Written By Lyndsey Merrill
With all the talk of sleeping and night time parenting, I thought I would share our personal story of how we went from separate bedrooms, separate beds, struggling with bed
times, nightmares, bed wetting, and constantly loosing sleep to where we are now. Now we have everyone co-sleep in our master bedroom in an almost wall to wall bed. It is the conversation piece at our house now, and when we have people come over they all want to see our bedroom and the wall to wall family bed. Some are fascinated, others probably horrified, but it is our bed and we are all happy with the way we do things now. The nightmares went from several a week to hardly ever, bed times are no longer a struggle, my two older kids would frequently wake at night and since the family bed they both sleep like a rock. My one child who struggled with bed wetting went from wetting the bed once a week or more to less than once a month. Things weren’t always so picturesque though.
Our personal sleep evolution started with a bassinet when my daughter was born. I nursed her, so this meant she woke at least twice in the night. At first I would actually get up and sit in a rocking chair while I nursed her. Then I finally cued in to letting her latch on and falling asleep so that I didn’t have to be awake so much. I would still get up to put her back in her bassinet when she was done. It was very tiring for me to constantly wake up to move her in and out of bed with me. We did this with a crib, and then with a toddler bed. With my second I was more relaxed and decided to just keep him in bed with me so I didn’t have to get up. I found during this experience that I actually liked co-sleeping, but still had my daughter on a mattress on the floor most nights, and would still put my son in his crib most nights because I had this idea that if I let them sleep with me they would never want to stop. Not to mention we just weren’t set up for co-sleeping since we only had a queen sized bed. With my third child I decided I wanted to co-sleep with him, so we attached the crib to our bed. This way baby was always within arms reach but my husband and I had enough space to connect. About this same time we decided to buy a king sized bed because we wanted to be able to fit everyone in for special snuggley occasions every once in a while.
We tried everything to make bed times easier! We tried bed time routines with lavender baths, soothing books, lots of snuggling time, and special night lights. We put crib mattresses on the floor in our bedroom for a while.
When I thought they were “too old” to do that anymore, we made a special bed for our daughter and gave her her own room. When that didn’t work we tried rooming our kids together thinking they might like the company, so we bought them bunk beds. We would lay down with them every night so they would feel comfortable sleeping in their own beds. Often we would fall asleep on the floor, which was super uncomfortable! And even then my daughter would beg me to sleep in our room telling me she was scared. And this isn’t a child trying to get her way. You could hear in her voice and see in her eyes that she was terrified of the nightmares that she knew would come. I think back on this and my heart breaks! This was the biggest struggle for us as a family. I dreaded bed times, we all did! And by the time the kids were all finally asleep my husband and I were too irritated and too tired to connect intimately. IT. WAS. AWFUL!!! I was so confused because kids on tv and movies would always peacefully go to bed after being tucked in and read to. Why couldn’t that happen for us?!
Finally I found my solution. I came across an article by Dayna Martin in Rethinking Everything Magazine called The Sacred Flow of the Family Bed. While reading it I knew this was the solution I had been wanting. I emailed my husband and told him this is what I wanted, and he was thrilled. He had grown up sharing a bed with his brothers and loved snuggling with our kids. I was the one who had grown up sleeping in a queen sized bed all by myself and resisted co-sleeping, but I was so excited about this new idea, sure that it would solve all our our sleeping problems. About a week later we went and bought another mattress to accommodate us all and moved it right next to the king. Truly the best decision we made as a family and sleep is a piece of cake these days.
What About Intimacy?
This is the most common question we get asked, or we know people want to ask but are too embarrassed. The simple answer? Where there’s a will there’s a way! But seriously, it is a lot easier now. Since we don’t have to fight bed times the kids just come to bed and all go to sleep since there is no longer stress associated with bed times. They usually fall to sleep in 10 minutes or less and then the night belongs to me and my husband. Not only that, but now they rarely wake up at night so we don’t have to stress about them walking in on us like we used to. Overall I would say our sex life is better since we have to get creative at times to find the time and space to connect. We do have a room set up with a bed for us that we use some times, but there is a common statement that co-sleepers do it in the kitchen, on the floor, in the (fill in the blank.) So the belief that co-sleeping kills your sex life is a major misconception. There was an adjustment period, for me especially, where my kids wanted to sleep in between us, or where we would fall asleep while laying down with them. Even still, some nights aren’t always ideal, but they area always better than the way we used to do things. And lets face it, whether you co-sleep or not, having kids changes your sex life.
I am not telling you my story to say that the only way is to co-sleep. I am sharing my experience because maybe one piece of my story might help someone, and another part of my story might help someone else. We all need to figure out what works best and is most comfortable and adjust it so that it works for our individual families. This is what works best for our family, and we will have the family bed around as long as it is what we all want.
How do you address the sleep needs of your family members?
Lyndsey Merrill, Liberated Parenting