By: Kesley Faye – Confluence Daily is your daily news source for women in the know.
“I would never let my children in my bed with my partner and I, EVER.” I announced confidently as I tossed my gorgeously, salon perfected hair over my shoulder.
I stood in the center of the stunning boutique I was managing at the time. Surrounded by luxury leathers, sparkling Swarovski crystals danced from delicate chains under perfectly pointed warm lighting. The air smelled like the fresh baked cookies we offered our customers as they shopped. I glanced at the clock, counting down until my work day was done and I would lock the doors to this beautiful, sparkling, organized world that I ran like a tight ship.
My hand softly lowered to my belly, to the bump under my tailored little black dress, and the conversation continued. The discussion was shared with two other beautifully dressed, slightly grey haired ladies that were part of my team.
‘Honey, trust me, when it comes time to sleep and that baby don’t want to be put down, you’ll bring her on into your bed and we won’t say we told you so!’
Another ‘I would never’ from me, with another hair toss I’m sure, because why not. I dismissed their well-meaning advice. Little did I know, as I had only just announced my pregnancy, that there would be many more conversations like this. I rested in my confidence that I would give birth to an angelic, sound sleeping baby. My partner and I would retreat in the evenings to our private love lair as we listened to the dull roar of white noise on the monitor and our little one would sleep peacefully in her crib. After all, I was four months pregnant and knew everything I needed to about parenting an infant (insert sarcasm here.)
“Yes, she is sleeping in our bed.” I state in defeat as I swipe a halo of broken hairs away from my puffy, exhausted face.
I sit cross-legged on the couch with my two-week old baby settled across the Boppy, nursing on one breast while the other breast leaks milk through my already stained and somewhat crusty nursing top. I’m surrounded by half done laundry, a cold cup of coffee that was abandoned in a fit of swaying and shushing and ‘there, there’ earlier in the morning. The house smells like old take out and the dirty dishes that accumulate as I stumble through an experience that I was so very unrealistically prepared for.
My sweet friend, mother of two, nods sympathetically. She bore witness to my confident ‘I would never’s and slightly judging eyes when I was pregnant and now offered me grace as I sat humbled in my new reality.
My idea of motherhood had begun to shatter in the delivery room. The natural birth I had dreamt of was instead replaced with an epidural and complications. Skin to skin was abandoned as my darling baby was whisked away to the NICU after less than 30 seconds in my arms, where she would stay for seven days. I would go home alone with a deflated body and an empty car seat.
When I finally brought my daughter home, free from the tangles of monitors and beeps and needles, I was shaken. Her sleep cycle was reversed from being in such an unusual environment for her formative days. I felt gripping fear if my eyes weren’t on her, watching her chest rise and fall. I no longer had the luxury of knowing an alarm would sound if something wasn’t right. I was alone with her, in silence, with the weight of the responsibility of keeping her safe crushing my sanity by the moment.
There was no laying her down at night. This baby of mine rested peacefully in my arms and my arms alone.
After the fourth sleepless night of being home with her, I hurried to prepare breakfast for my partner and myself as he worked from his laptop in the living room. Somehow in my exhaustion the bowls of food fell from my hands simultaneously and I found myself standing in the kitchen in a circle of shattered dishes and scrambled eggs. He flew across the room, guided me past the broken dishes, sat me down and cleaned the mess as I sobbed, exhausted on the couch.
Once the mess was cleaned, and the meal remade, he gently stated that something had to change. I had to find a way to sleep. I spent the rest of the day reading about safe bed sharing and that night began the humbling experience of shedding my ‘never’s.
That night, when it was time for bed, there were still so many doubting voices blaring in my head. Am I being selfish? If something happens to her it will be my fault. Am I setting us up for problems down the road? What will people think?
I try desperately to quiet the thoughts coursing through my mind. Fear of suffocating her, fear of accidentally hurting her in my sleep. Thoughts swirling, we lay down anyway.
It doesn’t take long for me to drift off that night after days on end without rest. I wake after about two hours with a terrified gasp only to see her resting safely and happily next to me. Waking that way becomes a new normal for the next several months. I learned to function on broken sleep, but it was sleep nonetheless.
As months pass and my joy grows and my fear fades, I find some of our sweetest and happiest moments in those dimly lit nights and mornings. Nothing matches the way my heart feels when I wake up in the night and see my daughter and her daddy snuggled up with the same open mouth happiness as they slumber. I’ve had the joy of seeing her sweet little eyes as they become more and more aware every day as she opens them for the first time.
“Yes, my daughter still sleeps in our bed.” I say confidently to anyone who asks.
It looks different as time goes by. While at the beginning I had to lay with her the entire night, I now can put her to bed in her own room and when she wakes after several hours she climbs in bed with us. There was a lot of transition to this point and many sleepless nights and restful ones as well.
Parenting doesn’t stop when the sun sets, and sharing a family bed fits that mindset for us.
Drifting to sleep together each night as I felt the rise and fall of her warm chest against mine, my anxiety slowly began to calm. I knew she was safe.
One of the best terms I stumbled across as I sought support for bedsharing families was ‘biologically normal’. My daughter wasn’t defective for wanting to feel safe and close, and I wasn’t strange for wanting her with me. We were simply meeting a biologically normal need, and equally as important- we were doing what worked for our family.
Welcoming our daughter into our bed was a saving grace.
Did it suddenly mean I got long stretches of sleep? No.
Did my daughter sleep through the night completely tear free? Hardly.
We sacrifice some things, and what we gain is priceless.