Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Bed

Apparently, now is the time to come out. To admit that I am one of the dreaded, foolish few...

Yes, I am a co-sleeper. And apparently, there are many of us.

My husband and I would never define ourselves as co-sleepers. However, since our son was an infant, when he would wake up at 530 in the morning (luckily, those days are a memory), we would bring him into bed with us and snuggle, and sometimes buy ourselves an extra hour of sleep.

Apparently, this qualifies us as cosleepers, according to this article in the NYTimes.

No, we don't start together in the same bed. I jealously guard my space, so that wouldn't be an option. And I do appreciate the marital intimacy that comes with having a bed that belongs just to adults. But my bed is a family bed because that is what families should have: a warm, comfy place to snuggle, and someplace safe to transition in and out of sleep.

Millenia ago, humans believed that sleep was like a mini-death. They never knew if they would wake up. Hence the rituals of pre-sleep and post-sleep, hence saying the bedtime Shma and Modeh Ani, which allows us to thank God each morning for returning our souls to us. Seriously, thank God we don't live like that anymore.

I wonder, why is this co-sleeping a big deal? Who doesn't love cuddling up to another warm body? Does this not increase the level of intimacy that parents and children have, in a positive way? I know that it works that way in my family. Of course, I do see how it is dangerous for infants, and in that regard I do "get" the APA's recommendations against co-sleeping, but come on, we all want it.

Beds are places where happiness should happen. Sorry to say it, but I do think it's true. And I don't just mean sex. Beds are for snuggling under the covers, for jumping on, for pillow fights. Beds are the centerpieces of rooms, we spend hours choosing our sheets, plumping our pillows just right, and hundreds (or so I have heard) of dollars on zillion thread count sheets (mine are from Ikea). Beds are places for Shabbat naps, places of comfort when you are sick or when you wake up with a bad dream.

I am thrilled to admit that my son sneaks into my bed in the morning. It gives us a chance to start the day together, and often leads to recitations of Modeh Ani and even some of the more physical blessings of Birkot HaShachar (see "zokef k'fufim," which in our house is translated as the "jumping up and down blessing," or more literally, the blessing which thanks God for straightening up those who are bent over). I am thrilled that we read stories in bed together at night. I am thrilled that we say the bedtime Shema side by side in full snuggle mode, covering each others' eyes (someone always has to cover Elmo's eyes too). There is something so glorious about being able to do this side by side in a warm, safe spot.

I would like to have more kids. Right now, too, I am sleeping in a double bed and my son is sleeping on an air mattress on the floor next to us (story for another time), so the leap to get into our bed in the morning is not so difficult. Of course, it's a tight fit but he's still under 3. So we'll have to see how it goes.

Mothers of the world, unite. Tell everyone you love your warm beds, even if you don't spend enough time in them, and you want your children to love them too. Tell everyone that a warm body to sleep next to is a great thing, and that intimacy IS for everyone (because, contrary to American values, intimacy is not only about sex). Do whatever you do that makes you happy.


Maya said...

Guilty as charged.
You make a wonderful point about intimacy. I'm with you on getting our children so accustomed to it that other interactions without it aren't so appealing.

mother in israel said...

I strongly question whether a healthy (not obese, not drunk or drugged) mother and baby co-sleeping is dangerous. Cribs are dangerous.

Ima Shalom said...

Me too! We always let our 11 month old come in from 5-7am. I love our morning offers just the right balance of personal space and family togetherness. That being said, we didn't do it when he was a tiny baby. But now that he's a 25 pound giant we enjoy it without guilt. Nice that American culture is finally beginning to give approval to some of these more "natural" approaches to parenting.

Helena said...

Ima and Abba shared a room, a bed. Why should a tiny baby sleep alone? Only in the "civilized world" do we require our most vulnerable to spend the night alone in the dark, without a loved one to hug and cuddle.

I, too, am guilty as charged. I co-slept with one of my daughters from the day I finally brought her home from the NICU, weighing a zaftig 4 pounds, 9 ounces. She slept between her daddy and me every night (in my arms), until her sister came home from the NICU 4 weeks later. At that point, I co-bedded them together in the same crib. And 10 days later, when their brother came home and all three babies were once again together, I placed him in the same crib as his sisters, where they all slept peacefully, for two months. After all, they spent 28 weeks, 1 day sharing a womb. Why not share a crib?

First growth spurt and one of the girls was moved into her own crib, right next to the crib where her siblings continued to sleep - together, in peace - for three more months when another growth spurt occured. At that point, boychik was moved into his own crib.

At 3 1/2 years old, yeladot were moved out of cribs into a double bed. Why split them up now? The climbed into each other's crib, and into boychik's, too. Why put them into twin beds when I knew I'd find them sharing a cramped twin eventually? So they share a double bed now. That is when they aren't in bed with me.

Since Abba died 17 months ago, yeladot have climbed back in bed with Ima. Some nights I'm joined by one, some nights by two. Some nights, I sleep alone. Those nights are coming more frequently now. I miss those nights. I hate to sleep alone.

Joyous Jewess said...

My twins slept right next to us in a co-sleeper until they were 5 months old, and then shared a crib for another month (then they started to wake each other up, so we separated them.) I was grateful that they had each other; I think I would have kept a singleton with us for longer, and I felt so sad for them when they moved into their own cribs (though they didn't seem traumatized at all.) Now my son, who doesn't sleep through the night, joins us in bed in the early morning hours; my daughter sleeps through the night, and I feel bad that her payoff for being a good sleeper is that she misses out on these family snuggles! (But I make sure that she gets plenty of snuggles during the day, of course.)