Safe

March 18, 2013

The question of co-sleeping comes up often. It can be controversial. There are heated debates about it.

The other day I asked my three children what they remember about co-sleeping and how it made them feel.

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I did not ask them all together. I had three isolated conversations with them. Each was brief.

 I first asked Finn, my youngest.

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He is seven years old.  About 80percent of the time Rob and I wake up with Finn in our bed even though he goes to sleep in his own bed. I asked him why he likes to sleep with us and he told me that he feels warm and cozy and it helps you if you are scared. He told me he feels safe.

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Phoebe is 17 years old. She is a senior in high school. This sophisticated New Yorker travels all over Manhattan and Brooklyn on her own. She went to Ghana with her school for Spring Break. Phoebe flew down to North Carolina on her own to visit family. She is excited to go away to college in the fall. I asked her what she thinks of co-sleeping. She does not particularly remember co-sleeping as a baby and young child but she will climb in bed with me on the rare occasion that Rob is away. She says she feels safer.

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Later I asked Chloe, my 12-year-old what she feels about co-sleeping. Without missing a beat she told me it feels safe. There you have it from the mouth of real life co-sleepers they feel safe.

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The truth of the matter is that when each one of them was a baby I felt safer having them in my bed, close by so I could hear them breathe and I could feed them.

We all kept each other safe.

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Remember this story: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/10/opinion/sunday/10sex.html

And then I wrote this:

Dear Erica Jong

July 13, 2011

Dear Erica,

I read your essay in the New York Times “Is Sex Passe?”

This passage really got my ire up!

Better to give up men and sleep with one’s children. Better to wear one’s baby in a man-distancing sling and breast-feed at all hours so your mate knows your breasts don’t belong to him. Our current orgy of multiple maternity does indeed leave little room for sexuality. With children in your bed, is there any space for sexual passion? The question lingers in the air, unanswered.

Well allow me to answer!

I remember when my first child, Phoebe, was a few weeks old and we attended an afternoon barbecue at my in-laws. The topic of sleep – the ultimate new parent topic – arose I shared that we had Phoebe in our bed. Cousin Norma jumped right in, “You can’t do that! It will ruin your marriage!” I was shocked.

I kept Phoebe in our bed initially as a survival method. When I placed her in the bassinet at the end of our bed in the tiny house in the NYC suburbs she looked like she was in California. Neither Rob nor I needed to leave our bed to attend to our baby. We adored her and loved having her close to us. It also made it much easier to feed her through the night. Rob and I could cuddle and make love without disturbing her. Having a baby in bed increased our intimacy. We were more focused, more intense.

At this backyard shindig I learned that Cousin Norma had  been married and divorced three times. She was the one with marital problems.

And Erica, I know you breastfed your daughter. Did you co-sleep? Did you put Molly between you and your husband?

When you parent you have to have a sense of humor. You have to laugh if one moment you are a sexual goddess caught up in the moment and suddenly you switch gears, twist your body toward your baby, offer a breast, keep skin-to-skin contact with two people, be two at once, settle the baby down and go back to being the passionate goddess. You have to be able to laugh.

You do not have to divide yourself into sections. Similar to parenting more than one child – you meet the needs of a younger child and an older child. You can be a present wife and mother.

Oh, dear Erica, I think you feel you need to be an orange – all segmented. Me, I am a juicy peach- no segments, a complete package.

After 18 years of marriage, twelve years of breastfeeding and even more years of a family bed Rob and I are a happy couple with an enviable sex life.

As a woman who writes essays about the guilt of mothering and feminism please do not discount attachment as anti-woman. You are stoking the Mommy War fires.

Sincerely,

Leigh Anne

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Well, I sent my letter directly to Erica as the New York Times was no longer accepting responses. And she wrote back.

Leigh Anne–

Thanks so much for writing. You’re right: we don’t need to be segmented. 

I don’t think I was writing so much about myself as about my view of other parents who are not as whole and loving as you.
I so appreciate your taking the time to write your beautiful letter!
Erica Jong
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I imagine as a writer you have to stir things up a bit. I will take her lead and not hold back. Not always be the sweet polite southerner. I can be tough and opinionated! So look out, y’all!