How this Mum Saved Herself & Discovered the Magic of a Symphony of Breaths

On the topic of bringing up families, I’m not an expert. I do feel like I have had a lot of experience though: from being an older sister to two much younger siblings; then being that friend in the group of teens that would always be expected to behave like ‘the mum’; right up to now as an actual mother of three.

Not that any of that means much anyway. It’s not like anyone is an expert when it comes to parenting. There is such a myriad of experience that is so personal in all the minutiae of any family’s existence, one can never be an expert in any of it. There is only now. And then there is another now, and so on.

With a combination of so many people in a family, there is a sort of intimacy, — the web of interaction is intricate, ever-changing, and elusively complex. And that is only in the case that we are lucky enough to have any intimacy in our family in the first place. Either way though, it is complex because it involves so much time and so many different people at different points in their life’s journey.

Today, my teenaged boy went from getting results for his Year 9 exams to visiting family after school. I can’t tell you any more about him for now, he’s very private by nature and it’s not my story to tell.

My almost-six-year-old girl, however, is in a different place. She went to her after school dance class, got in the car and said, Mum, I’m hungry! Right now, she says with emphasis. At the same time, all that the two-year-old wanted was a cuddle with his big sister. All three want different things from me at different times throughout the day, and sometimes they all want different things at the same time. Shit gets cray-cray.

It all culminates in an after dinner play on the carpeted floor of our apartment, whilst calling relatives in England. They talked to us of their lives while we juggled nappy changes and dishwasher loading. And then it was bedtime.

The two-year-old and I sleep together in a room with a bunk that the 6-year-old sleeps on the top level of. He loves going to bed, mainly because he is breastfed and it is our little bit of mummy/son quality time. So he gets excited at bedtime.

Daddy changes him. He tells us he wants his ‘dappy’ changed. He complains as we put him in his pyjamas but then when he realises it is our time, our bedtime, he gets happy again and dives into bed, rolling around laughing. I lie down, I turn to him and we lie tummy to tummy whilst he feeds himself to sleep.

Mainstream culture tells us that I am ‘making a rod for my own back’, but I’ve got to say, my back feels just fine as I lie there with his soft breath on my chest and his belly touching mine as he feeds. He is the happiest of all my babies, and the only one I’ve done this with. It’s almost a radical act being a ‘western’ mum who sleeps openly and honestly with my toddler.

I breastfeed him in public too. No reason not to. I don’t truly care if people think it’s odd and since arriving here in Australia I’ve not seen one other person breastfeeding their toddler in public. I have no idea why not. Most of the time it doesn’t even occur to me that it’s unusual. It’s just us doing our thing. People try not to look. I feel like saying “LOOK! It’s the most natural thing in the world!”.

As the toddler falls into a deep sleep I wriggle out of the bed into the main bedroom. In there, in our king-sized bed, lies my husband and my daughter. She isn’t quite asleep. I crawl in with them and cuddle her while she gets comfortable in my arms. Slowly she passes out. So does my husband. As I lie there with the weight of her head on my arm, and with a hand on my husband’s arm as well, I hear their breaths get into a rhythm. It is uneven but has a kind of music to it. It is a symphony of breaths. It sounds like the most beautiful thing in the world, like rain on a tin roof, like the ocean.

I feel sad that this is not a common experience, that too many people give it up because a book told them kids and babies shouldn’t sleep with their families but in separate rooms behind closed doors… as if we stop being parents when the sun goes down and become jail-keeps forcing our young ones into their cells of cots and bedrooms. Let them cry, they're just trying to get attention, we are told. Hell, I’ve been that mum. I don’t judge you for doing it. But think about it — where else in the world and when else in our history have we thought it right to do these things? Modern life is so weird sometimes.

Give me the symphony of breaths anytime.

If you are considering sharing a bed with your baby please read the facts first and note I am not a doctor, nor health professional, nor affiliated with any kind of official authority on the matter but a mum sharing her experience. We all can only do what works best for us with the help of the best information we have access to.

Alena Turley is a writer, educator, ethical social creative and personal branding coach. She is a mother of three based in Sydney, Australia, passionate about connecting people to their own authentic selves and to each other. 
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Photo by Simon Matzinger on Unsplash