Vol. 4 We're All in This Together
On uneasy slumbers and holding each other tight.
Dad, son, mom, and beside her, in a little bed-height crib, baby.
That’s how we’ve been sleeping since our daughter arrived thirteen weeks ago.
When we were just three, our son slept in his own room, in a sturdy mahogany crib my mother had bought for my sister’s first daughter, fourteen or so years ago.
Some nights I would hold him in the darkness of his room, singing gentle songs, taking big sweeping steps across the floor, and bouncing my hips from side to side, counting each time my foot hit the floor. Once I got to five hundred, he’d be out and I could gently place him in his crib.
Most nights, however, Emily would nurse him to sleep in a comfortable recliner that has always sat across from his crib, his growing body spilling across her pregnant belly and out through her arms more and more with each passing month.
As we planned for the baby’s arrival, one of the biggest unknowns was how we’d pull off double bedtime routines. Once the baby arrived, it was hard for our son to reconcile the fact that we had to get her to sleep before attending to him.
I’d offer to hold him, to sing his songs like I used to, until mom got baby down and she could focus on him. Mom reassured him the minute baby was fed and asleep, she’d be able to hold him.
He was uninterested, determined to hold onto all he’d ever known.
Within days of becoming a family of four, we were all sleeping in virtually the same bed, our son packed tight between us until the baby fell asleep and one of us could hold him until his exhausted little brain surrendered to sleep.
Like most small children, he spends the night kicking and twisting and turning, taking up so much more space than we could ever imagine. Often, he ends up horizontal between mine and Emily’s faces, our heads and his body forming a giant sleeping “H.”
All the while, our newborn sleeps silently. Somehow.
Since the baby’s come, our son has entered a serious dad phase.
It’s a phase I’ve been waiting for his entire life as, for the majority of his first three-and-a-half years, he’s been very attached to his mom, both physically and intrinsically.
But shortly after our daughter was born, he caught a serious stomach bug and spent an entire day vomiting all over everything.
Being the great fucking parents we are, we lied and told him it was because mom’s breastmilk was different now that the baby was here and that upset stomach was the result (not entirely a lie. But then again, not entirely true).
Emily had been trying to wean him off her breastmilk for a while. We saw our chance and we took it.
And from the minute he’s gotten off the boob, he’s become a full-blown daddy’s boy, one who suddenly requires his old man to hold him in bed until he falls asleep.
It’s a phase I can’t get enough of.
“Co-sleep means no sleep.”
It’s one of those stupid parenting adages people blurt when they have nothing better to say.
Though, as with most tired sayings, there is some truth to it. Hell, there are nights when our son kicks and writhes, beating the shit out of both of us until sunrise, resulting very much in the “no sleep” part.
More than anything, co-sleep means a loss of the marriage bed I have been sharing with Emily for a decade, a place and a concept whose sanctity I honor and value.
And I’m not just talking about fucking.
Because the marriage bed is where, after the kids have konked and you and your partner finally have some quiet time together, you can have real adult conversations, you can laugh, you can cry, you can continue to build your relationship outside of the fantastical torture test that is having children.
But for now, our marriage bed includes a forty-four-pound wrecking ball. One who, deep in his dad phase, needs his old man to hold him tight until he falls asleep and starts an eight-hour marathon of kicking, twisting, and writhing.
Someday soon, he’s going to be in his own bed. And maybe he’ll still need me to hold him until he falls asleep. But someday soon after that, those days’ll be gone and I’ll wish he’d just climb into bed between his mom and dad, all of us fighting for position in a king-sized bed that feels anything but.