Preparing for a baby teaches you a lot of jargon - tough sounding terms for simple things in life that you hadn't taken time to notice up till the point the stick shows the positive line. Co-sleeping or sleep sharing is just one of the trillion words added to my vocabulary in the last few months. What exactly the terms means is that the parents sleep with their baby in the same bed. Here's the wiki link.
As we assembled baby gear and braced ourselves and the house for the new addition, Vish and I were very sure that the baby was going to be in a separate crib but in the same room as us. Our top reasons did not even include the privacy factor - Our logic was that the baby would be more comfortable with a space of her own and yet under our watchful care. Also, this being our first child, we were scared of rolling over the baby in sleep if she was in the same bed. Another contributing factor was the constant mention of the absolute necessity for a baby to sleep in her own bed during our child preparatory classes in order to avoid SIDS (Wiki link).
So, after a lot of meticulous research, a crib was dutifully ordered. Daddy patiently put it together. Top-class mattress was chosen; mommy placed the best of linens to go with it. And the crib was lovingly placed on mommy's side of the bed as all of us eagerly awaited its rightful resident.
The day we brought Manya from the hospital, she was immediately placed in the crib for her noon siesta - it all seemed so natural and nice till the time came for her afternoon nap. We thought she shivered in the crib and was so noisy - surely putting her in our bed as we were awake would do no harm and so she was placed next to daddy who hugged her and they both slept. Come night time, we placed her back in the crib and that's it, she would not sleep. She first sent desolate, despairing glances from between the bars of the crib - I began to feel guilty - as if we had deliberately excluded her. Soon her obvious discomfort turned into a bawling complaint and ever so swiftly I scooped her from the crib and placed her between us...where she remains ever since!
(By the way, the next morning my mom gave me that "I always told you this would happen" look, which was hard to ignore! Also, when Vish's BIL was in town, he stated in a very matter of fact tone that Indian parents use the crib for storage purposes :D)
While "co-sleeping" comes naturally to us Indian parents, I believe the "practice" is not very common in North America. Infact, at every doctor's visit, we have to fill out a questionnaire on how we are managing the baby and the only question we get "wrong" is the one on bed sharing! Our pediatrician quite good naturedly brushes that answer away giving us that sly smile, which translates into: "Indian, I tell you!"
I don't know if it happens with all parents who sleep share in this part of the world, but I am almost made to feel apologetic about our sleeping arrangements when talking to outsiders. Surely, we didn't plan this but even if we did, so what! I know so many children who "sleep shared", if you will, and are perfectly normal, confident, independent individuals. My brother and I sleep shared too and there seems to be nothing abnormal about us. Infact, it is so much more convenient when you have to feed the baby 4-5 times in the night and keep her warm in the cold winters (And though I was scared to do this initially, I now love snuggling upto her on the pretext of giving her human warmth, while I derive a lot of comfort from the cozy little cutie!)
Yeah, we want Manya to eventually move to her own room (I am also hoping she'll take to the crib this summer since I use it for her daytime naps and she doesn't mind it too much - given she is in deep sleep. Btw, she doesn't really mind her bassinet either!) but I am dead sure it won't be because of "societal pressure". I am convinced her emotional well being will not depend on how long she slept with mommy and daddy but how we bring her up in a steady loving and supporting environment.