Bye Bye to the Fantasy Cot Life that just wasn’t for us.
So I sold my 18 month old’s cot today because I need to get him a toddler bed and I had a real ‘moment’. I was thinking why am I so nostalgic about a COT — I am always attached to people and places but never things, and then I realised that buying that cot was such an exciting time for us. A time full of hope, anticipation and the worry that all of us have about whether our baby will arrive into the world safe and healthy.
Of course the baby arrives, thankfully healthy, and the beautiful “sleigh cot” that you first saw in a Pottery Barn catalogue that makes your husbands eyes water (not from emotion but because it’s more expensive than his first car) becomes an ornament — defunct and useless (that even includes the orthopaedic mattress you convince him the baby HAS to have) because you can’t bare to put your tiny baby down for fear he will feel alone or cold or unloved.
You go from being this super chill prego who eats pancakes for breakfast every day to suddenly worrying about every possible situation that may never happen somehow happening to you or your tiny, helpless, innocent little baby. You can’t bare to hear your baby cry or be in any kind of distress for more than two seconds so you keep him with you at all times- he comes everywhere, even to the bathroom with you. He’s become such a part of you that you just strap him to you as if he’s still actually part of your body. You look like the African Mom you used to see on TV in the 90's walking from famines with the baby wrapped around her back with a cloth wrap except you are not skinny because you survive on sugary coffee and biscuits every day. You can’t remember the last time you had just five minutes to yourself.
You keep reading that you have to put your baby in the cot NOW *be quick!* before it’s too late but your gut says “Keep that baby close”. You hear people (generally those of a different generation who come out with all kinds of weird s**t so you take no notice) say “She’s making a rod for her own back” about someone else but you think “Hey that’s me, I too am the proud owner of one of those rods you old fogies keep talking about”. You laugh at how people are so obsessed about other people’s sleep.
Even your baby seems to have some in-built primal reflex that makes him automatically hate that cot from the second he arrives home from the hospital. Your thought process is a mess: if I put him down in the cot maybe I won’t be able to hear him if he stops breathing or I’ll go into a deep sleep and I won’t know he’s in distress. What if he kicks his blanket off and gets sick? What if he wakes up and thinks I’ve abandoned him? What if, what if. You read studies on the benefits of co-sleeping, the dangers of co-sleeping, the history of the Victorians inventing the very idea of babies in their own beds, the Japanese traditions of co-sleeping, all the babies in the world that hate the cot — all of it. Your brain hurts. You just do what feels natural to you and what works for your family. You see some threads on a mommy group where women quote Gina Ford, you look her up and shudder. She puts “baby” and “manipulator” in the same sentence, she obviously wasn’t cuddled enough as a child. Or maybe she was left to cry in the cot, it makes sense now.
Slowly but surely the cot becomes a wardrobe for his clothes, a storage space for his nappies, a stool for your cups of tea… an ornament, a beautiful one, but an ornament in all but name. The baby is happy. You don’t get out of bed at night. Your husband doesn’t get out of bed at night. Everyone sleeps a little bit more than if you did what the book said. Yay, f&@k that cot you think. It looks like Santa’s bloody sleigh for goodness sake. Who wants to sleep in Santa’s sleigh anyway? What was I thinking- why didn’t I buy MYSELF an orthopedic mattress, I’m an idiot.
Your neck hurts. Your back manages to contort itself into positions you didn’t even know were possible. You feel like you have a Siamese twin AT ALL times but you are glad you just let things pan out gently how they are supposed to…naturally…in the way that man has done since time immemorial. A time before cots and all the other rubbish that looks like it can replace mom but doesn’t.
The baby is healthy. The baby is happy. The baby is rarely, if ever, sick. You look like the back of a bus but it’s not about you anymore buttercup. The baby has never once felt alone or scared or unloved- how could he possibly when he is tucked under your wing every night — his very breath mirroring yours.
I looked at that cot this evening as it went out the door and I remembered the excitement I felt when we bought it, and I remembered the naivety that I could be anything other than what I am — a co-sleeping, breastfeeding, baby-wearing hippy mama. And even better, my husband loves it. He’d be one too if he could. A man came on the radio this morning and said “If you have £20,000 to spend on your child’s education, invest it in the early years. If that means you send him to the best nursery do it, if it means you spend the money on taking a year off work unpaid to be with him, do it. If it means you go back to work part time or you get Grandparents to help you out then you do what you have to do. Forget University, if you get the early years right all of that will pan out the way it should. Our children’s first years of life are the most important and fundamental years of his or her life”. It struck a chord. I know this, I spent years studying it but it hit me again. The years are short and go by in a blink. I’ll sleep doing handstands if the baby is happy.
It took me the ridiculous and stubborn task of shipping that cot all the way down the Suez Canal from Dubai to Dublin to accept the difference between expectation and reality and when it walked out the door this evening what went with it was the kind of parent I just couldn’t be. #DiaryofaMom #ByeByeSantasSleigh #F$&ktheCot