Real vs. Ideal

In a post some time back, I talked about co-sleeping, and included a poll on “what is your ideal sleeping arrangement”, with the following possible answers: 1) baby in bed with me; 2) baby not in bed but in the same room with me; 3) baby in his own room.

Of course, nobody answered #3. I didn’t expect many of my readers to, because I know I attract people who think like me, and I wouldn’t have either — my “ideal” is baby in bed with me. But there is a difference between “real” and “ideal,” which I think fairly amusing, at times. Maybe I shouldn’t think it funny, but I do. It’s a quirk I have.

I moved my first baby to his crib (in my room) when he was about a month or so old, because he was waking me up and I was waking him up all night long. That’s what really happened; but it didn’t change my “ideal sleeping arrangement” being baby in bed with me… as long as we both can sleep, anyway! When baby #2 came along, him sleeping in the bed with me worked out a lot longer, although I had him in the bassinet beside the bed a lot too. I would frequently fall asleep with him in my bed through at least 6 months, and with some regularity up til about 9 months. At that age, a lot of times he would nurse until about asleep, and then start fidgeting and wiggling to get away from me, so I put him in his crib, and he’d go to sleep. But my “ideal sleeping arrangement” was still stated to be him being in the bed with me. It just didn’t work out that way.

Were I to have another baby, I would still plan on having him or her in bed with me. It’s still my “ideal sleeping arrangement.”

Sometime after I had completely moved my younger son to the crib in another room (around 13 months or so), I answered a breastfeeding questionnaire, which included the question, “Where should babies sleep until they are at least two years old?” Without batting an eye, I answered “in bed with me,” because that is my ideal… even though I had just put my son who was less than two years old down in his own little crib in his own room.

In some ways, that is hypocritical of me. In other ways, it’s just responding to some of the realities of life. One such reality is that my husband is not totally supportive of the baby being in bed with us (at least partly due to his fear that he’ll hurt or smother the baby somehow by rolling over on him, pulling the blanket up over him, or putting a pillow on him). So, when he complained about a specific thing related to the baby being in bed with us, I would frequently put the baby in his own crib or bassinet for that time. Even though I would still answer the question without hesitation that the best place for the baby at that age was to be in bed with me.

A lot of times, we face situations which cause us to deviate from our “ideal” of what we should be doing. Nurse-midwives who cannot legally or practically attend home births may unhesitatingly state that the “ideal” in their opinion is for women to give birth at home… all the while they are perpetuating hospital births. Because the reality of the situation is, that they have to have a job, and for whatever reasons, they cannot just “jump ship” from the hospital and hope to survive financially by going strictly to home births.

Non-nurse-midwives may state that the “ideal” is for women to give birth at home… but the reality of the situation in their state may be that if they attend such births, they may go to jail, or be hit with hefty fines, or both.

Women may say that their “ideal” is to give birth in their own homes, and then opt for a hospital birth. Perhaps because their insurance will cover a hospital birth and they’d have to pay for a home birth out of pocket. Perhaps because they are worried about the pain of labor. Perhaps because their husbands are not supportive of them having a home birth. Or perhaps for some other reason.

Sometimes “real” interferes with “ideal.” That’s life. But it’s important to really question your decisions when you deviate from your acknowledged ideals. Why settle for second-best if you don’t have to?


3 Responses

  1. I really liked your article. My ideal is definitely baby in bed with me, but it didn’t start out that way. In fact, my experience kind of opposite yours. I was very young and single when I had my daughter and I didn’t know what my ideal was. I basically did what my mother suggested. Which was have my baby in her crib in a different room. That worked for about, say…zero nights. My little girl wanting nothing more than just to be with me. From the very first night at home she slept sometimes next to me in my arms, but mostly just laying on my chest.

    Thus, from real came my ideal. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I am now expecting my second child, a little girl. I’m now married and my 5 year old daughter still climbs in our bed early in the morning. Although I’m hoping for my ideal…I might just have to get real again, whatever that may turn out to be!

  2. Just found your site and am really enjoying looking thru your archives. I’m currently in training as a CCE thru Birthworks and am also expecting my second baby.

    I think you really put in perspective that it’s not necessarily hypocritical to have an ideal of something, yet not quite adhere to that ideal. Case in point for me right now–I absolutely think homebirth would be ideal for me. And I fully support women who desire and pursue homebirths. However, b/c of some medical problems and also b/c of insurance, I decided that I felt really good about seeing an OB and giving birth in the hospital. For me, it was a very well-informed decision and I don’t feel any sense of “loss” in doing so. (BTW–I worked long and hard to find a natural-friendly OB who respected my choices and I found a great one!) Anyone your thoughts helped me to realize that’s it not hypocritical for me to support homebirth while choosing a hospital birth for myself.

    Looking forward to continuing reading your blog.

  3. Weird. I just read a quote from Ina May Gaskin in the book Misconceptions two hours ago.

    “Nurse-midwives who are aware of the difference between hospital midwifery and the real thing call their profession “cattle-barn obstetrics.” The more we go into a for-profit system, we’re shortening allowable labor to as short as eight hours. We’re drugging women to accelerate abor, then banging out babies, but we’re not looking to see how they do.”

    She is differentiating between hospital midwifery and something else that she refers to as “the real thing.” The quote was the preface to a chapter about how EVERYONE, even doctors, is powerless against the hospital birth “machine.” So I guess that’s the real vs. ideal that you mention when it comes to CNM’s.

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