About ten seconds after Daisy was born, our lovely doula Hilary said to us, “Welcome to a decade of musical beds.” I didn’t believe her. But this morning, with everyone having gone to bed in their correct bed, this was how things looked in our house: Ollie in own cot, two girls in with Mummy, Daddy in Daisy’s bed. It is so common we don’t even comment on it; there’s no “Oh how did you get here?” or “Anyone know where Daddy is?”. We just get up, get on with our day, safe in the knowledge that the next morning will bring a new and exciting sleep configuration.
Despite an initial three seconds of trying our babies in their lovely little cots, we always co-slept out of necessity (Co-sleep bad? No sleep worse!), and I think our bed has become a refuge for all of them. I am usually aware that someone has joined us: Daisy is not shy of pulling back the duvet and finding the spot that suits her, but once she’s asleep she sleeps like a log. Lily is more subtle – sometimes we find her curled up at the end of our bed like a kitty, but like a cat she can also be restless and shuffle around. Ollie, however, is a bad co-sleeper – if he finds himself with us, he thinks it’s time for a grand play, so he will rampage, plant kisses, bestow furious hugs until both parents have been loved to wakefulness. At least we can still decide if he gets let in or not; the girls just arrive uninvited. However, in a few months time, when he gets out of jail, we’ll be adding Ollie to the nightly mix. Golly gosh, the fun that lies ahead!
I think that separating parents’ and childrens’ sleep is a relatively new and largely Western phenomenon. There are experts both strongly for and strongly against co-sleeping, and those who are proponents do recommend that you take safety precautions, especially when babies are tiny. We were always cautious, though there was the odd occasion when we’d be woken by a loud bump followed by a surprised wail. A quick visit to the boob usually sorted out any hurts, physical or to dignity.
I’m not here to say do or don’t co-sleep, because I believe that parents must do what’s right for their children, themselves and their family unit as a whole. What I really wish was that as parents we didn’t suffer so much angst about something so natural and easy. I wasted hours worrying about when and how I should move child A, B or C from our bed, more hours discussing it with friends on the phone, still more hours making myself feel worse about it by reading the wisdom of various experts and even more hours on co-sleeping message boards. While I loved and accepted co-sleeping, there was a part of me wanting to rush my children on, onward and upwards to the next thing.
We’re still in the thick of musical beds and various kinds of bed-sharing, but now that Lily is nearly seven and starting to look coltish and less babyish, I realise that soon she’ll be far too sophisticated to want to climb into Mummy’s bed. When I carry her back to her own bed, she’s almost too heavy for me. Now I’m looking at co-sleeping from another perspective, thinking that in a short blink they won’t be needing the comfort of our bed, won’t really be needing us at all except to pay their cellphone bills, and they’ll be wanting to stay awake all night and sleep all day. I must relish the bed-sharing while it lasts. They aren’t going to be my babies for ever.