Every parent has to eat their words at least once. I am proud to say that so far, I’ve stuck to my guns on many issues that I got flak for before the baby was born…like natural birth, breastfeeding and cloth diapers. But I did cave on co-sleeping. I was so sure by the end of the first month, I’d have this baby sleeping soundly through the night in his own, beautifully decorated crib. I even bought a ridiculously expensive sound and motion monitor that could detect his breathing to ensure I could lay him in the other room with the confidence that my high-tech SIDS alarm would watch over him.
Five months into it, this is the reality: a queen size bed that last year seemed luxurious compared to the futon is now bursting with sleeping bodies. On one side, my comatose husband, blissfully unaware of any noise (including, sometimes, the alarm clock), one of the dogs nestled into the crook of his knees or the small of his back. Next to him is Emerson, both arms thrown up by his head as if he fell asleep while riding the world’s most boring roller coaster, quietly munching away at his pacifier and dreaming baby dreams about endless milk and diapers that never need changing. Next to him is the other dog, successfully taking up the equivalent of an adult human despite being 20lbs and snoring as loud as one too.
And then there’s me…my body contorted into the tiniest of spaces, using the corner of a sheet for warmth because one of the dogs has swirled the comforter into a personal nest. I usually wake up with one section of my body numb from the cold, another numb from falling asleep, and another screaming with pain.
So how did I end up here? The first couple of weeks, I stuck with the plan: waking up every 2-4 hours, padding to the “nursing station” set up in the living room with my pajamas still half undone from the last feeding and crusted with everything that came back up. Those initial sessions could sometimes last 30-40 minutes, meaning by the time I burped and changed him and got him back to sleep, I was looking at an hour of sleep for myself.
There’s exhaustion, and then there’s painful exhaustion…the kind where the mere act of holding your eyes open is torturous. There were times when I got up in the middle of the night and literally ran into walls or doors, my body momentarily bouncing backward like a weeble wobble before righting itself. I would keep walking as if nothing happened, but in the back of my hazy mind, I’d think, “That was funny.”
(Thank goodness I wasn’t holding the baby for any of those slapstick moments!)
My world changed when a lactation consultant taught me how to feed the baby lying down. I would bring him into our bed for the first feeding and then wake up the next morning in a panic because he was still there. Eventually exhaustion won out over fear and it became our routine.
Obviously, just like with the dogs, by body instinctually knows where he’s at at all times (hence the painful contorting). My sleep is still crappy and interrupted, but I get more of it – and have fewer bruises from hitting the door.
Occasionally, I pore through the baby books and the internet for answers to my sleeping dilemma. Or I ask friends and family for advice, hoping I won’t get a version of the “cry it out method” I’m not willing to try. We even borrowed a co-sleeper, thinking it might be a way to slowly move him out. After all, I do want to have more than 2 inches of sleeping space...and I’m afraid of the day Super Nanny comes knocking on my door.
But then there are the times I wake up and realize I’ve rolled away from Emerson. I look back and see that somehow he’s wiggled himself close enough to touch me with a single finger or has my nightgown clutched to his face. There are the nights I come to bed last and find my husband’s arm curled around his tiny body and his nose buried into sweaty baby hair. There are countless weekend mornings when all we do is lie in bed and enjoy Emerson’s drowsy, sheepish grins and the dogs’ comical attempts to vie for our attention.
So I guess I should stop worrying about it and figure I will move him out when the time is right.
Or else we’ll get a king-sized bed.