Tag Archives: cosleeping

Why do you care? Some thoughts on sex, judgment, and being a woman with children

Trigger warning for mentions of sexual abuse and incest.

It appears that the most controversial thing I’ve done is have sex in my very own bed.

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To be fair, it’s controversial because, sometimes, my child has been in the bed, sleeping, at the same time.

Or in his own bed a few feet away.

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What images fill your mind at these statements? What do you imagine takes place? Do you recall whispered secrets, second hand stories filtered through the memories of a friend? Do you imagine bright lights and loud moans of passion and wide eyed innocents? Do you remember confusion, frightening noises, something you could not talk about? Do you feel home, parents, comfort, safety? Do you smile as you picture last Wednesday? Do you raise your brows and shrug your shoulders and move on, nothing to see here?

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We have a standard in my culture that says sex must be kept completely away from children at all times — except in billboards, pop music, television, and the daily news, of course — because to expose children (pure) to sex (vulgar) is to corrupt them. We force sexualization on children, with heels and push up bras and Barbies to mimic, and deny them their own sexual agency, pathologizing the schoolyard kiss and the playing of doctor. We make sex huge and important and tell them nothing about it, except that they mustn’t have or want it.

We most definitely do not have sex anywhere near children. Except for when we do.

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Except for when we have it with them.

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Sexual abuse happens. Children’s sexual boundaries are violated, every day — from active pedophilia and incest to adults who over-share details or desires. Some people have been traumatized by their parents’ sexual activities. Some people are still confused, bothered, disturbed by sounds in the night, flashes from a hastily opened door. These are truths.

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These are questions: where and when do you imagine those who live in single-room habitations have sex? How do you think second children are conceived?

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Can something done one way be harmful, and done another, healthy? Can sex in the same room as our children be damaging in some circumstances, and in others be empowering?

The determinant, devilish thing, may be in the details.

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Sex is for adults, should be kept away from children. So, how much away is enough? Not inviting them to participate? Having the lights off? Being aware of the sound of their sleeping breath, the hints of their stirrings? Barriers of pillows and blankets and bitten lips? Beaded curtains? A wall? Closed doors? Locked doors? Three floors away? Another building?

How much risk is acceptable, how much is abuse?

Is it possible the answer to this is culturally informed?

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It must concern us as parents how our children perceive our sex life, not because sex is concerning, but because our concern keeps us sensitive, keeps us keyed in, keeps our attention on them and their experience and their processing, allows us to stay attuned, make adjustments as necessary.

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There are no guarantees in parenting.

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We allow for certain risks in my culture: we drive our children in cars going 50, 70 miles per hour; we leave them with strangers in the gym; we let them sleep away from us, in other rooms, in other people’s houses; we feed them food we didn’t grow ourselves, food in a can, sterile, dirtless food. And that’s fine. Those risks are deemed acceptable, because everyone does them.

Risking children waking up, hearing, seeing, and not being able to cope? It’s not what we do; we don’t accept it.

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I have no desire for my child to watch me engaging in sex. (Frankly, I have no desire for anyone to watch me engaging in sex, with the only-sort-of-exception of my lover.) I could describe the steps I take to keep it from happening, and be judged on those details, rather than the imaginings of prurient minds, but I would rather question why I am to be judged at all. Do we, as a community, have an obligation to be alert for child abuse? No question. Does that give us the right to make pronouncements based on a few words whose context we do not know? Does our distaste justify accusations of abuse? That sits less well with me.

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I have never tried to persuade someone else to make the choices about sex that I have made. I have never even made an effort to assert the rightness of those choices, to defend them as unassailable. I do not particularly care whether most people agree with me — except the part of my mind always aware of fear, of the risk not to my child but from my culture, the part of my mind that wonders “have I said too much? am I too exposed? how outspoken, how broken, how honest can I be before I am punished, my child harmed in the name of keeping him safe from me?”

I have abundant privileges protecting me, many shields for the worst of my vulnerabilities — but sometimes, they seem sparse indeed.

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What does it do to our children when we operate from fear? Why do so few care about the potential damage of that?

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This is what I want: If you agree, say so. If it ain’t your cup of tea, go enjoy another. If you have questions, ask them openly. If you disagree, do so civilly. If you have concerns, express them with care. If you feel the need to judge, walk away whilst asking yourself why?

Why is another person’s sex life the bar by which you judge? Why does disagreement call for condemnation? Why are we willing to judge women so harshly on this topic more than any other? Why has no one called The Man a child abuser? Why do we care so much about how we perform sexuality in front of children, and not about how we talk about sex with others? Why do we proclaim the ability of sex to harm the probably-asleep, while disregarding any harm of judgmental proclamations to the probably-not-reading?

Because tone does matter. Because how we treat each other matters.

In bed or elsewhere.

