As I write, Piglet is asleep next to me while I tap away at the laptop in the blue light that I fear will one day be the new tobacco, slowly killing us all by interfering with our natural rhythms, in our new house, in the king size bed that my mother fears is going to break the loft. We have now been here over a month, and due to a toxic combination of our family’s resident Ikea furniture assembler being currently housebound with a broken leg, and my pathological fear of picture-heavy and text-lite Ikea instruction manuals, we are stuck sharing a room-and a bed-for the foreseeable future.
I never meant to co-sleep. Co-sleeping was the sort of thing you saw on those NHS-produced warning videos featuring a stern-looking Anne Diamond about how not to kill your baby that get played in the waiting rooms of ante-natal clinics everywhere, terrifying all those present with threats of bathwater that can drown, cot bumpers that can smother, and room temperatures that are just that little bit too high (ANYTHING ABOVE EIGHTEEN DEGREES!) for a newborn to sleep safely. The message was clear. Co-sleeping posed a clear and present danger to the welfare of babies everywhere. Co-sleeping was what the Bad Mothers did. The ones that drank a small glass of wine and ate a slice of blue cheese whilst pregnant, or used their bump as an excuse to “eat for two,” or didn’t even attempt to breastfeed. It was Strictly Not Recommended by the NHS.
And then real life got in the way.
Real life came and hit me hard. It hit me over the Christmas period, two years ago, when Piglet’s first Christmas unhappily coincided with his first cold. And as my mother faffed about and fretted, shrieking on Christmas morning that we should be calling the doctor because Piglet’s five month old baby squeaks sounded a bit hoarse, I took Piglet into my bed. We needed our sleep, and the travel cot that my mother had set up in her room for the duration of our stay was not providing it.
Well reader, he’s still there.
Two years later and we are still co-sleeping. I spent last night, as is the custom when I haven’t been required to pretend to be asleep to convince my young companion to do the same, only to end up dropping off for real, browsing online after Piglet had drifted off into his slumbers. But last night I was looking for a toddler bed, the next stage in the cutting of the apron strings, the first whispers that one day, soon, it might be time to do the unthinkable and lie my beloved son down to sleep in a bed that wasn’t my own. A bed of his own, decorated with cars and placed in his own little room, separate from mine. The first stirrings of growing up and becoming a big boy. A big boy who no longer needs nappies, who speaks in sentences and who no longer needs his Mummy like he used to.
It’s all still a pipe dream, of course. Piglet may be growing increasingly adept at using the potty, but still insists on hiding in a corner fully dressed and nappied when nature calls with a “number two.” His vocabulary is improving slowly, but full sentences are more of a long term goal than a current reality, and God knows how long it’s going to take to finally prise him out of my bed for good.
But I know it has to happen someday. Someday he will grow up and no longer need the comfort of Mummy’s milky pops in the middle of the night. Someday I will be able to sleep again, soundly and for eight solid hours, and not have to keep swapping sides of the bed and proffering a comforting breast.
You get used to it. The aching tiredness and the endless sucking and the feeling of closeness and the ability to hear them breathe in the middle of the night; the constant reminder that they are there and they are safe. How will I cope when I no longer have that reassurance? How will I cope knowing that my baby is in another room, so near yet so far. How do those other parents do it? How do they put their babies in their own rooms at six weeks, or six months, or six years, and not ache to feel them at their side and listen to their sleepy sounds?
It’s at times like these that being a single parent has its advantages. No husband to roll over and take up space, or to complain or simply be too big and too present to allow me to share the bed with the true love of my life, the tiny one that I place my hand on in the dead of night, just to check he’s still there.
Soon the day will come when he no longer needs me to fall asleep and stay asleep, so for now I will enjoy it, look forward to the freedom of being able to read a book in bed again once he is tucked up in his new bedroom, and hope that blue light isn’t quite as bad as it looks.