This is not a steamy story, though I do my best to keep our bedroom that way. Every night I fill a little enamel pan with water and set it on top of the radiator with the silver paint in the corner of our bedroom. The hope is that the water will turn to steam and make the three of us breathe a little easier. It usually takes two days for the water to evaporate. At this rate, I’m calculating that we get about an extra cup of moisture into the air each week. But I’m sticking to the routine anyway, because that’s what counts, isn’t it?
I’m often asked how we’ve managed, two parents and a baby in one bedroom. I have a suspicision that the questions have less to do with us living in close quarters and more to do with the new parent/one-day parent preoccupation with sleep generally.
I think that our story about sleeping with a baby in a one bedroom apartment is like anyone’s story about sleeping anywhere with a baby. It’s a dance of sticking to routine and breaking routine. Looking for patterns, and in the absence of patterns, creating them.
In the scheme of things, the cozy situation that we happen to find ourselves in in our home isn’t especially newsworthy. Until last week, there were two other families in our building alone doing the same thing. Nine apartments, three of them with babies, none of them having more than one bedroom.
To be sure, there are a few things that stand out about life with a baby in a one-bedroom. We don’t have any need for a baby monitor. We can’t lie in bed with the lights on and read after Faye’s gone to sleep. We try to keep chatting in bed to a minimum. But most everything else I imagine is pretty much business as usual.
Mostly Faye sleeps. Sometimes she doesn’t. On nights when she doesn’t sleep it’s because of her mattress. Or the moon. Or the tiny tooth that just last week began to emerge from her tiny gums. In other words: who knows?
These days, a typical night at our house looks like this:
We bathe Faye after dinner and before bed. (Lately she prefers to lie on her back in the tub and splash the water with exuberant kicks, but that is neither here nor there.) After the bath we dress her in a pair of pajamas (usually these) and read her a story or three (lately this and this and this) before she nurses for a few minutes. We most often put her down when she’s still awake in that sweet sleepy style. She sucks on her middle two fingers until she’s asleep and then she sucks on them some more after she’s asleep. After we put her down, we close the bedroom door and tiptoe away and then basically carry on as we would have before she was here: doing dishes, watching movies, staring into each other’s eyes, reciting poetry, etc. Sometimes after we’ve put Faye to sleep and we’re sitting on the other side of the bedroom door, James sneezes incredibly loudly but she doesn’t wake up. Sometimes after we creep back into the room, James sneezes incredibly loudly and she does wake up. We sometimes hang a black scarf on the window to block out extra light. We sometimes don’t. We sometimes turn on a fan to block out any noise. We sometimes don’t. If Faye wakes up in the night and is incredibly persistant in her cries, we bring her to bed and I nurse her. We sometimes keep her there for awhile. (She’s excellent at spooning.) We sometimes decide that two parents and a baby in a double bed is not very comfortable for anyone and we put her back in her own bed. (Sometimes spooning is overrated.)
My point in recounting our routine isn’t to offer advice on one thing or another that works. Goodness knows, you’ve probably all gotten enough of that. Surely some of this works because of the temperment or sleeping styles or habits of our family. I assure you that sometimes it doesn’t work and we wake up feeling like zombies.
When it comes to sleep and babies, we’re all just fumbling along. We care for our fabulous, feisty little humans the best way we know how. In one bedroom, or two bedrooms, or no bedrooms at all, sleep after a baby is different than sleep before a baby. But then, so is breathing. So is the way your heart beats in your chest.