THE FAMILY BEDLAM
Updated: Nov 6, 2021
by Renea Dijab
Anthology: MOTHERHOOD MAY CAUSE DROWSINESS
Ah, the joys of co-sleeping, also known by sadists as “the family bed.” Proponents of this lifestyle neglect to tell parents that every breath they take will be inhaled through a mass of tangled hair worming its way into their nostrils, and long after childbirth, a tiny foot will still be kicking them in the ribs.
Way back before I had a child, I said things like, "Babies are supposed to sleep in their own beds!" and "It's not healthy for a child or a marriage for the baby to sleep with the parents." What the hell did I know? I was an idiot.
My husband and I tried to put our daughter to sleep in her own bed. I think she was two years old before I completely submitted to her will and gave up any hope, like a doomed prisoner sentenced to life without parole. From that point on, she officially slept with us.
Sure, I would have loved a decent night’s sleep, but I didn’t want my baby to stop needing my comfort because she no longer trusted that I would be there. I wasn’t about to let her “cry it out,” when she needed me (yet somehow, I was the one who wound up doing the crying).
Our daughter chose to sleep between us, but due to her overwhelming need to be close to me and my breasts (before and after weaning), she literally slept on my head while mashing her face to my breast. Trust me, a good night’s sleep is elusive when five pounds of toddler head rests on your eardrum and the crook of a tiny elbow acts as a blindfold (but at least I knew where the rest of her body parts were.)
The night usually began with one tiny arm over my neck and one tiny leg thrown over my waist in a human impression of “baby monkey clings to momma” - oh so cute in the wild, not so cute in our queen-size bed.
Sometimes she clung to my face with all four limbs, like a creature from the movie Alien. Other times, she shoved her head so close to my nostrils, that death by suffocation was very likely before sunrise.
Yes, my husband suffered the consequences too, but I shielded him as best I could and took the brunt of it because he had to go to work in the morning. All I had to do was stay home and take care of my little soul-sucking vampire.
Occasionally, I would get out of bed and weep inconsolably and tell my husband I didn't know how I was going to live through the day.
It would be years before I achieved my right to sanity - and sleep.
Co-sleeping with my child was never my plan. It was more like karma for having had strong opinions about how people should raise their children before I became a mother myself.
When our daughter was five, we planned to move to a different state, and we thought this would be the perfect time to introduce the concept of her “Own Big Girl Room.” We showed her a picture of a five-hundred-dollar loft bed. It would be a reward for sleeping in her own room. It had canvas panels, stairs, a SLIDE, and a turret that made it look like a castle. (Are you kidding me? I wanted this bed!)
She had to sleep in her room for one week before I ordered the new bed. My husband and I did not want to spend that kind of money if she continued to sleep on my head or choke me to death while I slumbered.
As we house shopped in our new state, we turned down many a possibility due to the lay-out of the rooms. Her bedroom could not be on the opposite side of the house from ours. If we had any hope of ever sleeping alone as a married couple again, her bedroom could not be miles away from ours during the initial transition phase.
We finally found a lovely home with a Jack ‘n’ Jill bath between her room and ours. The door could be left open and I could talk to her from our bed at night. I pictured us saying “goodnight” and “I love you” back and forth like The Waltons, until she'd fall asleep, then I'd spread out in the new king-size bed, limbs in every direction, reveling in all that room!
I am thankful we have moved on, but I am in no rush. I want to celebrate each milestone - with plenty of time to enjoy it before it's gone.
I am proud of the lovely child that I brought into this world. (And I am happy to have my bed and my boobs back.) I'll be sleeping easier from here on out.
Wait…my now nine-year-old just asked, "Mom, when will I be old enough to kiss boys?"