When I decided to co-sleep with my child, it wasn’t because I subscribed to any particular parenting approach or dogma, but just because it felt right. I didn’t anticipate the outcry my choice provoked from well-meaning friends and family members.
Their first concern was that my husband and I might suffocate my son during the night, a fear that I dispelled for myself through research and through accommodations in our sleeping arrangements (no fluffy bedding or pillows, a well-fitted mattress with no gaps between it and the bed frame).
The second issue that troubled several of my friends was the impact that co-sleeping might have on my relationship with my husband. Time and again I heard the same sentiment echoed by women I considered strong, confident women, feminists even. “You have to put your relationship with your husband first.”
I shrugged this one off with a bit of annoyance. The suggestion that I should live in constant anxiety about losing a man rankled me. Plus, my husband and I had been through enough in the decade before we had a child that I felt completely confident in his commitment to me and our new family.
I also found the comment insulting to my husband. The warnings seemed to suggest not only that he was not an equal parent, equally involved in the choice to bring our son into our bed, and equally invested in the benefits we all reaped from it, but that he was himself a large child whose needs I must prioritize. In reality, since he was away from the house all day, he welcomed the chance to cuddle and bond with our son each night.
Beyond these rebuttals, I admit that we felt a crimp in our sex life after our son was born, but it had less to do with who sleeps where than with the general demands of parenting. On the other hand, here are some of the unexpected ways that co-sleeping has benefitted our sex life:
1 | Location, location, location.
My husband and I have been liberated from the bedroom. A sofa, a comfy armchair, or a padded rug will do. It’s a moveable feast.
2 | Anytime is the right time.
I was never much in the mood at bedtime anyway, and these days it’s all over for me by 9 P.M. Early in the morning, just after a run, but before the kid wakes up? Perfect. A little afternoon delight with the shades drawn while he naps? Oh yeah. We catch it while we can.
3 | We have become co-conspirators.
Nudging napping schedules, looking ahead at the week’s workload, my husband and I plan ahead. You’ll be home early on Friday? We both know what that means. We have learned to speak in code, so the whole endeavor takes on the aura of something covert. We have a shared purpose.
4 | Anticipation.
We have to wait. A lot. But not too much. When we finally get our moment alone, it’s like that chocolate sundae you’ve been dreaming about all day. It’s just that much better.
5 | We flirt with each other more.
We talk. We tease. We slip into the next room to make out for a minute before dinner. Don’t we always want what is denied us? The constraints on our sex life have kept us from taking each other for granted.
My son continues to sleep in our bed even as he approaches his fifth birthday. He shows no sign of migrating toward his new “big boy bed” anytime soon, and we are not pushing him. I see him growing up and away from us in every moment, and with each burst of pride at he steps toward independence, I feel a pang of grief.
Raising a child is a constant process of letting go, and I know that the day will come when I will no longer be able to curl around his small body, nestle my face into his hair, and cuddle him to sleep. When the idea of that loss seems too hard to bear, I remember that my husband will still be there, and imagine the ways we will reclaim the space of our bed together.