Sleeping. Or not.

Last night I woke up at 2:34 a.m. to go to the bathroom. It took me a minute to finagle my way out of bed, trying not to disturb the 5 year old lying sideways between me and Paul, or the 8 year old at the foot of the bed (still in his dirty baseball uniform, mind you, and clutching his prized game ball), and of course trying not to wake either of the dogs, who were sandwiched somewhere in between the humans in the bed. The 10 year old had made his way into our room as well, sleeping peacefully on the loveseat next to our bed.

It all started a few months before Tucker was born. "We have GOT to get a bigger bed," I announced to my husband one morning, as my ever-growing pregnant belly took over the tiny little double bed we had been sharing. (And in retrospect, are not those the teensiest mattresses ever? What's the point? Might as well just have a twin.)

So off to the store we went, and a few hours (and a few thousand dollars) later, we were the exuberant owners of a pillow top king sized bed.

(Remind me sometime to tell you about Paul and the Ambien. Let's just say he slept like a baby diagonally across the brand new king sized dream bed while his 40 week pregnant, miserable wife slept on the sofa because she could not move him. 11 years later and yes, I still remember.)

Until, of course, September 18, 2001. Had we known then what we know now, we would have just stayed in bed, asleep, for a good month or two to prepare for the next several years.

It started out innocently enough. No one ever starts out their parenting career thinking they will co-sleep. But then reality sets in. The reality of a nursing infant who likes to nurse every hour or so. All.night.long. (Which is totally normal. Moms milk supply is higher at night than any other time.) So instead of reaching over, getting kid out of bassinet, nursing, putting kid back in subtly morphs into just leaving kid attached to breast and falling back asleep and never really knowing if the leech sweet baby unlatches at all through the night.

Then baby #2 comes and the process is repeated, only now kid #1 is still in the bed because he is still nursing. Now you are tandem nursing all.night.long. Until you urge kid #1 to night wean, which he finds an odd request, since baby #2 is still a marathon nursing dude.

Then comes #3, and we're all too freaking tired to do anything other than all pass out as a family in the same king sized bed that we had bought 5 years earlier. When there was just the two of us.

Which is not to say that we don't sleep now. We do. Through the night, even. Everyone is potty trained, everyone is weaned, everyone sleeps through the night.

Just not in their own space.

We sleep on edges of beds, with slivers of covers. We sleep with feet in our faces and behinds in our backs. We get punched a few times per week by the stray flying extremity.

After I made my way back to the bed and pushed kids and dogs out of the way, I lay there awake for awhile, thinking about how hysterical it was that the 10 year old is always begging for his own room, when in reality we could easily live in a one bedroom flat somewhere. They all like to be close to us. Occasionally one or two of them will start out the night in their own bed, or on the sofa in the living room, but eventually it seems we all wake up in close quarters.

I know that one day this will not be the case. (Even though Griffin states unequivocally that he, his wife, and their children will also come over every night to sleep in our room, if not in our bed.) One day, probably soon, Tucker will make his way to his own room for some much needed privacy. Griffin won't be too far behind. And Sissy will eventually find her way to her room to fall asleep to the sounds of Justin Bieber instead of her daddy's snoring.

Why do kids hate being alone at nighttime? Probably the same reason many adults do. Studies show that nighttime is when anxieties, depression, sadness, and fear presents itself. Hospitals and nursing homes know this phenomenon well. In our society, use of night time sleep aids is on the rise. Everyone is having trouble sleeping, it seems.

My suggestion?

Have a kid.

You'll sleep like a baby.

Or at least you'll think you did.

Mom Enough?

When my son Griffin was 3 years old, he had his ginormous tonsils and adenoids removed. I was skeptical about the surgeon's choice of hospital: Tulane, instead of my first choice, Children's. The same day surgery folks were nice enough, but I worried that they wouldn't have enough pediatric experience or patience with *my* most precious patient.

We were put at ease immediately. The nurse anesthetist who came to give him his pre-op evaluation (and a beautifully hefty dose of Versed) drew a frightened and anxious 3 year old into conversation. It didn't hurt that she wore a Boston Red Sox lanyard either. She carried him off to the OR, with him chatting eagerly about Big Papi.

