Since Joshua joined our family 15 months ago, we have constantly had to readjust our expectations. My husband Ed has been supportive and allowed me to take the lead by following my instincts and doing what I feel is best for Joshua, including breastfeeding.
I always knew that I wanted to breastfeed Joshua, and Ed was always supportive. In the early days, we quickly realized that family meal time was on hold for a little while. Evenings consisted of a fussy baby who only wanted to nurse for hours on end, and Ed supported me following my instincts and nursing Joshua for comfort for those hours. Ed took over the responsibilities of fixing supper and cleaning up, even going so far as to serve meals to me so I could focus on mothering Joshua during those difficult times. He didn’t argue with my instinct to comfort-nurse, he kept complaining to a minimum, and in allowing me to build a strong nursing relationship with Joshua, Ed also showed me that I could depend on him when I most needed him. In turn, I showed him that I had the patience to deal with a fussy baby, modeling how I would like Ed to parent as well.
The "witching hour," or fussy time during the early evening, was only the pre-game for the real difficulty: night-time parenting. We never planned to cosleep with Joshua, but we found that it was the only way we could all get some sleep. Cosleeping has also contributed to development of a strong family bond as well as a healthy breastfeeding relationship. I think of cosleeping as a survival strategy, not this wonderful thing that our family does. It’s hard, especially for Ed, to handle being woken up repeatedly. At 15 months, Joshua is a much better sleeper than he used to be, but he has yet to sleep through the night once. Sleep deprivation can be an obstacle to a happy marriage.
In the wee hours of the morning, when Joshua is having a bad night, Ed can be prone to get angry with me about cosleeping. In our sleep-deprived state, it’s easy to argue about what we’re doing right and what we’re doing wrong, compare ourselves to parents whose kids are good sleepers, or second guess our decision to cosleep. I take these conversations as criticism of my parenting choices, and I get really sensitive about it. After one particularly heated discussion at 2 am, after a wakeful night with our teething toddler and lots of nursing, I expressed my desperation as tears rolled down my face: "I’m just doing what I feel is best." Ed simply replied that he knows I’m following my instincts, and he has readjusted his expectations about toddler sleep.
Over the past 15 months, I’ve learned that both Joshua and I can depend on Ed as a husband and father when we need him most. He trusts me, trusts my instincts, and is willing to follow my lead in parenting when it comes to breastfeeding and other issues I feel strongly about. It’s easier for me to trust my own instincts when I have his support, and our relationship is better for it.