We need a bigger bed!
While it isn’t generally admitted to in polite company, I’m putting it out there that we bedshare with our toddler. It isn’t necessarily our choice, and it isn’t necessarily done in a thoughtful, organised, practised way, but it’s what happens. So here is my guide to bedsharing with a toddler.
First – have a lovely toddler bed for the toddler. Dress it in beautifully considered, carefully purchased bedlinens, with matching decor and artfully arranged soft toys (or you can dream of doing that and actually make the bed in whatever hand-me-downs you have that fit, throw whichever soft toys are this weeks favourites on the bed and leave it at that).
Second – have a really good bedtime routine where toddler is in her own bed, reading books to her soft toys and chatting to herself before going happily to sleep before 8pm each evening.
So far so good – no bedsharing, all very organised…
Third – sometime after moving into lovely toddler bed, your toddler discovers that she can climb out of bed all by herself, and once out of bed she can walk to mummy and daddy’s room all by herself.
Fourth – have toddler stand beside your bed at stupid o’clock each night and do toddler whispers (shouting) in your ear to get your attention. The alternate method here is to throw soft toys at you until you wake up.
Fifth – have toddler scream blue murder if you take her back to her room, ensuring everybody in the house, the neighbourhood and the suburb is awake and aware that you are acting in a manner that calls for immediate intervention.
Sixth – have parents admit defeat and haul toddler into their bed just so everybody can get some sleep.
Finally – have toddler repeat the above steps everynight for however long it takes for parents to skip step 5, and for step 4 to require only the barest hint of a noise at the bedside for mum to wake up just enough to haul toddler into bed, roll over and go back to sleep.
So there you have it, we bedshare unintentionally, in a highly disorganised manner, and purely in response to our overwhelming need to get some sleep so we can function through the day. I know that this is not inline with safe sleeping guidelines from SIDS. I know that this doesn’t always fit with safe bedsharing practise (although neither B nor I smoke, it is very rare that we drink more than 1 standard drink at night, and Chublet is now old enough that she can let us know if there is a problem), and it is most certainly not a method i am endorsing or recommending – just so we are clear, and nobody needs to get upset about it.
Generally bedsharing is okay, although I’d love it if Chublet was happy to sleep in her own space in the bed, instead of smothering me, her head tucked into my shoulder, her feet pushed between my legs and her hands holding tight to whichever bit of my PJs she can grab. There are some nights though, when I really, really wish we hadn’t fallen into this habit.
There are the nights where Chublet comes into our room around 2 or 3am, fully awake, running back and forth between rooms, bringing books, soft toys, dummies, games etc, turning on lights and generally wanting to play. These are the nights where it takes several hours to convince her to go back to sleep, the nights where she joins us in bed and wriggles, talks, tickles, pokes, prods and does everything possible to get us as awake as she is. These are the nights where we all end up functioning on nowhere near enough sleep the following day – but only one of us really gets to have a good afternoon sleep.
There are also the nights where Chublet has recurring nightmares. The nights where she wakes up crying at regular intervals, little cries, easily settled when in bed with us, but enough to wake us all up every 40-50min for several hours. These are the nights where I can’t get cross, where I can’t resent the lost sleep, and all I can do is remind her we’re there, and that she’s safe.
Then finally there are the nights where Chublet times her intrusions badly. The nights where we end up giggling helplessly as she sleepily gets cranky that I’ve taken too long to get her into bed. The nights followed by mornings of shared chuckles and pretend grumps. The nights that leave me both smiling and annoyed.
I’m sure that if we were more organised we’d implement a plan to either keep Chublet in her bed, or arrange our bed so that bedsharing was easier and comfier for all of us. But we continue to hope that this is just a phase that she’ll grow out of soon. Neither B nor I operate well on not enough sleep, so we just muddle through and do what we can for now, and I mark this down as another parenting experience that shows me how little control I have over some aspects of this gig.
Night times are both my most precious and most hated times as a parent so far. They are times of overflowing emotions, both good and bad, times when I wonder what I might have done to bring me such joy or such frustration and resentment. Everything is multiplied when the sun has gone to bed.
Chublet has not been the easiest of girls to get into good sleep habits. We have had two stays at our local sleep school and we can still count on one hand the number of nights she has not needed our attention once we have gone to bed. At present we are in a fairly good space where she goes to sleep easily when first put to bed and generally only wakes once or twice during the night with a quick feed or resettle needed before going back to sleep.
It is these nights, especially after a run of such nights, where I sneak into her bedroom prior to going to bed and look in wonder at her peaceful countenance. These are the nights where I am filled with love and joy as I see her sleeping in an identical pose to that which B or I often take – lying on our sides with one hand tucked under our head. These are the nights when I ask what I did that gave me such a blessing as this little bundle of energy and delight. These are the nights I try to remember when everything falls to pieces.
And when things fall to pieces they do so spectacularly. These are the nights where she wakes often and for long stretches. Nights where I spend more time sitting or lying on the floor beside her cot than I do in my own bed. Nights where I fall asleep in the rocking chair while she sits awake, in my arms, running through her latest vocab. Nights where I try to decide if a dose of pain killers will help (and debate how often I’ve fed her medicine in her life) or if she just doesn’t want to sleep. These are the nights where I resent everything. I resent the overnight feed as she holds me hostage – refusing to give in to sleep until I feed her, regardless of how early she wakes in the evening. I resent my husband for not being able to do more, I resent Chublet for screaming the house down if B tries to settle her rather than me. I resent that I once again have to try and function on less than 5 hours of broken sleep, and I resent having a child who at 16 months old, still has regular nights like this.
The bad nights are the nights when I most doubt myself; have I caused her to have bad sleep habits by continuing to feed her overnight, by cuddling her when she’s beside herself, by sleeping beside her cot when she just seems to need it, by bringing her into bed with us when we all need to sleep. I question how often we resort to painkillers in the hope that it is teething pain causing the unsettledness and that medicine will help. I get angry at B for choosing methods other than those taught at sleep school, but then am incredibly thankful that they work and that he’s stepped up and made a decision. The bad nights are the ones where every choice I make seems wrong, and I am often wracked with indecision.
I would love to say that the good nights outweigh the bad. But the truth is I remember the bad far more readily than the good, and a single bad night seems to delete an entire week of good nights. I am trying to remind myself of the good nights, trying to remember the nights where I am overflowing with love for my sleeping child, trying to remind myself that the bad nights will not last and will soon be no more than a (painful) memory. On the good nights I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, on the bad nights I wait for the oncoming train.