co-sleeping and co-bedding.  And it was pretty funny when he started off in his crib at night (in my room) and I woke up many mornings with him in bed with me and no idea how he got there!  I tried co-bedding with my middle son but that quickly became a nightmare!  He tossed, turned, kicked and generally made me nuts for two months before I finally put him in his crib at the end of my bed and we co-slept happily for the next few years.   My youngest son never made it into a crib, partly because we never put it together but mostly because he was so snuggly and easy to sleep with!  He (safely) co-bedded with me for several years.  It was wonderful! 

Studies show that co-sleeping actually reduces the risk of SIDS – co-bedding does the same thing when done safely.  Having the baby in the room with you allows you to hear your baby when he needs you much more quickly and moms find they often wake up just slightly before baby does for feeding.  Co-bedding allows for faster and easier breastfeeding.  Kind of cool stuff there!

How about the old comment of “if you allow the baby to sleep with you he will never learn to sleep on his own”?   Again not true.  Think about it:  How many teenagers are still sleeping in the bed, (or in the room) with their parents?  Are YOU still sleeping in your parents’ bed – with them?  I didn’t think so.   

The experts say that babies need to feel safe and protected.  I agree with that and I hazard a guess that babies would too.  Babies have no clue that it is 2012 and that if they are left alone they won’t be a Scooby snack for a Sabre-tooth.  So, when they fall asleep and we put them down, their innate instincts take over, they wake and holler at us to pick them up and keep them safe!  Co-bedding and co-sleeping help the baby to feel safe and secure, thus allowing for better sleep for both parent and child.   

A pretty typical example of how kids transition to their own sleep space when ready is my own experience.  My youngest son was 3 when he transitioned into his own bed, in his own room, with his older brother – by his choice.  I would wake up in the mornings and find him in bed with me several times per week until he was about 6.   Between ages 7 and 9 I’d wake up to him snuggling in once or twice a week. From about 9 – 10 years of age I was lucky if he graced my sleeping presence once a month.  By age 11 he was over it – wasn’t happening – no way was he going to snuggle in with mom!   When he was 12 we went camping (sort of – slept in a nice camp trailer) and there was only one place for him to sleep…with me.  He had a fit!  It was actually kind of funny.  He couldn’t stand the thought of snuggling in with mom, so he positioned himself on the very edge of the bed to go to sleep. It was a queen sized bed.  Can you imagine how horrified he was to wake up in the morning all nice and snuggled in with mom, his head on my shoulder?  I thought it was great, personally.  So, trust me – your kids will NOT be sleeping with you forever.  When they are developmentally ready, they will naturally transition into their own sleeping space and do so easily.  And when that happens, you are liable to miss them…just as you miss your partner if they are not with you.  
Lastly, self-soothing and independence.  I hear about these most.   Babies learn to self-soothe when they are developmentally ready to do so and if you try to force that on them – good luck making it happen before they are ready.  It just doesn’t work.  Look at it this way:  we are not all ‘ready’ to do what someone else is at the same time or age.  Why would we be?  We all grow and develop at our own pace and not before.  And if we, as adults, are pushed to learn something faster than we are able – what do we do?  Just like babies and children will, we get mad or frustrated or say NO!   The key is to recognize that and listen to them, just as we expect others to listen to us.  We have the cognitive ability to recognize that we ourselves need more time to learn something – we also have to cognitive ability to recognize that they need it too.  However, many people will tell us that we have to push our children into independence.  Babies and children learn independence when developmentally ready and when they know their needs are met and they are safe.  And the studies show that when children’s needs are met they grow into healthy independent adults.  

I got to thinking about these issues at 2am when I was supposed to be sleeping and couldn’t because I was all alone and missing my wife and my youngest son wouldn’t come snuggle in with me. I realized that what I have been telling parents for years is really true:  

How can we expect babies to sleep well by themselves if we, as adults, can’t sleep well if our partner is not there with us?   Many parents acknowledge without any hesitation that they have a difficult time sleeping without their better half.   They hate it!  But, if this ‘training the baby to be independent and sleep alone’ is a realistic expectation of what we must do as parents, then we really need to take a look at what we are doing as adults because something isn’t jiving here.  Maybe we should seriously consider sleep-training ourselves to sleep without our partners because clearly we have become far too dependent on having them with us when we sleep (or at least I sure have!).   Perhaps separate rooms and beds and never snuggling together in bed all night should be the norm for all partnered adults.  Under no circumstances should we ‘get used’ to having our partner, our love, that person who we love so deeply and want to connect with so much, in bed with us.  It will be have sex, then get back in to your own bed a.s.a.p.  We wouldn’t want to become too dependent upon them would we?  If we did that how would we ever be independent adults? 

So – that’s it:  No more sleeping together, no more snuggling in bed, no more sleep-time connection, no more making love and falling asleep in each others arms, feeling safe and loved at night.  When you think of that, how does it make you feel inside?  Are you now excited to sleep-train each other?  Are you looking forward to putting a nice distance between you two?  How do you think this distance and inability to connect with each other at night while sleeping will affect your relationship?   Now put this back in the perspective of your baby.  That little guy who spent 9 months inside of you; the one who is hardwired to stay safe in the arms of his parents… where do you think he needs to be?  If it were his choice, what would he choose?

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