Though I’m a strong advocate of it now, when I think about my relationship with co-sleeping, it really was kind of thrust upon me at the very beginning. When we brought our first son home from the hospital, it was a day after I had already been discharged. He had to remain hospitalized for jaundice — but thank goodness for that day, because we spent it putting together his tiny bassinet and getting things ready for him. He arrived two weeks early and my husband and I were young and hardly prepared for parenthood. We were also crammed into one room at my parent’s house: my husband, our baby and me.
When it turned out that our son was colicky and a difficult sleeper, I was the one to stay awake with him. My husband wasn’t able to take paternity leave, so it was pretty much me awake with the baby so he could sleep. My infant son and I would watch Spanish novelas as I’d sooth him. Sometimes we’d get lucky and he’d fall asleep before the 5am news. Sometimes my mom would take pity on me and come help. Either way, I was a very sleep deprived 21 year old.
That is until one night when I accidentally fell asleep with my son in bed between my husband and me. Most surprisingly, he slept through the night until the morning. In retrospect, of course, that’s what he needed — to sleep well. He had spent the past 9 months snuggled up between his dad and me, so no wonder he expected to continue that same treatment.
This experience set up our relationship with co-sleeping with our other children. Co-sleeping is the practice of having babies and small children sleep close to their parents or caregivers givers as opposed to in separate rooms. This practice has many benefits including family bonding.
During the past 11 years, my husband and I have co-slept with all three of our kids. At times it has only been one child sleeping with us but other nights we have had all three pairs of little feet kicking at us in bed. The sense of safety and family we’re able to instill in our kids thanks to co-sleeping is a beautiful thing but let’s address the elephant in the room: specifically, how has co-sleeping not completely killed our sex lives?
I’m not going to lie, our bedroom has very much become a communal space for our kids and any sexual activity happening in this communal space feels inappropriate, to say the least. So, instead, my husband and I have had to find places that feel private and more our own. Those are places that we can freely give ourselves to each other without having to worry about accidentally traumatizing a child. Whether it be the large garden tub in our master bathroom or his home office, these places are ours and they are officially kid-free.
Another way that we make sure we preserve our sex life is by prioritizing each other’s personal gratification. When you’re a parent, your time is often extremely limited. If sex does happen, it’s regularly regulated to quick, possibly unfulfilling encounters. Taking the time to explore what satisfies you and your partner both emotionally and physically is essential to the happiness of your relationship. Being a parent doesn’t stop you from having desires, so don’t be afraid to look for the fulfillment these desires offer.
Eventually, all kids outgrow sleeping in bed with their parents. Already, my youngest is starting to prefer joining his brother up in his bunk bed — so I know our co-sleeping days are coming to an end. Still, I’m grateful for the years that co-sleeping has bonded my family together. And perhaps, most importantly, I’m proud that I didn’t need to sacrifice my identity as a sexual being or my relationship with husband in order to achieve that.