Disclaimer: In an ideal world I wouldn't need to write a disclaimer, but for the sake of no-one feeling judged, I just want to say the following list of points reflects my personal experiences with co-sleeping and is not representative of the experiences of anyone else, including other co-sleepers.
- When I had a baby who didn't sleep more than 40 minutes at a time, day or night, and averaged about 6 hours in every 24 for the first almost three years of his life. Co-sleeping meant not physically having to get out of bed to resettle him. It didn't make him sleep better, but it meant conserving my own energy so I was better able to cope with the sleep deprivation (excluding those six months where I got both of us up in the middle of the night so the GOM could get sleep for work - that was sheer hell and landed me in hospital, but that was not co-SLEEPing).
- With my two children who slept more soundly - but still woke as babies are wont do to - it meant, and still means, knowing my babies are alright overnight. I can hear them breathe. I can feel their temperature as soon as it changes. I'm there the moment they vomit (okay, not exactly a bonus, but reassuring, nonetheless).
- It means reconnecting after a harrowing day of mother-child disconnect and disagreements. Nothing reignites maternal love for me like seeing the innocence in my child's sleeping face, or having him entwine his little arms around my neck or arm, half asleep and warm and squishy.
- It means hot little feet in the small of back on cold winter nights.
- It means always knowing where his favourite toys are - ever laid on a lego TARDIS? I have...
- It means giggles in the middle of the night when something amuses him in the dreamworld.
- It means waking up to smiles every single morning without fail.
- It means never having my children associate their bed with anything other than a safe and comforting place to sleep.
- It means occasionally waking with a foot or bum in your face and not being completely horrified.
- The most important thing it has meant to me was personal growth. I have never been a cuddly sort of person. I find close personal contact difficult. I was aware of co-sleeping when my eldest was a baby, but I couldn't come at the idea of having to sleep so closely to someone else. I didn't even cuddle the GOM in bed because it felt like I couldn't breathe. When my eldest was about 10 months old and teething, I tried to bring him into our bed, but he was not at all used to the idea and would lay there wide awake until I asked if he wanted to go back to his bed. He'd nod and I'd take him back to his bed and he'd crash out immediately. When my second was born I decided to co-sleep from the start, but I always kept a space between us, pulling him closer to feed him, then shunting him to the middle of our enormous 2m wide bed. When he was older, he wasn't particularly cuddly and would lie starfish style in the middle of the bed. With our third, I started out the same, with distance between us, but when he was older, he would cuddle up to me or the GOM, mostly the GOM. I slowly learned to be comfortable with closer contact. Then Ari came along. Finally, seven years into co-sleeping I started to feel comfortable with close contact, and more and more slept with him in my arms. Now, after 10 years of co-sleeping, I don't stiffen up or feel suffocated if a child wants to cuddle with me in bed, but not only has it changed my interactions with my children overnight, it has also made me more affectionate throughout the day.
Co-sleeping has softened me and taught me to be physically affectionate and open with my family. I'm still not 'a hugger' in my wider circle of friends and acquaintances - I doubt I ever will be - but with my children and with the GOM, I am definitely much more relaxed and affectionate. I will be forever grateful to co-sleeping for that.