Fast forward about an hour and a nurse hurried out to the waiting room to tell me that Griff was awake, crying, and he needed me. She rushed me to the recovery room, where my sweet boy was lying there with big tears streaming down his face. "Mama" he cried, reaching out to me. The nurse pulled up a chair for me and I sat down, cradling my little boy.

Without thinking, Griffin pulled up my shirt and rested his hand on my breast. The tears stopped, and he started to drift off to sleep. "You can nurse him, you know. It would help him to drink something."

Tears came to my eyes as I looked at this woman, who looked back, smiled warmly, and said, "All mine nursed until they were 3 and 4."

It's a special bond we all share -- us moms who have chosen to allow our children the dignity of weaning when they feel ready. We are outsiders....we crazed women (and partners) who allow our children to feed whenever they are hungry as newborns, who will stop what they are doing to nurse a toddler who has fallen victim to a boo-boo, who happily shares their sleeping space with nursing babies, toddlers, oversized children and dogs. Those of us who will not force their child to wear big boy (or girl) underwear until they show developmental signs they are ready (instead of looking at some calendar and proclaiming "it's time!"). We deal with rude strangers, concerned family members, and uninformed health care professionals. We have a list of "reasons we still breastfeed" always at the ready to fend off the obnoxious questions that invariably come our way.

Today, with the unveiling of Time Magazine's cover (and corresponding frenzy-inducing title "Are You Mom Enough?"), the public raised their voices on message boards all over the globe, calling me (and countless other moms like me) a freak, loser, a sexual abuser, and a pervert who "gets off when their kid sucks their tit", to name a few.

Literary geniuses, they are not.

Methinks those pour souls could have used a good bit of breastmilk in their younger days. Obviously they don't know that breastfed children score an average of 10 points higher on IQ tests.

Dr. Katherine Dettwyler is an anthropologist who has done extensive research on human breastfeeding, specifically weaning. The bottom line? The "normal" age of weaning is between 2.5 and 7 years. (Stuart-Macadam, P. and Dettwyler, K., ed. Breastfeeding: Biocultural Perspectives, New York: Walter de Gruyter, Inc., 1995.)

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that “Breastfeeding should be continued for at least the first year of life and beyond for as long as mutually desired by mother and child… Increased duration of breastfeeding confers significant health and developmental benefits for the child and the mother… There is no upper limit to the duration of breastfeeding and no evidence of psychologic or developmental harm from breastfeeding into the third year of life or longer.” (AAP 2005)

The World Health Organization urges breastfeeding at least until age two. They stress that illness rates go up once weaning has occurred, thus encouraging women to breastfeed for as long as possible. (WHO 2002)

The American Academy of Family Physicians has even more to say. The AAFP recommends that breastfeeding continue throughout the first year of life and that “As recommended by the WHO, breastfeeding should ideally continue beyond infancy, but this is not the cultural norm in the United States and requires ongoing support and encouragement. It has been estimated that a natural weaning age for humans is between two and seven years. Family physicians should be knowledgeable regarding the ongoing benefits to the child of extended breastfeeding, including continued immune protection, better social adjustment, and having a sustainable food source in times of emergency. The longer women breastfeed, the greater the decrease in their risk of breast cancer.” They also note that “If the child is younger than two years of age, the child is at increased risk of illness if weaned.” (AAFP 2008)

In the Bible, we read "when the child was weaned" -- meaning a minimum of 3 years old, though scholars estimate 4-5 is more likely. (Larry Overton has done a great job researching this.)

My children are now 10, 8, and 5. Each of them remember breastfeeding with fondness. They all had little habits that were unique to each of them, and they like to talk about them now. They often ask, out of the blue, "mom, tell me again what I used to do when I was nursing" -- and I tell them (Tucker always scratched one spot on my forearm. Griffin rubbed my face. Anne Claire twirled my hair.) I've asked all my kids what they remember of nursing. The resounding answer (from all 3) is always "you smelled good and the milk was warm and sweet." They have virtually no desire to breastfeed any longer. They are all potty trained, sleep through the night, and are independent, strong, funny, and incredibly healthy. They weaned when they were ready. There were no tears. No sleepless nights. No anxiety. They finished when they deemed it time.

No, I'm not a loser. I'm certainly not a pervert. My children are stronger, smarter, healthier, funnier, and more socially adept because they breastfed, not in spite of it.

So to all the haters that are gonna hate....Yes. I *am* Mom Enough.

Are you?