What’s a better wake-up alarm? your kid hollering from a room in the distance, or finding her foot in your face? Given that I’ve woken up for the past 8 years, with all three of my daughters in bed with me, you’d think I have a ready-made answer but I still have to think about it for a minute, and I usually come to the same conclusion: foot in the face wins. “Yeah, better than 50/50,” agrees my husband about our co-sleeping situation.
So that was how the family bed we never thought to include in our plans came to be. You know, that same bed, the instructor advised against in the hospital birthing class, and which I heeded by purchasing an expensive rocker bassinet with super soft bedding (that I decisively set up next to ours). I’ll nurse the baby and then put her right back in or so I thought.
That plan lasted for exactly eight miserable hours of putting my new daughter in and out, in and out. Mia would squirm, cry, spit-up, and will only relax when she’s back in my arms. Because desperate situations necessitate desperate measures, I pulled back the sheets and brought her in with me. We rebelled from that day forth.
I know that co-sleeping is not for everyone and that it can be potentially dangerous, but I also know many moms like me start with the best buy-the-book intentions and end up making a sharp U-turn along the way. I think that’s okay too. For me, the alternative to co-sleeping was more precarious. My logic was and still is that I’m clumsier and way more accident-prone — as a half sleep-waking mom lifting her baby out of a crib or sitting up in a rocker than I am lying next to her in the middle of my bed, with the added benefit of being able to press my hand against her chest now and then to make sure she’s still breathing — neurotic as that may sound.
I learned slowly as I made the identity switch to “mom” that it was time to let go of the self-judgment I carried with me from pregnancy, to show myself compassion that not everything works out according to plan, that there isn’t always a clear-cut “right way” of doing things. Like the epidural, I had hoped to avoid but couldn’t in the throes of pretty traumatic labor. Or the breastfeeding I had a hell of a time establishing and then had to part with after four months. Or the postpartum anxiety that made me feel completely out of sorts. Or this, co-sleeping.
Looking back, it was perhaps inevitable, maybe even genetically predisposed, that my daughters would become attached to the sleeping arrangement we had originally succumbed to for survival purposes. When I was their age, the best antidote to being scared of the dark— “the coziest spot in our house,” Mia says—was cuddled up next to mom and dad. I remember the ghosts slipping away and the darkness not feeling so oppressive when I was catching Z’s by my parents.
From an adult perspective, I’ve found there are other benefits—unspoken bonding that happens when you’re sleeping side by side with your kids. I’ll never forget one particular morning during those foggy newborn days when I turned over to see Mia’s almost one-month-old eyes transfixed by the light and shadows coming in through our blinds. I took a deep breath as I lay there admiring her. Maybe it was the first deep breath I had taken in months because a feeling of contentedness worked its way into me and started unraveling the stress I had accumulated since her birth.
That being said, once our girls were past the infant stage, my husband and I were determined to get them back into their beds. We wanted them to learn to sleep on their own; we also wanted our nights back. We were almost successful. The girls start out in their rooms, which helps. But inevitably, around midnight, they creep into ours one by one, stealthily slipping under our covers as if they’ve got a silent pact with each other to make the nightly pilgrimage. Half the time we’re down for the count and don’t even notice, but when we do we don’t force them out, we just try to go back to sleep. It usually works.
A few chaotic wake-ups every week are guaranteed, but there are lovely calm mornings too — when I’m up early and want to press snooze on endless repeat at the sight of my girls lined up like peacefully sleeping sardines. Because I know that the days of our family bed are numbered and that in a flash I’ll open my eyes and they will be gone. Will we miss their sweaty heads then? The rise and fall of their chests? Their feet in our faces? Yes, I think we will.
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POSTED IN: TALK · TAGGED: BED, FAMILY BED, HOUSE FURNITURES