In those early days of new motherhood my eyes burned and my spirit sagged. I knew that babies were supposed to awaken throughout the night, but mine cried to be picked up from his bassinet every 30 minutes. The first night home from the hospital in a fit of panic and desperation, my husband frantically unwrapped every pacifier we received at our baby shower. Like a puzzle piece that just wouldn't fit, our son spit each out and continued to wail. Pacifier packaging littered our bathroom floor, like a Christmas morning aftermath that no one enjoyed. I then tried the one thing I was sure he didn't want- breastfeeding. Hadn't I just fed him 15 minutes ago?
The only place he slept soundly was on my chest. It went against every book I read and every recommendation from the AAP- but it was the one thing that worked. I was terrified that the very act of sleeping with my son on my body or bed would kill him, as so many of the articles and books suggested. I slept in the middle of our queen size bed without any blankets, chest to chest with our new son, and felt the rhythm of our breathing fall into sync. He slept for two hours before waking to eat- just like the books said.
Looking back I can see clearly that my fears of harming my son by sleeping with him on my chest were unfounded. I woke frequently and was extremely aware of his every move, nuzzle, and sleep sounds. I was not on any medication, and our sleep surface was safe and free of loose blankets and pillows. Although there is a need to warn new parents about the dangers of unsafe bed-sharing, if a safe option is not also mentioned it only creates fear in new mothers and babies that cry relentlessly to be close to their mothers.
With my second son, I knew better. I didn't fight the same fears about bed-sharing, and I knew that he would sleep in my arms, in my bed, from day one. Today, my boys cuddle on either side of me in the bed we share, and nestled between them each night beneath the blankets is the place my soul feels most at peace. The serene nights (with some random elbow and knee jabbing as well, let's be honest) we experience now were hard-earned through tears, struggle, and a whole lot of fear and guilt- but I wouldn't trade it for anything. The lesson I learned through it- to trust myself as a mother to know my children and their needs as no one else can- is one that is priceless and worth every rejected pacifier.