This is Charlie, early one morning, asleep in our bed, as he usually is every day. Every night, he is put to bed in his own bed, but between 1am and 3am, Charlie climbs into our bed and stays there until morning. This used to be a cause of great consternation, and exhaustion, for me, but now I have come to accept that this situation isn’t going to change any time soon, and even more, I’ve come to treasure him being there.
Charlie has always been a terrible sleeper. Incredibly bad. So bad that it put me off ever having any more children. From four months until thirteen months, I had no more than two hours sleep at a time. After he inexplicably started sleeping through the night, we had a good patch for about six months, which took the entire time for my body and mental health to return to a rested, happy place. And to lull me into a false sense of security.
Since then, he usually wakes once a night, almost every night. I’ve tried many different things. When he was younger, I would resettle him, put him back into his cot, then rinse and repeat that another few times a night. It didn’t take long before I gave up and brought him into our bed, where he would go straight back to sleep and wouldn’t wake again. It seemed silly to keep waking myself up several times a night, instead of just once.
I have, from time to time, gotten sick of not having our bed to ourselves, and gone back to taking him back to his bed, but the disrupted sleep of going back and forth several times a night, for weeks on end just makes life worse.
The interesting thing about Charlie waking is that it only happens if I am there. If he stays at his grandparents’ houses, he doesn’t wake at all. If I have gone out for the evening, and Husband has put him to bed, he must assume I’m not there and stays in his bed all night. But usually, he’s there every morning, without fail, cuddling up to me.
The thing is, I actually don’t mind him being there most nights. Most of the time, I don’t even wake up. He’s just there when I wake. There are nights when I’m hot, or sick, or just feeling claustrophobic, when I wish he would stay in his own bed.
I actually used to go into my parents’ room every night until I was seven, where they would have a sleeping bag waiting on the floor for me. I just felt safer being near my Mum and Dad as I slept. I’m very thankful they didn’t try and force me to sleep in my own room. I would have been incredibly traumatised. I NEEDED to be near them to feel peaceful. Of course I grew out of it. And so will Charlie. When he’s ready.
I’ve never really ascribed to a particular parenting “philosophy”, more just following my instincts, doing what feels right, and trying to meet my babies’ needs. With a healthy dose of self-doubt and anxiety along the way. I’m sure many children and sleep experts would tell me I should be training Charlie to sleep “properly” in his own bed. But I’ve realised I’m doing what we’ve always done. Meeting our baby’s needs. He’s not going to want to sleep in our bed when he’s ten. It’s not hurting anyone to have him there now.
Except for last week when he rolled over in his sleep and flung his hand out and left me with a small bruise on my eyelid…
The thing that tells me I’m doing the right thing for my boy is the sleepy, peaceful smile he gives me some mornings when he open his eyes and sees me and his Daddy right next to him. It’s the most beautiful smile you could ever imagine. Every time, it says to me, “I’m so glad you’re here. You are my whole world”.