Virtually everyone who becomes a parent has a certain vision of how their life will proceed after having a kid. While wise people may warn us not to get too attached to whatever plans we make before we have kids, it's kinda hard not to. Surely, with the right research and planning, we can avoid all the pitfalls that relegated their plans to dust, right? Yeah, not really. Everyone's reality check happens sometime. Mine occurred when I tried to realize all the plans I made before co-sleeping, that went out the window pretty much immediately after my son was born.
By the time I started thinking about infant sleep arrangements, I was sleeping in a giant nest of pregnancy pillows in a desperate attempt to approximate something close to comfort, and missing the days when I used to fall asleep in my partner's arms. I was looking forward to returning to that arrangement, so naturally all of my sleeping plans revolved around not having a small person stage all-night dance parties in my bed and, instead, dozing off in their own space.
My small person had other ideas. You know that video where this cat is just knocking everything off of their human's desk? That was what my baby did to pretty much all of my sleep fantasies.
Yep, I made the same well-intentioned assumption plenty of other people make before having kids. "Well, ours won't be like that." As though we are the ones in charge of everything this child does and, if we're "good parents," everything will be perfectly smooth.
Turns out, your child gets a vote. Their vote can often translate into veto power, where things like food and sleep are concerned. I try to warn my soon-to-be parent friends about this as often as I can, though I'm sure they're all assuming I'm just a faulty parent, just like I assumed of all the people who tried to warn me. I'm so sorry, y'all. Trust me, I've paid for my hubris.
Fortunately, even though everything didn't go totally according to my plan, it still turned out well for the most part. We're all safe, we get enough sleep to function fairly well, and my partner and I find ways to have sex and do all the other stuff we hoped to do while our little guy was napping or sleeping, even if it doesn't all look exactly the way it did in my head.
He Was Going To Sleep In His Beautiful Co-Sleeper Attachment...
I knew before giving birth that I planned to breastfeed, and I'd heard about these little co-sleeper bassinets that strapped onto your bed. Having never had a baby sleep in my bed before, that seemed like the perfect compromise between having him near enough to breastfeed easily during the night, and being in a crib-like thing that seemed like an appropriate space for a baby to sleep. So I dutifully registered for one, and one of my awesome friends actually bought it, and we were on our way to actualizing my vision for post-birth sleep.
Except no, we weren't, at all. After my son was born, he patently refused to sleep on anything without a heartbeat for his entire first month of life. For many more months after that, he'd only sleep if he could easily reach my breasts, meaning either right on or next to me, in bed or while being worn. (Fortunately, I successfully re-purposed the co-sleeper into a play station with toys and activities, so we actually get more use out of it than we would have if we'd only used it for sleep. Otherwise, I would have died of friend guilt and had to write this for y'all from my actual grave.)
...Until He Was Old Enough To Rest Blissfully In His Own Bed...
Once he aged out of the co-sleeper between four and six months, he was then to begin sleeping in his crib in his room. I picked out several adorable sheets for his little bed, my partner perched a video monitor high upon the wall next to it, and it was all ready to go for when our little guy was ready.
Yeah, no. This, too, became a favorite spot for our cat to rest for the first few months after I gave birth, when I wasn't using it to sort laundry.
...In His *Perfectly Appointed* Room
Oh, and did I mention how I was going to create the most perfect nursery for him, too? And how it was going to have a mural based on his namesake on one wall? And/or be totally coordinated around a vintage train theme?
Yeah. Uh, I'm planning to finish hanging something in there on or before his second birthday in a couple of months. For now, nobody really spends enough time in there for it to really matter, so this got knocked pretty far down on the list of priorities.
I Would Work In My Beautiful Home Office During Naps...
While my perfect little angel snoozed peacefully in his own crib each day, I planned to get loads of writing and other work done in my always-neat-and-organized home office, glancing occasionally at him on the monitor.
This actually happens sometimes, nearly two years into this whole bio-motherhood endeavor. But just as often, "working in my home office" is actually "working on my phone while parked at Costco or Target" because that happens to be where he fell asleep, and I don't dare look a gift horse in the mouth. It took nearly a whole year to even get to the point where he'd sleep anywhere but directly on me; I don't question it or take it for granted when he falls asleep anywhere else. I just figure out a way to make it work.
...Or Work Out During Naps...
Fantasy: As soon as humanly possible after giving birth, I'll use at least some of his naps to exercise.
Reality: Oh, he won't nap unless he's laying next to me or wrapped on my body. Guess I'll nap with him, or maybe rock some squats while he's in my wrap, maybe? Yeah, nap sounds good.
...Which Always Happened Predictably And Peacefully, At The Same Time
Hahahaha, yeah no. The Parenting Gods don't like me that much. In the past few months, I've become able to ballpark when he'll fall asleep around midday. But just as often as a nap happens after a nice lunch-story-nurse-sleep routine, sleep just sneaks up on both of us completely out of the blue. Thank the heavens for smartphones that let me quickly shift gears and capitalize on the moment to get something done.
He’d Also Have A Lovely And Peaceful Bedtime Routine...
Shortly after dinner, we'd change him into his adorable pajamas, read a few stories, and perhaps nurse a little bit. Then he'd yawn, and we'd put him in his bed, where he'd drift off to sleep without protest.
Or, he'd run around our living room like the Tasmanian Devil for two hours after dinner, fight us for having the unmitigated gall to try to brush his teeth, listen to stories, nurse to sleep, and then rest in his crib for a couple of hours at most.
...Followed By Perfectly Uninterrupted Sleep
In my pre-parent fantasy, because I always took perfect care of my perfect baby, he had no reason to do anything but sleep perfectly. Such is the natural Way of Things, you know?
Not at all. My son does sleep more or less like that, if there's a milk-laden boob within an inch of his face and he's not teething, or sick, or antsy. Under any other circumstances, all bets are off.
I Was Never Going To Be Kicked In The Face...
Because my perfect little angel was always going to sleep in his perfect little room, getting kicked in my not-all-that-perfect face by a restless, teething toddler was not in any of my perfect plans.
...Or Headbutted In The Nose
My perfect imaginary baby also never woke me up with a nosebleed. Because perfect, and imaginary.
My Partner And I Would Have Tons Of Sex, In Our Own Bed
Because we'd still have our own bed all to ourselves a few short months postpartum, I planned to be able to resume our typical sex life as soon as possible, bucking the odds for parents of new humans everywhere.
Turns out, having a new human be totally physically dependent on you will put a bit of a dent in your sex life, no matter how great you're doing at the whole parenting thing. Fortunately, we eventually learned what all happily coupled co-sleeping parents know: sex does not just have to happen in bed, or at bedtime.
Then Fall Asleep Until Baby Arose Exactly 12 Hours After Bedtime
Twenty two months later, I'm still holding out hope that this might happen someday. Someday, he really will go to sleep in his own bed and wake up there after sunrise, without waking up to join us in bed in the middle of the night. Until then, though, I'll let him sleep in my now-perfected bed-sharing pose: nestled in the crook of my arm where he can easily reach a breast, yet not easily reach any vulnerable parts of my face.