Tuesday, March 30, 2010

{Guest Post} The Family Bed by Corrine Conningham

{photo by Madeline Bea}

I am thrilled to welcome our first guest writer here at Life Set to Words. Corrine is a beautiful woman, and wonderful mom, and a truly talented writer She joins us today to speak about her experiences with co-sleeping. I know you'll fall in love with her, just as I did. So leave her some love here and then go visit her at Trains, Tutus, & Tea Time.

I vividly remember our first afternoon home as a family of three. We had just made it home from the hospital, worn out from the exhaustion that is the first days of life, and we climbed up the stairs to our bedroom which doubled as a nursery with our son. I gingerly hopped into my the bed, glancing over to the perfectly done up crib, Winnie the Pooh bumper and mobile and dust ruffle. Expecting my husband to put Fynn down in crib, I gave a quizzical look as he brought the babe over to our bed, and made a nest of sorts between us. "The crib is just so big, and he's so small..." said my husband. I nodded. Fynn snuggled his way into our arms and our bed. We breathed in all of his two day old sweetness, and wrapped ourselves around each other and the newness of being a family.

When I was pregnant I read about co-sleeping, the stories of five and six year olds still in the family bed. I swore that wouldn't be us. We needed our space, needed to preserve our marriage within our family. We needed boundaries. We are now a family of four. Fynn is almost three and a half, and our baby girl, Paige, is 19 months old. They share a bedroom, complete with a full size bed for Fynn and a toddler bed for Paige. The bedtime routine consists of brushing teeth, reading stories, hugs and kisses, and then they get tucked into their individual beds. Paige wakes often, and when she can't get settle into her own bed she joins us. Most nights by midnight. She finds her spot between myself and Lucas, an arm to cuddle with - along with a baby doll and a blankie. We keep the monitor on so we can hear Fynn, and when he wakes, often by three, one of us joins him in his expansive double bed. This is our routine. The snuggles, the cuddles. Singing songs or telling stories until they drift back to sleep. And we stay with them. Now we breathe in their not so newness and their childhood dreams.

I believe whole heartedly that co-sleeping has saved our sanity. When at home with the kids, I take them into my bed for naptime. The double nap is held sacred in my eyes, and the only way to secure the two hours of bliss is to lay between them, one on each arm. There are days when I'd rather be tending to needs outside of the bedroom, but that time allows me to quiet down, to hear my thoughts, or read a few pages in a book I've been able to sneak in, and occasionally close my eyes for a few moments. It's also our time, together. There is nothing sweeter than waking up with both children from a nap and watch them say "morning!" to each other and giggle themselves awake and start the afternoon anew. No matter what happened in the morning, we get a fresh start, together. The same goes for waking in the morning next to a not so little bundle of energy. It's bliss.

Our boundaries have been pushed and changed. We still hold our marriage sacred, but adding the children to our bed in the middle of the night has almost enhanced it. We have our time prior to Paige's waking and joining us, and we lock hands over her belly and feel close. They enhance our love, make it larger. Watching my husband as he sleepily snuggles one of our children fills my heart with so much joy. There have been times where Lucas has had to front the night time parenting responsibilities, when I was not able to play an active role in our night time parenting, and I have rarely heard a complaint. It's silently understood that co-sleeping is a part of our life, an important aspect in our parenting. It's tiring, and trying at times, but it's worth every movie cut short by a baby's needs and dream interrupted by a preschooler's request for the potty or a midnight cuddle.

In time, they will sleep through the night. Fynn will occasionally, and when he does we praise him, secretly missing the hours at night with him. On the rare nights Paige sleeps past her parents bedtime, we wait anxiously for the noises that call us to her. We might slightly nudge them to stay in their bed at times, to wish and hope for the nights where they don't need us, to pray for a full nights sleep. But until and after that point, they know we're here. Day and night, arms open and beds shared.


Angie Muresan March 30, 2010 at 10:41 AM  

Corinne is indeed a wonderful writer. We've co-slept with our children too, and we loved the bond it's created between us.

michelle March 30, 2010 at 10:52 AM  

amen. I think we might be living the same life...because that is often how our nights go.

Maureen@IslandRoar March 30, 2010 at 10:57 AM  

This is so true. Soon enough they will be teens demanding their own space. But that closeness will be etched in their genes forever. My daughter, my youngest, used to wind up in my bed when it thundered. Somewhere around 11 this stopped. Now when it thunders I miss her tossing and turning and hogging the covers!

Stacia March 30, 2010 at 11:02 AM  

They are so tiny when you bring them home, aren't they? It's hard to imagine them anywhere else other than in your arms and bed.

mamaayanna March 30, 2010 at 11:37 AM  

:-)so recognizable!Our little girl always ends up in bed with us and we love "hi mama, hi papa,mooooning" when she wakes up.
Now that I am pregnant again we were wondering how to work it out with two,but I guess a twin/double bed:-)

Nice to read!

