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Monday, October 31, 2005

I could have labored at home. I could have just as easily bled all over our sheets at home as on the ones in the delivery room. There was sweat and blood and swearing and stitches. But none of that mattered. It didn't matter where I was until immediately after Toddler in Chief was born.

My pregnancy was easy. I was young, healthy, low risk. No problems outside of a few varicose veins. I wanted to have the baby without hospitals, monitors, IVs, and drugs. I wanted to do it in my own bed. To leisurely eat my own snacks. To labor in my own tub. To scream so loudly that the neighbors would call the police. But none of that selfish stuff mattered.

My hospital labor was long, painful, and ordinary. It was the minutes after TIC was born that mattered. Doctors whisked him to the NICU before I had a chance to feel his weight from a new perspective or bring him to my breast. Two open-heart surgeries later, I still occasionally wake up sweating, wondering what would have happened if there were no doctors or technology to diagnose and resuscitate him.

If he'd been born at home, he would have died. There were no signs that anything wrong with TIC while I was pregnant. But there's always that teeny chance that something will go wrong with labor. Or that something will be wrong with the baby. My odds: one in 100,000. But it happened.

Permalink | Childbirth | Comments (10)

When my wife first became pregnant, about all I knew about midwifery was that it was a fun word to say. I was taken with the birth center, with its huge, clean rooms, queen-sized beds, private bathrooms, and hot tubs, but the midwives won me over. All eight of them were smart and professional, and I knew my child’s welfare was safe in their hands.

Unfortunately, when the fetal heartbeat kept decelerating during the pushing stage, we had to go to the center’s affiliated hospital, the St. Fleabag Medical Center. We were given a dirty room with a broken bed and an indifferent, incompetent nursing staff. They wouldn’t discharge us until 12 hours after the birth, and as the time of emancipation arrived we were all lined up like Jesse Friggin’ Owens.

When No. 2 was on the way, the birth center had closed after its insurance premium was raised by 200%. And when my wife suggested a home birth, I think I blacked out. I just couldn’t comprehend it at first. But then I met our new midwife team, read their references, and took note of the facts that 1) all prenatal visits would be house calls and 2) insurance covered everything. So I bought in.

The birth was a bit of an adventure, but I always felt in good hands. Martine examined my wife and child far more thoroughly than anyone at St. Fleabag’s did, and she stayed with us, helping with everything from paperwork to the placenta, for five hours while my wife recuperated. If we’re to become parents a third time while living in the city, I will absolutely agree to another home birth—after I regain consciousness.

Permalink | Childbirth | Comments (3)

Friday, October 28, 2005

You pegged it, lady. We are co-sleeping strictly via the Paternal Fiat. My wife begged, pleaded even, for me to let her place our baby in a separate crib. "Absolutely NOT," I bellowed, arms akimbo. "Our son will sleep between us and pummel my lower back with his heels! So sayeth I! Now fix me a steak!"

Co-sleeping is a personal choice, which we both made, because we believe it engenders a child with a stronger family bond. Like anything else, it gets better with practice. My wife learned how to nurse on her side, and often she was back asleep before the boy was.

Also like anything else, you can go a little overboard.

Co-sleeping is also mostly a cultural issue, and the U.S. can’t be described as a “co-sleeping country.” Isn’t it interesting, then, to find that the eight countries with the lowest rates of SIDS among newborns are considered "co-sleeping" countries (see p. 36)?

And speaking of arses, the new AAP ruling smells suspiciously like the doctors are covering theirs. Wary of the randomness of SIDS (as well as all those special parents who don't follow safety guidelines and ultimately end up here), the AAP wants to avoid trouble. But it looks like you have a bit of a dilemma on your hands; since the AAP recommends "separate but proximate" sleeping arrangements, however would you manage if a child violated your sacred snugglarium?

Permalink | Co-sleeping | Comments (3)

Seems like Laid-Off Dad wants to debate the source and not the subject. But regardless of what LOD thinks of an article I linked to in Wednesday's post, it doesn't change the facts: kids die in co-sleeping situations; co-sleeping babies have an increased risk of SIDS; co-sleeping puts a wrench in alone-time for parents.

To me, co-sleeping would be a real handicap--always having to be in bed when my kid's in bed; always lying down with him so he can fall asleep; never being alone in bed at night with my spouse.

I love cuddling and snuggling with Toddler in Chief, but I love more that he then goes and sleeps in his own bed. And no, TIC never vomited from crying. There's a difference between getting your kids to sleep on his own and letting him cry until he vomits. I never advocated that, so I'm not sure why LOD insinuated it. Mostly I choose sleeping with my spouse over sleeping with my kid.

Permalink | Co-sleeping | Comments (3)

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Wow.

You had me for a while there. I can understand a couple deciding not to have the baby in bed with them. It’s disruptive, especially when you have a son like mine, who sleeps like a flounder in a rowboat. But holy smokes. Quoting people as widely discredited as the Ezzos? Not once, but twice? And describing co-sleeping as “toxic”? I’m speechless. Seriously. As I’m typing this right now, I can’t speak a word.

Co-sleeping isn’t for everybody, and setting a new baby up in a separate nursery with a monitor is just fine. The baby cries, you stagger in, hold him to your chest, and convince him that this strange new world didn’t vaporize while he was unconscious. But when supposedly learned people start telling parents to make a child with no object permanence fend for himself emotionally by ignoring his cries, possibly until he vomits, I just don’t get it. Especially when the after-effects of CIO might not be so “short-lived.”

We liked co-sleeping with Son1 very much, until moved to his crib at 10+ months, and we like co-sleeping with Son2 now. We like the empathy that Son1 shows when he interacts with his little brother. We don’t know if it’s related, but we like to think it is.

