This is my very personal story. I hope that in sharing it, others will find comfort and encouragement within it.
My first child started out life in a rather conventional way. I admit, I didn't know any better then. She was born in a hospital, with an epidural given at the last moment. She was born six weeks early, not breathing, with no heart beat. She spent the first week in intensive care, after being air lifted to a different hospital within hours of birth. This led to her being bottle fed before I was even released from the first hospital to get to her. She never did take to breastfeeding after that, and I gave up by the time she was 6 months old. Putting her in a crib when she came home seemed completely normal after so long in the hospital NICU. Getting up every couple of hours to attend to her left me worn out all the time. Five years later I started learning about brain allergies, food sensitivities, and chemical sensitivities.
With my second pregnancy, seven years later, I decided to study natural pregnancy and birth. When my second child was born, I was slightly more prepared. I had decided that attachment parenting was the right way to go, that I would not let anything interfere with my breastfeeding, and co-sleeping would be the best way to accomplish all of it at night. I was even planning for a home birth. I was insecure about my choices, but I had done the research, and knew it would be best for my baby. My baby had other thoughts on how things should go, and ended up being an emergency c-section at the hospital. His head had grown too big before turning, and ended up getting his head stuck under my rib cage! When he decided it was time to be born, he stuck one foot out to "test the waters", leading to the emergency c-section. The rest of the hospital stay was a battle, but I did stand up for what I wanted. He stayed in the room with me, exclusively breastfeed, and was not vaccinated. I fought early battles, and learned how to avoid confrontation. I chose to stay home when needed, knowing that in my house, it was my rules. It became my sanctuary.
When I learned I was pregnant again, almost two years later, I knew how I wanted to do things. I was afraid to do a home birth after my second child, and decided to do a natural, read as no drugs used, birth in the hospital, and inform them of my choices up front. The universe seemed to be with me on my choices, until we ended up moving across the country (Chicago, IL to Mesa, AZ) one month before my due date.
I had not yet done more than settle my family with two children and find a good hospital before my youngest decided it was time to make his entrance into the world. Each of my children needing a story they could tell about their birth, and my water came out intact for this birth! Everything else went quick, normal, and drugless. I had his hospital crib in my room with me, as was policy, but he did not spend much time in it. I was allowed to breastfeed immediately and exclusively, and had a very pleasant experience.
I moved number two into his own bed at that point as the bed was really not big enough for four. I didn't like the choice then, but gave into the pressure. He seemed to do okay in his own room in his "big boy bed". It would be three years before I knew differently...he was always and still is a very private child. At that point, our housing situation led to putting all the beds in the same room. Once we were all together, I saw the nightmares he had every night and started to question what I had done to him. He told me that he had hid the nightmares because, "I wanted Daddy to love me".
Since then, we have all slept in the same room. When we first learned that what we had been living with was emotional abuse by my husband, it was much easier to deal with the trauma when we were all together. Nights were always the worst, but I was there for every nightmare. To some it may seem strange to have one room that the whole family sleeps in, but for my younger two it is something that they aren't ready to give up. There are plenty of other cultures where a family bed is normal, or where a one room house is normal, and everyone sleeps together. And as we slowly heal from the trauma of emotional abuse, it has been easier on the boys to keep the whole family together. At some point, I am sure that they will want to sleep in their room. When they are ready, their room will be waiting...
Overall, I see the difference in the children. Their self-esteem levels, their security, how adventurous they are... They are all completely different in their personalities, of course, but it is so much more than that. My youngest, whom I attachment parent, who has always slept with me, who was breastfed for four and a half years until he weaned himself, is the most self assured, adventurous soul I have ever met. Not only that but he has this uncanny ability to forgive people and move on, set backs don't stand in his way. I credit this to my parenting choices with him... attachment parenting, self led weaning from extended breastfeeding, extended co-sleeping, and unschooling. If not, it must be something else that I am doing right! :-)