BurlingtonVT Moms Blog is partnering with Phoenix Physical Therapy to bring you our latest series titled “50 Shades of Sleep”, about…you guessed it….sleep. Like an elusive treasure, we find ourselves obsessing about sleep not only for ourselves but for our children as well. Although we may not consciously recognize it we are constantly making decisions surrounding the subject of sleep. Is it OK to co-sleep? Can babies really be trained to sleep? What are night terrors? When do you move your child from your bed to the bassinet or to his own crib or into his own bed? Does the thought of SIDS scare everyone? Is it normal for kids to wet the bed and up to what age? And does it all change when they get older? Our goal through this series is to invite you into an open conversation about all things sleep, and to acknowledge that no matter your struggles or choices, you are never alone.
Whose Bed This Is, I Think I Know…
9:30 p.m. I hear the hollow rub of door against frame and I don’t have to look up to know that she will be standing at the top of the stairs, trying to accept the light with her eyes. Perfect posture like her dad, Medusa-inspired hair, like me, silent and waiting for me to shut my book. I gather her in my arms and she buries herself into me. Her dad hears the noise and follows us into the master bedroom, tucking her in as I brush my teeth.
“You in for the night?” he asks.
“No, I’ll be downstairs in a few,” I say, with a smirk.
We both know that’s a lie. Because once I slide under the layers of flannel and comfort, she will wrap her arms around my neck and find the nook where she fits next to me. And that will be that.
12:30 a.m. Swoosh, tap, swoosh, tap. I hear him pad down the short, dark hallway into our room. He goes over to Pat’s side of the bed and asks, “can I come in?”
“I had a nightmare.”
Or he will say nothing at all, staring at his dad in that slightly creepy way that announces he’s walking in his sleep again.
“Come on in, buddy.” And my big seven year old guy finds his nook.
I am awake and creep into the girls’ room to check on the five year old who is happy to stay in her bed all night. But I miss her. And about once a week I whisper the plan to her as she’s finishing her dinner. And then at bedtime, she will giggle, snuggle in next to me and in fetal position, knead my doughy belly for comfort, an act that began the day she stopped nursing.
And we sleep. Oh lordy, do we sleep!
I used to doubt our habits, thinking we were doing our children harm. We rocked our son “too much.” We allowed our middle girl to sleep solely with us for “too long.” And the third? I nursed her and put her down awake, my happy little self-soother. Yet I worried the whole time that she’d never make her way into the comfort of our bed and she’d remember this years later in therapy.
All that time I worried that we weren’t doing it right. I enjoyed the sweetness. I loved rolling over to nurse. I loved the cuddling and arms and legs and breath. But still, I doubted.
If only I could have seen then what I see now. There is no doing it right. There’s only doing what felt natural to us, what felt safe for our children.
When my son started sleepwalking and talked about burglars and nighttime bad-guys, I panicked. A seven year old in our bed? How did I let this happen?
And then I remembered. Being 5, 8, 10 years old and in my own bed at night. Not sleepwalking or even feeling scared, the way my son does. Just waiting in the stillness. Calculating how long I would have to wait before I could creep down the stairs into my parents’ bed and tell them I’d had a nightmare. Long enough so they’d believe me. They always let me in.
When I was officially too big to be sleeping in their bed, I’d bring my quilts and pillows and burrow on their floor. In the thick Jersey summer heat, my older sister would come, too. We said it was the air conditioning in my parents’ room that drew us in. But it was so much more than that.
Sometimes I wake up now hanging off the bed, my three year old having ferociously jockeyed for more than her fair share of space. Sometimes I grind my teeth in frustration over the fact that I have to wait to finish watching the movie with my hubby. Sometimes the bed is crowded. And one of my sweaty children pulls the blankets off me one too many times. Sometimes my husband is pinned on his back, unable to move and he snores. And I stomp across the room to turn the fan on in the middle of winter to drown out the sound.
Sometimes I dream of how much space I might have and I picture my arms stretched out, turning in any direction I please without someone begging me to turn back around to bump noses and offer my neck as a pillow.
My stretching day is coming . But for now, even though I sometimes wake up not knowing what bed I am in or whose Medusa hair is tickling my nose, I enjoy being the nook.