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A Sleep Story

“Yah-yah-yah-yah-yah,” my freshly minted one-year-old babbles to himself as he flops around on my bed. He’s like a puppy spinning circles before settling into sleep. Every so often I reach out to grab an ankle before his wiggles take him over the edge of the bed. He twists and squirms while chattering away, rewarding my efforts to keep him safely on the bed by alternating escape attempts with kicking me in the side.

This is Logan’s bedtime routine. I’ll admit, I dropped the ball here. At the same age, my first born's bedtime was carefully structured with toothbrushing and pajamas followed by thirty minutes of calm playtime as meditation music delivered soothing sounds in the background. I’d read two books, sing a song, then deposit Gracie in her crib, watch her snuggle down on her belly with limbs tucked underneath, and walk away.

I just never got around to “doing bedtime” with Logan. For the first nine months he passed out while drinking his bedtime bottle. And for the last few months … I just resigned to waiting him out.

Once his eyes finally close and his body stops moving, I watch his chest rise and fall in sleep and delay moving him for a few minutes; just enjoying the peaceful closeness. Eventually I scoop him up and transfer him to the Pack ‘n Play where he’ll sleep for the rest of the night. In the morning, Logan wakes up at 5:30, a full hour before my alarm is set to chime. I rescue my crying baby and snuggle him down next to me in bed, buying myself back that remaining hour of sleep.

At fifteen months old, Logan’s bedtime routine is unchanged, and his early morning transfer into bed with me is happening closer to midnight than daylight. Tonight, the cries protesting the Pack ‘n Play snap me awake at 2 AM. I don’t bother waiting to see if he’ll change his mind and go back to sleep. My only goal is to minimize the disruption for both of us. I pick him up and pat his back until his angry cries calm, then lay him down in his preferred sleep position: on his side, facing me, with one or more limbs outstretched to anchor his little body to mine, making sure I don’t disappear.

Tonight, his arm is draped across my Snoogle body pillow and his fingers rest on my arm. The pregnancy body pillow is a recent addition to the bed and a physical reminder that I’ve got to get my toddler into his own bed before the next baby arrives. But that countdown to the new baby also marks Logan’s final few months as the littlest little, and I’m in no rush to make him grow up faster. Besides, I’m in the trenches of first trimester nausea and fatigue. Sleep training is the last thing I want to deal with right now. When the bed gets remade in the morning, the pillows stay parted in the middle, a giraffe-patterned muslin blanket marking Logan’s claim of sleeping space in the bed.

Mark is an irritatingly constant voice of reason. “At some point, we just have to do it. He can’t stay in here forever.”

“Oh, but he’s not ready. And I just don’t have the energy right now. Soon, I’ll be ready soon.”

One night a few weeks later, after we finish books and prayer and say “goodnight” to Gracie, I carry him up the stairs to his room instead of mine. We read a couple more books, sing songs, and I place him gently in his crib.

He doesn’t roll over, snuggle down, and go to sleep. He pops up and gives me a look of utter betrayal, his lip quivering before breaking the silence with a piercing wail while big fat tears roll down his chubby cheeks. It’s a rocky (and loud) start.

Two weeks later, I rock him in the glider that went unused his entire first year of life, singing and holding him close. First Rockabye Logan, then the song that’s been his since before he was born.

I love you, Logan, oh yes I do.

I love you, Logan, with a love that’s true.

When you’re not near me, I feel so blue.

Oh, Logan, I love you.

He falls asleep before the last song ends, and I rock him a little longer, holding tight to whatever babyness he’s got left. The stresses of the day melt away and I’m reassured that despite the dinnertime clash over throwing food and banging dinnerware (and a response from me that wasn't as patient and calm as it should have been), I’m still this little boy’s whole world and we get to try again tomorrow.

My feelings are a little less rose-tinted when, as usual, he wakes up shrieking in the middle of the night. I shoot awake and trudge to his room where he’s waiting for me in his crib with arms stretched straight above his head. He may go down at bedtime without a fight, but the middle of my bed is still where he ends up by morning.

When Logan is 18 months old, I realize he hasn’t slept in my bed in at least two weeks, and that was just a shared nap on a lazy Saturday. I rearrange the pillows into their intended, two adult configuration and remove Logan’s yellow giraffe blanket. He spends all night, every night in his own room now. As proud as I am that we got through a transition that seemed impossible a few months ago, I’m sad to put away that blanket and accept that he really won’t be back sleeping beside me again.

Room sharing for more than a few months was never my plan, let alone co-sleeping with a one-year-old. But that’s what happened, and I don’t regret it. As the second-born, Logan didn’t have the only child luxuries his big sister got to enjoy for two entire years before he came into the picture. He almost never got my full attention the way Gracie used to. Except for all those sweet nights we spent snuggled up together, his chubby baby hand latched onto me.

Logan’s little sister will be here in three months. With no empty bedrooms and the house, and the knowledge that whatever we plan might end up thrown out the window, we’re keeping our plan flexible and our options open. She won’t have a nursery waiting for her when we bring her home from the hospital, just a bassinet in our master bedroom that will likely be swapped out for the same Pack 'n Play Logan used when he outgrew the bassinet.

The strategy for now is to make a decision after the first six months to move her in with Gracie or give up the guest bedroom to make her a room of her own. Maybe she’ll end up sleeping beside me past the one year mark too. Whatever happens, I’m not going to worry about it.


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