Every morning, I wake up in bed with 3 guys, a girl, one turtle and several rabbits. Far from a sordid arrangement, the reality is closer to a cramped and sometimes stinky circus that includes me, my husband, our toddler and dogs, along with a few of my son’s current favorite stuffed animals.
We never planned on co-sleeping, although not because of a particular aversion to the idea. During the early days of our little guy’s infancy, there were certainly occasions when he fell asleep in our bed (well, usually his parents fell asleep in their bed while trying to convince the baby to sleep). For the most part, though, T went willingly into and slept peacefully in his crib and toddler bed for the first two years of his life.
Just before Timo’s third birthday, Jeff had a long overdue shoulder repair. It was a complicated surgery with an extended recovery period, including an absolute ban on lifting anything heavier than a can of soda for two months. Bedtime became a bit complicated, since we often read to and rocked T to sleep in the glider and then transferred him into his converted toddler bed. Jeff is tall and long-armed, sadly I am neither of those things, so even on tiptoes, leaning against the guard rail, I could not get little dude over the side and onto his mattress without having to basically drop him the last 6 inches. Needless to say, this did not lend itself to what one might call a smooth transition.
Beginning the day of Jeff’s surgery, I put T in the master bed, next to me. Jeff hunkered down in the guest room where he couldn’t get bumped into or climbed on. Although T thought sleeping in Mommy and Daddy’s bed was the Greatest Thing Ever, I initially found it anxiety-provoking. For the first few nights, I barely slept, in part because I was listening for Jeff in case he needed pain meds, but also because I was afraid that Timo would roll off of the bed.
As the days turned to weeks, and Jeff’s comfort level increased, I started to rest a bit easier. This provided ample opportunity for T to join forces with the dogs and use up every available inch of space the bed (not to mention hogging pillows and blankets). He also learned to use the TV remote as well as my cell phone, so I began waking to find Bubble Guppies on the television, and snazzy toddler selfies saved on my phone.
Once Jeff had healed enough to return to the master bed, we bought T a fabulous firetruck bed – only to find that he preferred sleeping with us. As it turned out, we discovered that we also preferred having him with us. This was one of the many pleasant surprises about accidental co-sleeping. For nearly a decade, I could only fall asleep with the television on. It was a lousy practice, but one to which I had become accustomed. Jeff often watches sports in the evening, and would frequently fall asleep watching the game in the other room. Our bedtime routines had created somewhat of a disconnect between us.
Having family bedtime has forced us to break our TV-watching cycle. It has been over a year now, and I don’t miss it one bit. Turning the lights out earlier has also meant that we no longer lie in bed for an hour or so, ignoring each other while surfing the internet. Not only are we more focused on family time, I have found that since I stopped using my phone at bedtime to catch up on email, the back pain that plagued me for years has diminished.
What I enjoy the most about our sleeping arrangement, though, is that my sweet little boy’s face is the last thing I see before I fall asleep at night, and the first thing I see every morning. That is something I wouldn’t trade for all the leg-room and extra pillows in the world.