Robin March 30, 2010 at 11:40 AM  

this is exactly our situation, except that both kids make it to our bed by the middle of the night. It gets a little crowded, but we wouldn't give up any of the snuggles. :)

sarah March 30, 2010 at 1:52 PM  

so beautifully written! We are the same way. Ethan co-slept w/ us until he was 2.5 years old and now he has a big double bed of his own. When he wakes (which is every night), one of us goes and snuggles with him in his bed until morning.

I can recall a time when I fought it, but now I wouldn't change it for the world.

Blythe March 30, 2010 at 2:03 PM  

As crowded as the bed gets, you can't beat the snuggles! I'll definitely miss when our co-sleeping days are over.

Kristen @ Motherese March 30, 2010 at 2:27 PM  

Thanks for sharing your experience in such an eloquent way, Corinne. We do not usually co-sleep with our boys, but your description of the connection you feel to your children when they are sleeping resonates with the times we have.

{Amy} March 30, 2010 at 3:27 PM  

Corrine, I love this, so beautifully written and so sweet!

Me March 30, 2010 at 3:46 PM  

Co-sleeping can be such a beautiful thing! Corrine, your words are so lovely!


Madeline, I'm on FB if you are. Hit me up some time if you are. Janelle Taliercio.

Meg March 30, 2010 at 4:07 PM  

What beautiful writing, so happy to have had the opportunity to read it. And, lovely image as always, maegan!

Kris's Kaptured Moments March 30, 2010 at 6:53 PM  

keep on sharing that bed...I am sharing it with Phoebe still and I think it never hurt a child to feel safe and snuggly with mom and dad. Before you know it, they wont want to share and you'll miss it..

Boy Crazy March 30, 2010 at 9:29 PM  

I love Corinne. So glad she led me to your blog - I'm looking forward to checking it out.

We're big fans of co-sleeping here, too. At this point we've only got one who joins us by midnight, but every morning all three boys are clamoring into the great big bedfull of family to start the day with snuggles. :)


Kelly Langner Sauer March 30, 2010 at 10:06 PM  

I love the way you describe this - we have a similar routine with our Pip, but I cannot say it is always wonderful. Especially when we are so tired, all the time now...

Thanks for sharing. Beautiful post.

Madeline March 30, 2010 at 10:17 PM  

Co-sleeping was definitely a sanity saver for me. It's also the most lovely thing to cuddle with your little one and get to wake up to the best of smiles.

Hyacynth March 31, 2010 at 9:17 AM  

I'm so happy you're sharing your experiences over here about co-sleeping! I feel like it's such an important parenting tool for bonding and safety.
Your co-sleeping experience sounds similar to ours. Thanks for sharing, C., and thanks for hosting, M.!

Kathleen March 31, 2010 at 9:20 AM  

Beautiful, Corrine. You've captured so many truths about your family, such intimacy, such love. Thanks for sharing it.

Kim Klassen March 31, 2010 at 4:36 PM  

oh how wonderfully written.

as a mother of teens...and one who has experienced some true heartache while raising her teenage son...
as he pulled away from me and took a very rocky road... i held tight to the times when we cuddled, to the times when i was the only one in the room for him...

hold onto the moments.... enjoy them, soak them up.... cherish them...

sigh...♥wonderful... truly wonderful...

Johnna Riddell April 1, 2010 at 10:25 PM  

wow, you are so eloquent. I loved reading this!

We all have these ideas of what will be, when we are preggers with our first child - huh... and we quickly realize what works is what works, no matter what the plan is.

I love the part about your husband saying that his crib was so big and he was so small... I remember feeling that. It felt like such a lonely little place to lay such a precious thing.

Anyway, it was a gorgeous post and wonderful way to put things. Thank you so much for sharing... and Thank you to Maegan, for initiating such a wonderful opportunity to hear from others... xo

deb April 6, 2010 at 8:56 AM  

love Corinne, it's an honour to follow her here.
and Madeline ~ I saw your feature in the Artful Blogging magazine, which I bought to drool over on our vacation. Congratulations!

Beautifully written. I have to admit I am a light sleeper , so once the children got bigger, I found it hard to co-sleep. Also, we had the first four very close together, so did have to establish some better routines. My fifth actually went and slept with the oldest girl when she woke up, which was almost every night. I think we should teach our children that love and compassion doesn't have to stop at bedtime, so it's okay to do whatever works for each family.
We went back and forth on it, but in the end, in the big picture, it was all good.
Thanks for bring back memories of waking up to the milk wet spot from falling asleep while nursing!