Last night Pip was the last of my children to join H and me in our bed. That it was actually morning is a wonderful thing, and that it would have been even more wonderful had we not already been being prodded and poked by the big sisters is a minor fact which we shall happily gloss over.
My Pip is a baby of the non-sleeping variety. Ever since he was born he’s the one who’s wanted to be held and cuddled and swaddled and generally tucked up with Mama, and that’s what we’ve provided, in as far as we can. I don’t mind that he feels most cosy tucked up in my arms, or that his way of reconnecting with me at the end of a working day is to need a few overnight snuggles. But at the same time, it is rather nice to get a little bit of evening time to myself, to have time with H or time to write or knit or read or sew or any one of the hundred other things that recharge me to do it all over again tomorrow.
The balance has been that I settle him to sleep in his cot in his room, and resettle him if he needs it during the evening (teeth being the pesky things they are, even if you wait until you’re 17 months to bring in numbers 5 and 6) and then when he wakes up during the night, or possibly even the magical ‘if’, then I tuck him into bed in the crook of my arm and we all go back to sleep until the alarm goes off.
So far, so good. Until we hit a run of teething and colds and January and goodness knows what and that lovely wee boy of mine developed quite the spectacular startle reflex. He could be fast asleep in my arms, as in actually properly snoring, floppy arms and all, but as soon as I lifted him up and over the side of the cot, even while clutching him firmly to me, and making sure his head was above his bum, as soon as his sleeping bag hit the mattress, two bright eyes popped open, with a most disapproving glare: ” you weren’t thinking of leaving me were you Mama?”
Course not sweetheart, the thought of the yarn and the bar of chocolate and the chance to chat to your father all waiting for me downstairs never crossed my mind!
Selfish though it sounds, I know that I need that evening time to be the sort of mother that I want to be. No down time and everything feels ten times harder. So it was time to come up with a solution. I could just go to bed at 7pm with the kids, and there are days when I’m sorely tempted, but it’s amazing how much space a tiny boy can take up, and we don’t have the room in our room to sidecar his cot onto our bed as a sort of toddler version of a side sleeping crib, so any time that he sleeps in his own bed gives me the chance to stretch out just that little bit more.
But thinking about side sleeping cots, and remembering how well he slept in our battered Moses basket gave us a clue as to what to do. And so we bit the bullet and took the side off his cot. And at the same time we also tried to spend a bit more time in his room while he was awake and tried to make it an even snugglier place to just be.
There are the teddys; Doudou and Teddy, and his sheepskin blankie (so wonderfully warm to grab for both of us to wrap up in on a cold night) and his fair isle blankie, and H decorated the furniture with some of the hanging toys that the girls had loved the most so that there’s something to play with.
And whilst I hesitate to write this, so far it seems to have done the trick. He’s happier about being in bed just generally if he knows that sometimes Mama can be there too, and with the side off, I can scoot him in horizontally, I don’t have to lift him high and then put him down, and if push comes to shove, or I’m just really tired, there’s just enough room for me to cuddle up along side him, even if getting back out again is more of a “throw myself on the floor and hope to miss the stray Duplo” manoeuvre.
For the first couple of weeks whenever he woke up he’d just sit there and wail for me to come and get him, but in the last few days he’s figured out that he can get out of bed and try to come to me – which is why there’s now a stair gate on his door to stop him making too good a bid for the top of the stairs. It’s such a change from Kitty and Elma who were both in and out and in and out on their first ‘side-free’ nights.
I’m trying to tell myself that it’s really early for us to have taken the side off, but I think that’s my subconscious playing tricks on me; Pip still feels in every way still such a baby compared to Elma, who at his age was not far off becoming a big sister, and yet Elma lost her sides when she moved into the girls room and I know we’d taken the sides off Kitty’s cot before Elma was born, so perhaps it isn’t so early after all. But oh does it make him look so very teeny tiny all snuggled up in a ‘big bed’.
So keep your fingers crossed for all of us- and long may the lovely sleep evenings continue.
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