Tuesday, 22 March 2011
A Guilty Secret
"How do you settle him when he wakes?" asks the friend whose new baby has complied very placidly to the Gina Ford routine, and who is horrified to learn that my one-year-old is still waking through the night.
"I still feed him to get him to sleep" I say, tentatively, sensing as I say it that the admission is a mistake.
"Oh no!" she says, her voice high with surprise and squeaky with dismay. "Every time he wakes?"
"Yes," I answer, guiltily, feeling her judgement crackle like static down the phone line.
"Oh," she exclaims flatly, waiting for me to stumble and mumble my way through my excuses so that she can tell me how her baby settles himself quite happily whenever he's left in his crib.
Much later, after I've hung up the phone, the exchange is still making me feel like a failure.
I can still hear my friend's dismay ringing in my ears and I still find myself cringing and cursing for the honesty of my admission.
Because whilst I don't quite know when it happened, it seems that the simple act of nursing my baby to sleep has gone from being the most beautifully natural thing in the world to being a guilty secret.
It's something that makes people hum and tut before giving me unsolicited advice, and its something that makes them look at me with a superior sort of judgement, as they class me a lazy and over-indulgent mother.
And so the next time that somebody asks about my baby's nocturnal practices I'll be deliberately vague.
I won't tell them of the way that my baby snuffles miserably with his face against the sheet as wakefulness disturbs him, I won't tell them how he sits up and looks around in sleepy confusion with his arms spread wide for my hug, I won't explain the drowsy fondness with which I pull him close to my chest or the warm pull of love that I feel as he settles himself at my breast; I won't tell them of the blissful relief that I feel as he drifts off to sleep in my arms and I won't describe those few precious moments when I gaze upon his sleeping face and brush my lips against his warm cheek before settling him back in his cot.
Instead, Ill let them assume that I leave my baby to cry himself back to sleep. Because that's what good parenting's about.