I had the worst night's sleep in my life the other night. Waking every hour, anxious dreams, tossing and turning.
Why you ask?
My girl grew up and slept in her own bed.
Big sister Bella is home for Spring break and Echo has been planning for weeks to sleep in her own bed next to Bella. The day finally arrived, Echo snuggled in, happy as a clam. My orders were to help her fall asleep but not to fall asleep myself, because that you know, wouldn't be official. I achieved my task and started my evening, watching an episode of Call the Midwife (a must-see! so many babies!) with Nathan. I didn't think much about Echo's choice because not for a minute did I think she'd actually go through with it. Never did I think this girl who has never slept a single night somewhere other than right-next-to-mama would spend more than a few minutes in the other room. Not because she isn't ready, not because she shouldn't sleep on her own, not because of anything other than that she'd never done it before.
But she did.
When sleepy I trudged upstairs with a wild mixture of feelings. Oh, look at this! I can turn the light on in our bedroom and undress loudly if I want. Oh, look at this! I can spread out over the whole bed! But I also was struck by the lack. The room didn't have that heavy intoxicating sleep feel. It wasn't steeped in wholesome snores.
Nathan stayed up later and I found myself with too much room. Our blue sheets became a choppy expanse of ocean without limit. I churned in the waves, flipping and flopping, looking for somewhere to rest. I also was so sure that any minute now I'd hear the pitter-patter of Echo feet, so every twenty minutes or so I'd wake completely and prick an ear. No feet. When Nathan arrived I cuddled up and the novelty of snuggling with one's husband without toddler limbs interspersed did not go unnoticed. It was heavenly. But it was a snuggle tinged with sorrow. I have to admit it.
I continued to toss and dream that Echo tip-toed in in the night, only to dream that that dream was a dream and that now she was pulling back the covers to join us, only to wake up and find that none of these dreams were true. By morning light I knew that she'd made it through, that she'd achieved her goal. I crept down the hall, peeked my head in the door, and there she was serenely gazing at the ceiling, proud as can be.
I celebrated with her, tucking my ravaged heart in a little deeper, and sleep-walking the rest of the day- worn out by the restless night and the heaviness of my heart.
I almost didn't tell you this. I've sat on this for three days, which to a blogger is a long time. I just have felt too tender about it. Also a little embarrassed. Also a little silly. I can hear the criticisms of the anonymous public ringing in my ears.
You're a baby!
You're stunting her personal growth!
Here is my response.
1. You're a baby. Maybe! Believe me, writing a blog post about the sorrow of one's grown child leaving the family bed is a little like having your best friend shout out that you wear Nightrider pajamas to the whole sixth grade class. In other words, I feel really vulnerable, just like a baby.
2. You're stunting her personal growth. Well this just isn't true but I feel I must address it. Aside from the data showing extending co-sleeping is EXTREMELY good for the growth of children (It actually encourages greater independence and powerful brain development, among many other benefits) I have been the Queen Bee of neutral about Echo's sleeping choices. She has her own bed just waiting for her to use it. Heck, she has an entire room just waiting for her to use as her own. Whenever she mentions sleeping alone I say, Sure! Let's give it a go!, and by nighttime she selects the family bed.
3. You're selfish. Of course I am! We all are. We all like things as we like them. We all like getting enough sleep. I will get used to Echo sleeping on her own but it's been six years since I've slept alone and I'm just not used to it.
In addition, with all the talk about co-sleeping being good for children, not enough people mention that co-sleeping is good for mamas (and papas) too. It's been almost five years since I have worried about Echo during the night because her content sleep rumblings, purring in my ear, have given me all the reassurance I might need. When Echo was first born, I mean a mere scant hours after she was born, we swaddled her up set her between us in bed and crashed out. Sometime during the night I heard little noises that triggered my mama concern. When I flicked on the light Echo was purple in the face.
My baby was purple because she wasn't breathing. I used the bulb syringe and sucked out some liquid. Nathan called the midwife while I talked to Echo, urging her to live. The midwife arrived with oxygen and a better nose-clearing tool and all was well. It turns out she had a bit of amniotic fluid in her nose and newborns, bless their hearts, don't yet know that they can breathe through their mouths.
But if we hadn't been sleeping next to each other Echo would have died. That's how much comfort I have gotten from sharing my bed. In my mind sleeping next to my girl means I can literally save her from unknown nighttime menaces. And yes, I guess you could call that selfish too.
Xi and Echo had an agreement to trade off sleeping next to Bella. They love her and miss her so much that the adjacent twin bed is a coveted spot. So the next night Echo joined the parents once more and I slept like a log. The following night was Echo's turn to sleep next to Bella again. She didn't make it. Five minutes in I was ushering her into sleep in our soft blue sheets.
So she hasn't gone cold turkey and that feels good, both for my heart and for my sleep acquisition, but there is a tiny slice of knowledge that now rests on my heart; the knowledge that she won't always sleep with us. That she won't always be any of what she is now, her almost-six-year old self. That knowledge is one all parents have studied, we all know it's the reality of our precious situation. We've memorized the facts: age five they'll lose a tooth, age thirteen they'll cry about a middle-school dance, age twenty-one they'll shack up with an inappropriate boyfriend, but we don't always feel that truth.
Right now that knowledge is palpable, bruisy and weighted.