5 would-have-been-useless “must-have” baby items I avoided buying thanks to infertility and poverty

Not having the fertility you expect nor the money you require for little things like buying groceries and avoiding debt that will take decades to dig yourself out of sucks donkey dong, no question. But it’s not all bad. Oh no: some good things can come out of that curiously cruel combination — or rather, some not-so-great things, though much desired at one time, might be avoided. Ah, the virtue of “simplicity” through forced inability to purchase anything!

Without further snark (who am I kidding: with much further snark), here are five “must have” baby things I did not waste money on, not having the funds to do so before figuring out I wouldn’t need it thanks to countless hours spent researching online because computers at least did what I told them as opposed to ovaries which persistently and cruelly ignored my pleas to work properly.

Ahem.

5 Would-Have-Been-Useless Things I Avoided Buying Thanks to Infertility and Poverty

1. A crib. Bed sharing? Not only far safer than many “public safety” organizations (often crib-lobby-backed) would have you believe, but also actually the biological default for humanity. Sure, it doesn’t work for every baby nor every family, but me? I’d slept with my partner every night for half a decade, I’d shared my bed with a long line of cats and dogs, I curled up every night around a baby-sized stuffed bear nearly as old and rather rattier than I, I was used to the obnoxious nighttime noises of my kidney-damaged geriatric poodle: I could cosleep. That quarter-circle-shaped utterly impractical if frankly gorgeous $2000 crib? We could pass.

2. A stroller. Living in the Pacific Northwest meant there was no weather reason to need a stroller even in the worst of summer, as some of my Texan friends did. Being more or less sound of body meant the 8lb/3.6kg (or, as it turned out, nearly 10.5lb/4.7kg) weight of a properly worn newborn would be no strain at all, and if at some point down the line the kid or our bodies decided we needed a conveyance on wheels, well, we’d get something then. And in the meantime, practicing carries with my long-suffering stuffed bear served to sate slightly my inner baby-obsessing-beast.

3. Crotch-dangling carriers and over-padded closed-tail slings. In the way-back olden days of five years ago, the over-engineered be-buckled devices known none-too-affectionately as crotch-danglers were The Must Have strapping-baby-to-body device, and the alternative was a sling available in a wide range of pastel-with-ducks color schemes and an unfortunate name reminiscent of slang for a brassier. (Nowadays the significantly better if still imperfect and overpriced ERGObaby carrier is nudging the crotch-danglers out of the Must Have lists — if not yet the lion’s share of the market outside Hippiedom Central otherwise known as Portland — and there are a number of lovely, sophisticated, dare-I-say-sexy slings in national distribution.)

I, however, when faced with those two options, dug deeper and found the frankly-a-little-frightening world of babywearing, and learned how to safely and securely make a carrier better than anything available on the mass market for less than $10, or in a pinch wear an infant in a large beach towel, a pair of sweatpants, or — I am not making this up — a pillowcase and a length of duck-tape. But that didn’t stop me for asking my mom for a $130 organic wrap.

4. Baby monitors. I know we’re the only parents in a 500 mile radius who don’t use them (even Her Crunchy Highness Hathor the Cowgoddess has a set), but when one’s plan includes cosleeping at night and babywearing the rest of the time, and one doesn’t really have house enough or older children enough for the noise of a gritchy baby to get lost in, what’s the point? Other than to pick up arguments and intrigue and hot sex noises from others’ monitors, and that’s what we have bad TV shows for.

5. Moses basket. There was a time, and no I could not tell you why, that the thought of a hooded basket with handles in which a serenely sleeping baby could be carried around the house and set next to wherever one was, it was understood, sewing or spinning or plucking a died-of-joyful-self-sacrifice goose sent me in to sepia-colored swoons for hours at a time. I am sure there are situations in which they’re a godsend1, but if I’d had the money to indulge at the time of my obsession, I would now be the less-than-proud owner of a sweet and sentimental hooded and handled laundry basket. Or cat carrier.

That’s my list of the big-ticket items we successfully dodged due to utterly-depressing (if thankfully incomplete) infertility and soul-crushing (if thankfully temporary) poverty. If we were to start over now, we’d still avoid each of those (though we might succumb to a few more triple-digit-dollar baby carriers), but if I’d have the budget and the lack of research time pre-permission-to-buy-baby-things-by-virtue-of-gestating-assiduously, each one would have found their way into our home.

I won’t say I’m glad for sub-par fertility or a long period of poverty, but though it sucked donkey dong at the time, at least I’m not stuck with a herd of hay-chewing fertilizer-producers from buying every pony my heart fleetingly desired.

Your turn: what “must-haves” did you do fine without? What money wasters are gathering dust in your spare room? Or, what big-ticket purchase were you surprised to find useful? What unaffordable object would you have given, or would still give, at least a small piece of your soul for?

  1. Geddit? Moses basket? Godsend? Yes, that’s the quality of material you can find around casa RMB 24/7.