And when we want to be alone? We like to get creative.

Permalink | Co-sleeping | Comments (3)

Laid-Off Dad says co-sleeping makes for "easier night feedings." That's a nice way of saying LOD doesn't want to move his lazy arse out of bed to bring the hungry baby to his wife. That's a load of crap for two reasons:

1) Co-sleeping babies wake more frequently, nurse "almost twice as often, and three times as long per bout," as babies who sleeps alone. Twice as often! Three times as long! Who exactly is this easier for? Certainly not Mom.

2) Enduring night-time feedings is an equal-opportunity inconvenience. Not just for the parent with the lumpy, leaky breasts. LOD wrote: "The child only had to roll over onto the boob for his midnight snack and then fall right back asleep again." So, it's easy for LOD; the skills that let him ignore the motorcycling-riding "pinheads," let him ignore all 17 overnight feedings as well.

Oh, and by the way, earlier this month, the American Association of Pediatrics changed its view on co-sleeping. It now opposes it because of the increased risk of SIDS.

Permalink | Co-sleeping | Comments (6)

Monday, October 24, 2005

In one way we are co-sleepers by default, because we’re four people living in about 800 square feet. (That’s one human for every 200 square feet, or the minimum nonsmoking area in any employee lunchroom in the state of Minnesota. For what that’s worth.) When we looked around all the limited square footage, we figured we had two choices: Bring TwoBert into bed with us, or fill the bathtub with throw pillows.

Even if we had more space, though, I’d still advocate for having the little nibbler sleep with us. The biggest plus was much easier night feedings, because the child only had to roll over onto the boob for his midnight snack and then fall right back asleep again. The alternative—having to run into his room, calm him down, feed him, and get him back to sleep—seems far too onerous.

I admit having a fear of squashing him in my sleep, because I’ve trained myself over the years to sleep heavily enough to ignore all the pinheads who cruise by my window on motorcycles at all hours of the night. But that fear passed pretty quickly, and there were lots of helpful guidelines to ensure that the boys slept as safely as possible. When the time came, our first son went into a crib, and then to his big boy bed, without incident. (Perhaps the bed itself provided an incentive.)

Permalink | Co-sleeping | Comments (2)

Toddler in Chief has invaded nearly every personal space in my life. The living room is a toy room. The refrigerator is packed with kid-friendly food. My car is overflowing with toys for the park, a change of clothes, emergency diapers.

However, my bedroom--my bed--is a kid-free sanctuary.

Like many new parents, I loved snuggling my brand new baby in bed. I was amazed by his smallness, intoxicated by his baby smell, and captivated by his presence. But every time baby was in bed with us, neither parent could sleep. We were paranoid that we'd smother him or wake him up while trying to get comfortable on the outer slivers of the bed.

So, Toddler in Chief was moved to his own crib in his own room. And he loves being in there. Alone. At bedtime, he sings to himself, serenades his stuffed animals, talks about his day. In the morning, hearing him on the monitor is my cue that it's time to take a shower, check my email, brew some coffee. He's there for a good 30 minutes before he starts to get restless. If we slept together, that personal time would be gone.

Co-sleeping can be deadly for babies, and it's toxic for parents. Alone time is crucial for couples, and our bedroom is a special place just for us. Sure sex is part of it, but mostly it's an intimate place where we can snuggle, talk late into the night, read, watch TV, or just be--without kids.

So if TIC had to shed a few tears to learn to sleep alone in his bed, then that is a small--and short-lived--price to pay.

Permalink | Co-sleeping | Comments (10)

Friday, October 21, 2005

Life is about quality, not quantity. Organized classes expose kids to new stuff, but kids learn just as much through less structured, real-life activities. The park, playgroups, and trips to the store teach them about the world and about interacting with other people.

At the park, they learn about: Sharing (toys and snacks with other kids); Coordination (climbing around the play structure); Agility (dodging stray balls); Cooperation (waiting for a turn with the shovel). Through playgroups and play dates, they hone their social skills--which are the most important skills a kid needs for kindergarten. On special occasions when Father in Chief and I hire a babysitter, TIC learns about respecting other adults.

When he goes to pre-school, games, art, music, and story time will be a part of the structured schedule. And at the end of the day, he'll have some downtime with his toys. And I'll be thrilled that he knows how to be content at home.

Permalink | Activity Overload | Comments (1)

That's just it--going out to do all we do isn't something Son1 is forced to do, it's something he asks to do. About the only thing he's required to attend is preschool, because we've sunk enough cash in that place to fund a couple of sweet high-def flat-screens. (And since little kids shouldn't watch TV, those screens should go in the teachers' lounge. Ha! Thought you got me on that one, didn't you?)

I am a city person. (Well, a born-again city person, since I grew up in the burbs.) And city people live in cities because we want to be around lots of cool, heterogeneous stuff. We can do a half a million things, all at a quarter to three. So when Son1 wakes up on Saturday morning and scampers into our bedroom, I want him to ask, "What can we do today?" instead of "What's on?"

All these activities also help us figure out what he likes. We signed him up for a soccer class at the Y, and he hated it. (In his defense, it did suck.) He went to a musicianship class, and he was crazy about it. So we went back. And if going out means just strapping on the bike helmet and exploring the neighborhood (usually at an uncomfortably brisk pace while I run/stagger behind, warning pedestrians), then that's fine, too.

The key is moderation. If a child is overprogrammed, there are some standard telltale signs. And if he exhibits any, we'll encourage him to slow down. We'll stare at the walls, if we have to. I'll at least get a little more rest out of it.

Permalink | Activity Overload | Comments (1)