We have never had a family bed.
Before the boys were born, we were completely in agreement that while they would room-in with us as infants, they would not share our bed. Even still, I was nervous how it would go, having them in the room with us. As someone who has historically not had a great track-record with sleep herself, I thought I would be awake all night, listening to the boys coo or sigh or cough or grunt. I thought it might not work, having them in there, because I’d never be able to relax enough to sleep.
When they were finally born (correction: when they were finally born AND then finally brought home) we started them in our room the very first nights. (A Monday night for Tiny, the following Sunday night joined by the Lion.) We had a full-sized co-sleeper attached to my side of the bed (and by the way, it was really hard to GET OUT of my bed, the thing was so damn large and what with me being post-c-section and all) and put the boys, swaddled up, in it. Three nights in, we realized the Lion needed an inclined sleep surface because of his reflux, so we added a Rock n Play to the mix (further minimizing my path out of bed) and the Lion slept, swaddled up in his Rock n Play, and Tiny slept swaddled up in his co-sleeper. And moms slept in the bed.
And? I loved it.
I loved loved loved having them in our room. Which shocked and surprised me. I loved gazing sleepily at them while I drifted off to sleep, I loved being able to reach out and touch them when I rolled over, I loved the feeling of all four of us sleeping together in a “real pile” (to use a line from the Where the Wild Things Are movie), I loved not having to leave my room to feed them. I loved all of it. I even loved the times when I would doze off after feeding one of them solo while lying down and waking up an hour (or three) later and realizing this tiny, perfect, 6-pound newborn had been sleeping contentedly in the crook of my arm for the last few hours.
S. never felt comfortable with bed-sharing because she thought it unsafe. So she was never happy when these accidental hours of co-sleeping took place. And I suppose she was right. Safe bed sharing, as I understand it, is supposed to include a bed devoid of pillows, blankets, comforters, etc. and is not on a platform or a box spring but is very low to the ground. Our bed was none of those things.
When the boys got to be about 5 months old, they moved their bed time up from 10pm to 8, and then 7pm, all of their own accord. Suddenly, we were no longer going to sleep at the same time as them, and it made sense to put them to sleep in their room, while we had a few hours of couple time before going to sleep ourselves. We had a few nights of putting them to bed in the co-sleeper and Rock n Play and then sneaking in to our bed in the dark a few hours later, but that seemed silly. So the boys transitioned to their room and their cribs. They still got up to feed overnight for another couple of months, but we would bring them in to nurse and then take them back to their beds.
And I missed them. For months I would say to S. “I miss the boys” when we were going to sleep. Even on the days where I couldn’t WAIT for that seven pm bedtime to roll around because I was so DONE, I still missed having them in our room when I went to sleep.
Now, dear reader, do not mistake this for a confession that I wanted them back in our room or in my bed. I do not. At least, rationally and logistically, I do not. I like that they have a separate space for sleep. I think it is an important skill that they know how to put themselves to sleep after we’ve done their nighttime routine. I like having our bedroom as OUR bedroom. Being able to read or talk in bed, with the lights on, being able to watch TV on our laptop. To unwind with my spouse at the end of our day. To unwind as an individual at the end of the day. To go to bed when I want to and not at 7:30 when the boys do. To say nothing of one’s love life, which, well…I don’t know how that works, really, if you bed share. I guess you do it at other times in other rooms but anyway….that’s not really my point. My point is, I both want and need our bed to be our bed and not a family bed. I can see no logistical way for the boys to sleep with us AND for S. and I still to get good rest, and get what we need for ourselves and for each other as a couple. I love the IDEA of a family bed, but I see no real way to make it work for me or for my family.
The boys have always been easy to us in the sleep department and we are lucky and thankful for it. They’ve slept through the night since 8 months and usually do a solid 11 or 12 hours. They don’t get up crazy early. They put themselves to sleep. (These days, that seems to take over an hour, but whatever. They can count or sing or recite the alphabet or “read” books up there as long as they need to. It doesn’t involve me, because I kiss them goodnight at 7:30.)
But Monday night was a weird night. The Lion woke up screaming at 11:15, just a few minutes after I had finally dozed off. Tiny joined in. And for the next two hours, S. and I were up and down, in and out of their room, talking, swaying, singing, reading, changing diapers, administering ibuprofen, trying everything we could to get them to calm down and back to sleep. But they got themselves so worked up, it started feeding on itself and they couldn’t get themselves soothed. After finally just resolving to let them cry it out, we said goodnight and came back to our bed. Where we proceeded to listen to Tiny (who was standing up) scream “MOMMY” over and over and over for 45 minutes. Lion was sorta making his way back to sleep but Mr. T. would not relent. It was after 1am. S. and I were lying in our bed, awake, listening to the screaming. Tiny was screaming. Lion was rolling around, trying to get back to sleep.
Fuck it, I said. I yanked Tiny from his crib and carried him into our room.
He laid down in our bed between us and I dried his tears as he caught his breath and stopped his sobs. He started to talk to us and we told him: “It’s nighttime. No more talking. Go to sleep.”
Within minutes, he was asleep. And so we were. And we all stayed that way til morning. Sure, I was woken up a few times by his tossing or turning. (S. reports more than a few kicks.) But we SLEPT.
And I loved it.
The only thing I regretted was that the Lion wasn’t with us too. (Not that all 4 of us would have FIT. We have a queen and my 2-year olds are BIG.) But I loved having Tiny between us. I loved reached my arm over him and cuddling his tiny, two-and-a-half year old self and being able to hold my wife’s hand at the same time. I loved sleeping next to him, feeling his breath and his body next to mine, just like I did when he was newly born.
Tuesday night everyone slept in their own beds again. And they will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
But Monday night? Even though it was hell, and I got so little sleep. and had to deal with hours of toddler screaming? Well. Monday night was worth it. Because it gave me the chance to indulge in my bed-sharing fantasies.
Just this once.