Deciding where and how your family sleeps is one of (the many) "big decisions" parents face. Every family makes different choices, and different scenarios work for different, unique situations. Regardless of your choice, it's never permanent; even if it lasts years. Babies, toddlers, and preschoolers all grow up and sleeping arrangements will be modified. Which means, of course, that you're bound to experience the emotional stages of weaning your kid off bed-sharing if, like me, bed-sharing ended up being the right decision for you and your family.
I was pregnant with my oldest's little brother when I realized I was staring the end of our bed-sharing relationship in the face. I knew I'd want to sleep with the baby, so we wanted big brother in his own bed before we brought the new baby home from the hospital. The transition was painless for my toddler, but I'd be lying if I could say the same for me. I went through a broad range of emotions and wasn't 100 percent confident I was making the right decision. Ultimately, it was for the best and we have no regrets, but when you're in the thick of it it's difficult to see the forest through the trees.
When you bed-share for a significant amount of time, there are bound to be a few bumps in the road and a lot of second-guessing. If you're planning to transition from a family bed to solo sleeping, you might experience a few of the same emotions I did. Hey, at least we're not alone, right?
Stage 1: Anger
Whether it's been six months or four long years, there comes a time when you're just done bed-sharing. One too many sleepless nights; one too many kicks in the face; one too many hours spent hanging onto the edge of the bed because your kid insists on sleeping perpendicular to you. There will be one straw that breaks the camel's back of your sleeping arrangement, and regardless of how pro-bed-sharing you are, and regardless of how strongly you believe in bed-sharing as part of attachment theory or how much you used to love sleeping with your kid, you will be over it.
Stage 2: Exhaustion
At the end of the day (or the start of a new day, honestly) you're just tired. You're so tired and you've been tired for years. You literally can't remember the last time you slept for six (or more) uninterrupted hours. A full night's sleep seems like an unattainable dream, but you're body craves it, so you're willing to do to the work necessary to finally experience it. Hopefully.
Stage 3: Desperation
Desperation will inevitably kick in and you'll decide it's time for your kid to move to another bed. Even if you don't really want bed-sharing to end, you are desperate for a restful night with no one's sweaty head on your arm.
Stage 4: Determination
Now is the moment on this emotional rollercoaster in which a plan is a necessity. You decide you're going to talk to your kid calmly and like an adult, explain what's going to happen, and make this damn thing work. The dream of sleep is so close you can taste it, and this perfect, fool-proof plan will definitely ensure that you'll be sleeping in no time.
Stage 5: Anxiety
In the days leading up the the "big day," you start to worry. What if your toddler cries? What if they end up needing you for something extremely important, and you're sleeping in the next room? What if they're scared? What if they think I don't love them?
I actually worried that someone would sneak through my son's bedroom window and take him the first night he slept alone. Thank you, anxiety. You're the best.
Stage 6: Concern
You put your child to bed and go sit down, ready to relax, but you find yourself getting up to check on them more than you did when they were a newborn. Every few minutes it's, "Did I hear something?" or, "Did they call my name?"
Stage 7: Sadness
When you're ready, you climb into bed and prepare your body for the blissful rest that's sure to befall you. Instead, you're overcome with this palpable, relentless sadness. The bed feels so big and empty. There's no little feet on you, no one playing with your hair, and suddenly this just doesn't seem "right."
Stage 8: Grief
Of course, the absence of those little feet make you realize that those little feet are no longer so little. Your baby is growing up, and you grieve the days of sticky fingers and sloppy kisses. Your soul aches for those sweaty heads and the drool on your arm that, not too long ago, was driving you absolutely insane.
You almost want to get your kid and bring them back into bed. Almost.
Stage 9: Resignation
Then again, you know it's time.
While it was difficult for me to transition my son to his own bed, I knew he was fine. He went to sleep with no problems. He stayed asleep more soundly than he did when he was in our bed. I realized he wasn't stressed, so there was no reason for me to be stressed. He's not stressed, you are.
Stage 10: Bliss
Then you wake up in the morning after a full night of uninterrupted sleep, and all is right in the freakin' world again. You feel like you're 20 and ready for the day. You snuggle deep into the covers, stretched out across the whole bed with no one touching you and it's pretty damn amazing.
Passing from one phase of life into another is never easy, but when you're doing it on eight hours of sleep, it's definitely easier.