We moved into this house three weeks before Akka was born. We set up our room, the kitchen, and whatever else we had time for. We never set up a baby’s room because K’s parents were coming to visit a couple of months later and we knew we’d need the second bedroom for them. I figured the baby would sleep in a bassinet in our room and we’d buy a crib and create a baby’s room after they left. We never did.
The first time I shared a bed with my baby was the first time my baby slept in the outside world. Baby was born, baby lay down next to me, baby fell asleep, I fell asleep. The idea of putting this tiny little human package into a different bed – never mind a different room – seemed impossible. And ridiculous. And wrong. After that first sleep, it just felt normal to keep her with us. I’d read about keeping pillows and soft blankets out of the way. It felt safe and right. I slept better knowing I didn’t have to listen for cries and get up and walk down the hall to address them. She and I got into a rhythm. She would wake up, fuss a bit, roll over and nurse back to sleep. It got so neither of us really woke up. The interruptions were frequent, but they were gentle and quiet. I like to say that I never slept for more than two hours at a stretch for Akka’s first year. It sounds dramatic and terrible and self-pitying and it raises eyebrows with the moms at the drop-in centres. But the truth is, I was fine. I didn’t sleep for more than two hours at a time but Akka and I rode a rolling wave of sleeping and waking that left us both pretty well rested.
Then I learned to keep quiet about it. I was violating the Canadian Pediatric Society’s recommendations for safe sleeping environments. I knew lots of people who co-slept and felt vaguely guilty about it. To us, it seemed simply natural. Of my friends who were co-sleeping advocates, many had to convince their partners that it could be safe and that it was good for the family. K, however, being from Sri Lanka where co-sleeping is the norm, wondered what all the fuss was about. Of course babies should be with their parents. Where else would you put them?
So, we had our system figured out. It worked easily. When we traveled we never needed a baby bed – she always slept with us. When I was pregnant with Malli and started to need all the pillows to myself, Akka and K. moved to a futon on the floor of what would become the kids’ room. For a while we had a wonderful system where the kids slept on a futon on the floor of their room with a baby gate at the door. That way they could wake up and play but they couldn’t leave their room without waking one of us up first. Now that they’re four and almost-three, we’ve got a kids’ room and a grown-ups’ room and a queen-sized bed in each. Everyone sleeps where they sleep best. Kids start out in their bed, usually one or both moves in with us during the night, and if a parent feels over-crowded, there’s always an empty spot in the other room to move to. No crib, guest room ready whenever we need it, and no one sleeps alone. It’s perfect.