Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Spirit-Led Parenting: Finding the Freedom to Enjoy Co-Sleeping

In April of this year, a long hoped-for dream came to fruition: my dear friend and co-author Laura and I published Spirit-Led Parenting: From Fear to Freedom in Baby's First Year . In it, we encourage parents to lay aside the advice of the experts and call upon God for direction in parenting through infancy. We are vising the blogs of friends to discuss chapters of the book, and we are so thankful to Dulce for sharing her space with us today!

It seems silly to me now, almost eight years later, that I would feel like there was a parenting choice that I was so uncomfortable discussing that I resorted to lying about it. But it's true! That's the extent to which I felt I had to cover and hide the fact that we were *gasp* co-sleeping with our oldest daughter when she was a new baby.

The books I had read prior to her birth cemented the idea in my mind that there was no way a baby should be sharing sleep in the same bed as Mom and Dad. Some of the objections were practical ones dealing with safety and long-term sleep problems, while other objections were spiritual, grounded in the idea that a baby had no place in the sacred "marriage bed."

It was these messages about the wrongness of co-sleeping that played over and over in my head every night as our sweet new baby lay sleeping between us. I was so conflicted about it myself - there was no way I could talk to any of my friends or family members about it. I already knew the idea would be condemned and we would be compelled to change what we were doing.

But I didn't want to change.

As Laura and I began the process of writing Spirit-Led Parenting, we heard from so many other parents who founds themselves facing the same conundrum - they loved co-sleeping with their babies but felt like they had to keep the whole matter secret. In the book, we explore some very valid reasons why one or both parents might be opposed to the practice of co-sleeping (and how to navigate a compromise if that is the case). But what we found most interesting was that across the board, the main reason couples felt they couldn't share the truth about their co-sleeping practice with others is because of the strongly-held belief that co-sleeping is bad for marriage.

One source for this concern for what sharing sleep means for marriage is a misapplication of Hebrews 13:4 which speaks to the idea of keeping the marriage bed pure. Most readers of Scripture can look at that verse and understand that the writer is speaking to the purity of marriage in its entirety - not just the mattress where a husband and wife lay down to sleep.

But beyond that, there are often questions about how a couple can maintain a healthy sex life when co-sleeping is involved. Many couples with more than one child (or more than two or four or even more!) who practice co-sleep find this objection to be entertaining! If nothing else, co-sleeping allows and encourages couples to find a way to think outside the bed when it comes to enjoying time spent alone together.

We go to great lengths to emphasize that co-sleeping is not a requirement or a must-do for parenting that is spirit-led. On the contrary, we hope that parents can be empowered to feel free to practice it in the short-lived season of life with a baby, and to have the freedom to know they aren't doing anything wrong. Because:
Those sweet sleep gowns and footed pajamas are all too quickly tucked away in memory boxes as time grows our little ones into Big Kids who are so fiercely independent. Someday there will be curfews and slumber parties and all-night study sessions and eventually these babies will be teenagers who have to make space in their busy schedules for us. These nights filled with squirms, grunts, and sighs are just a whisper in the lifelong conversation that is parenting. If it's possible, if it's safe, and if it's desirable, this is a precious time to make space for the warm little bodies and sweet little sleepy sounds of the ones born from the unity cultivated in our marriage beds. -- Spirit-Led Parenting, p. 187
We would love to hear your story! Is co-sleeping a taboo topic or openly accepted in your circle of friends? How is it viewed in your faith community?

Spirit-Led Parenting: From Fear to Freedom in Baby's First Year is the first release from authors Megan Tietz and Laura Oyer. Megan writes about faith, family and natural living at SortaCrunchy and lives in Oklahoma City with her husband and two daughters. Laura blogs her reflections on the real and ridiculous things of life at In The Backyard, and makes her home in Indiana with her husband, daughter, and son.

Megan has been an amazing role model for me in so many ways.  I feel so incredibly honored to have her post here, and to be able to collaborate with her over at A Deeper Family.  This post brought back so many memories of when my eldest was a newborn, and my anxiety over doing things "the right way" and the nervousness I felt at the disapproval of our pediatrician (of course, this was the same guy who gave us a copy of To Train Up a Child with his recommendation, whereupon we found a new doc.  Our current doctor thinks it is wonderful that our babies sleep with us!).  In our case, it was actually my husband who suggested bed sharing.  Ariana had outgrown her pack and play and I mentioned putting her in her own room, even though my heart really wasn't in it.  He looked at me in shock and horror and asked, "Do you see how tiny she is?  How could we have her be all alone?  Just bring her in bed with us."  We now have four children (obviously, a family bed hasn't hurt our marriage!) and even when toddlers starfish or it seems like a bizarre dance some nights as we move around getting comfortable, there is something incredibly precious and secure about having all the people that I love most in the world with me while I sleep.

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Janine Fowler - Alternative Housewife said...

LOVE that quoted bit. I know that it's only a matter of time until my son - now 2 - doesn't want to snuggle with me anymore.

Liz Hallberg said...

"These nights filled with squirms, grunts, and sighs are just a whisper in the lifelong conversation that is parenting." Love that. It's exactly how we feel here at my house. We didn't actively decide to co-sleep, it just sort of happened once baby came home. It worked for us, and it still does. Our son is 4 now, and he has his room in which he can go sleep in whenever he chooses.. and sometimes he does. Mostly though, we get lots of snuggles every night and I'm keeping that for as long as I can, no matter what anyone thinks :)