I Didn't Co-Sleep With My Baby & I've Made My Peace With It
Our baby came home from the hospital tiny, like all new babies do. Tiny and new and precious. My husband and I were tired, and new at parenting, and scared. The crib seemed entirely too large for a 5-pound turkey, so we placed him in a bouncer and placed that next to our bed, night after night. But that only lasted for a little while. We shipped him out five weeks into his stay — he belonged in his own bedroom. The decision to keep our baby from our bedroom meant that I didn't ever co-sleep. Looking back, I'm OK with our decision.
Frankly, I would have been happy to keep him in our bedroom until his limbs grew over the sides of the little sleeping chair, but his daddy wasn’t having it. “I can’t sleep with him right there, making sounds,” he said. I can’t sleep without them, I wanted to say. I love the sounds that tell me he’s alive, that he’s real, and that he’s finally here. I loved his presence next to us, turning our two-man crew into a three-human family. I loved waking up and being able to see him, up close and personal. You want me to grow something inside me that lasts the span of multiple seasons, and then stick him in the room next door?, I wanted to ask my partner.
Of course I've lost out on some things I won’t ever get to have. I'll never know what it’s like to wake up and see the sunlight on my sleeping baby’s face. I've never had my arms and legs tangled in his, overnight. The last day he slept inside my belly was the last time he slept with me. And that breaks my heart.
I knew I could sleep without him in there, but I just didn't want to. However, I also knew that it wouldn't keep me up at night if he were across the hallway. I would not lose sleep that my husband currently was. Having our baby in the room kept him awake all night. I listened to his complaints, and fought back until I felt a little guilty, finally. I didn't want to rob my partner of sleep. So I packed up the bouncy chair and placed the baby in the room next to ours.
Soon, I learned to sleep just fine. I checked on him every night before I turned out my light, and kept the monitor close, so I could still hear him breathe. There were times that I wanted to pick him up and place him on my pillow so that I could feel closer to him, but the fear of smothering kept me away from doing so.
I didn’t think about any of those new-mom fears when we decided to ship the kid across the hallway. I did it to be considerate to my husband, but about five minutes after the child relocated, our sex life came back big time.
I came into mom without a lot of reference as to how others had done it. I had a couple friends with children, but I hadn't gone through it with them, so the discussions around all the different aspects had never occurred. I hadn't even ever thought seriously about what it would be like to invite a baby into bed, or even into our bedroom. I recalled that one friend slept with her baby on her chest for the entire first year. She said it was the only way he would sleep. While it sounded somewhat romantic, it also sounded a little bit miserable to me.
A lot of our child-rearing decisions were made on the fly. We didn't go over benefits of co-sleeping and drawbacks with a pencil and a fine-tooth comb. We just kind of did what seemed right in the moment. And while that can often be relatively stress-free, sometimes it causes you to miss out on opportunities. You can't find the best restaurant in town if you do no research — well, unless you just happen to saunter in. We've had a pretty great couple of years with our kid, but to be honest, it's possible they could have been better had we read more, and talked to other parents more.
He and I have to stay close — close as can be — in order to parent like a well-oiled machine, and for us, that involves a lot of sex. And sex can be hard to accomplish with an infant on the premises.
I was 35 when I got pregnant, old enough to have paid a lot of attention to the societal discourse we have around pregnancy and family. Prior to my pregnancy, I paid a lot of attention to the negative discussion around having children. Commercials showing harried women and couples fighting. Statements like "you’ll never be alone again," "you’ll never have nice things again," "you’ll resent your husband," and "you’ll never have sex again" were everywhere, every time I looked. I bought into these ideas easily. The people espousing them were parents. I assumed they were just telling the whole truth.
I didn’t think about any of those new-mom fears when we decided to ship the kid across the hallway. I did it to be considerate to my husband, but about five minutes after the child relocated, our sex life came back big time. We’ve had so much sex since our baby was born; I can’t believe it. We’re three years into our relationship, and we’re acting more like we’re three months in. There's no way we would have sex with our baby in the room — we would've feared waking him up.
Here’s what I realized: when my partner and I made the baby, we made a family. The two of us came together and created something bigger. And our love is now a perfect triangle (although if you count the dog, it looks more like a square), with multiple hearts involved. The shape will change — now, and as we all change over the years — but he and I have to stay close — close as can be — in order to parent like a well-oiled machine, and for us, that involves a lot of sex. And sex can be hard to accomplish with an infant on the premises.
That said, of course I've lost out on some things I won’t ever get to have. I'll never know what it’s like to wake up and see the sunlight on my sleeping baby’s face. I've never had my arms and legs tangled in his, overnight. The last day he slept inside my belly was the last time he slept with me. And that breaks my heart. When we try to bring him into our bed, now — when he occasionally wakes up super early and needs comforting — he cannot, for the life of him, calm down in our bed. Our bed is the place of parties, his personal jumping pad.
So I try and focus on the good stuff instead. I’ve been sleeping soundly for almost two years now, despite having a small child. I still get to be alone sometimes. And I don’t resent my partner. We fall asleep half-clothed, holding hands.