I love my bed.
It has seen its fair share of action, from a house in Nashville to two lofts and a condo in Chicago. It has been dragged through the grimy streets of Fulton Market, crammed into an elevator on Jackson and hauled up two flights of stairs in River West. It has been nestled against a wall in a little cave in a loft when Alex and I first met.
On our first real date, we went out to dinner and came back to my place. It had snowed five feet and everything was icy and white. Since it was getting late and I had to get up at 4:50a.m. to be at work, I told him I needed to go to bed.
“Okay,” he said, and proceeded to take off his jacket.
“You’re… staying?” I asked, perplexed and suddenly terrified. What kind of girl did he think I was? “Like sleeping here?” On our first date?!! I wanted to add. I had a nighttime ritual – washing my face, brushing my teeth, taking out my contacts, examining my skin, wearing crappy pajamas… He couldn’t possibly see all of that on our first night.
“Yeah,” he answered, as if we’d been doing this forever. Maybe it was the snow that kept him there, maybe it wasn’t, but when we crawled back into my little cave (both fully dressed) and he tucked in beside the wall, I lay there, playing horror movies in my head. As I searched the darkness for a sharp object, he gingerly gripped my hand and pulled it to his chest.
“Goodnight, Rea,” he said.
He didn’t move the whole night, keeping my hand clasped tightly in his own. The next morning, as I poured him a big cup of coffee in a to-go container, he said it was the best sleep he’d ever had. As I kissed him goodbye, I knew I never wanted him to leave. Instead, I said, “It’s the Tempur-Pedic. It’s magic, that thing.”
And it is.
Unfortunately, Sophie has experienced the Tempur, in all its body-hugging, foamy, warm glory. We have been co-sleeping with her since the early days.
Until now… sort of.
I flip on the light in my bedroom. I pull back the fresh sheets and slide under the covers. I put my glasses on and slip a book into my hands. I begin reading. Alex comes in and scoots in beside me. We immediately begin playing, hiding under the covers and entangling arms and legs.
It has been almost eight months since we’ve had a light on in our bedroom at night; almost eight months since we’ve laid side by side, with books in hand. Our bed is not our bed – it is home to Neruda and Sophie, but tonight, Sophie is asleep on her crib mattress which we have moved to the floor of her room, so I can go in and lay with her and feed her when I need to.
This bliss only lasts for a couple of hours before I grab her warm body and pull her into our bed, where we all sleep soundly until she stirs near morning time, emitting a soft cry before finding the source of her food.
Many people are baffled by our decision to co-sleep. “Won’t you roll over on her? Won’t you lose intimacy? Isn’t that unhealthy? Won’t the baby become dependent?”
To which I shrug and say, “It just feels right.” I don’t mention that she began sleeping through the night at about a month old (with the occasionally intermittent feeding). I don’t mention that she is safer and sleeps harder knowing she’s protected by her parents and that she’s not all alone, with crib rails surrounding her. She doesn’t have to cry to be fed or go back to sleep. Of course, I don’t mention that I desperately miss the warmth of my husband’s body, even more than I love my little girl’s. I don’t mention that I miss reading before bed – that it is the way that I unwind – and that I would love not to sleep with my shirt hiked up around my chin.
I don’t mention these things because they are irrelevant in the face of so many other things. Is it true that I used to watch movies where families literally shared their bed and cringed? Sure. Do I sometimes fear she will be six years old, still trying to climb into our bed? Of course.
But something else overrides all this, and it’s not just my refusal to let her cry it out (a technique that has never made sense to me, especially when a child is too young to reason with or explain things to).
It’s that her being a baby is almost over, and I will never regret the time she spends in my arms, curled into my side, upside down, on all fours, or under the covers. I will never regret recalling how her little hand strokes my arm while she’s feeding, as if to comfort me instead of the other way around. I will never regret waking up to see her smiling and giggling right next to me, knowing she is safe and sound. I will never regret waking up to see her spooning Alex, the two of them pressed limb to limb.
I will never regret that she gets to spend at least eight hours next to me. I will never regret rubbing her little hands or back or legs, putting her into a deep sleep from touch alone.
I will always remember these things and cling tightly to them later in life, when she doens’t need me, when she’d rather be in her room alone, when my mere presence will make her roll her eyes and she’ll pull away when I try to hug her.
My little girl is only little for so long, and as her independence grows daily, I feel small pieces of me growing with her.
Yes, I am learning to let go bit by bit, trying slowly to transition her out of our bed and into her own little Montessori room…
But if she needs me, I am there, because it’s my job to love her, to cuddle her, to hold her, to feed her, to make her know she is safe.
I can blame it on the power of the Tempur-Pedic (as compared to her bricklike crib mattress) or I can simply say that one day, about three weeks in, I pulled her into our bed and she slept the whole night through. So what if our bed has become a family bed?
It won’t be that way forever. It feels right.
And so, for now, I give in.