Thursday, September 10, 2015

Our Nightly Visitor

Every night, Jeff and I have a visitor. She pitter patters into our bedroom with a glowing toy seahorse to light her way. She drops off three small stuffed animals in my bed. She pitters over to the bathroom and patters back, hops into my bed, pulls on the covers, and falls fast asleep.

She sleeps on the side of my bed nearest to Jeff's bed. So, in a way, it's like she's sleeping right in the middle between Jeff and me.

She is our Evie.

And we love it.

I especially treasure these nightly visits.

But I didn't always.

Let me back up a little, back to when Evie was a brand new baby ...

When Evie was born, Jeff and I followed the BabyWise method of helping her to sleep through the night. (Let's be honest here ... I read the book and implemented the schedule. Jeff followed along.) By the time Evie was 8 weeks old, she was sleeping through the night. In her own bed.

Baby got good sleep.

Mom and Dad got good sleep.

That's a recipe for happiness.

Evie has always been a good sleeper, and she rarely slept with me and Jeff - only when she was sick would she spend the night in our bed. Or when we would visit Jeff's parents in Vegas.

I remember one Christmas in Vegas (back when we were visitors, not yet residents) when Evie was two years old. She slept in the middle between me and Jeff in the guest room king-size bed. The key phrase in this sentence is "Evie slept" because Jeff and I surely did not. It was like having a baby alligator thrashing and rolling around between us all night. How could a king-size bed feel so small? And the moaning - where does that come from? She moaned from midnight to 6 am!

Here's a visual representation I found on Pinterest that shows what that experience was like - and thus why Jeff and I were never big proponents of co-sleeping with the alligator baby.

But in 2013, everything changed.

When Jeff spent nearly 7 months in various hospitals following his injury, I stayed most nights with him. He was terrified of his ventilator popping off in the middle of the night and nurses not coming quickly enough to put it back on before he blacked out. The vent did, in fact, pop off several times in those early days before we learned to rig it with rubber bands to hold it in place (which we still use today). Jeff needed me there with him. To get him through those terrifying nights. To wipe his head with a cool cloth when he had raging fevers. To be the runner to get the nurses when he needed suction because he had no way to push a call button and no voice to call them. To stand next to his bed, half dead with exhaustion, rubbing his forehead with my hands to let him know I was there and that we were somehow going to make it through this.

I loved being there with him.

But I missed Evie. We both did.

Evie was in very good hands back then with my Mom. They would sleep together in my mom's bed, safe and sound.

And on the rare nights that I stayed home, I would let Evie bend the rules and sleep with me in my bed - which seemed so vast and empty without Jeff in it. Together Evie and I would snuggle, reading a book by flashlight or playing a game on my phone before we would fall asleep. Some nights I would wake in a panic, my arms frantically searching for Evie. My mind was so mired with stress that I would dream she wasn't breathing. I would find her next to me, pull her sleepy little four-year-old body onto mine, and hold her while I cried. Her rhythmic breathing would lull me back to sleep.

Those early days were so hard.

Once Jeff transitioned home, Evie was back to starting off the night in her own bed, but she usually made her way into Nana's room in the middle of the night. Both Nana and Evie knew they had to fess up in the morning and let me and Jeff know how the sleeping arrangement played out each night. We tried to get Evie to sleep all night in her own bed, but honestly, she was still getting plenty of sleep each night, even with bed swapping, and because of that, we eased up on the sleeping rules.

Once we transitioned to our current home in Vegas, Evie continued the same pattern of starting off in her bed, and ending up in Nana's. Jeff and I continued to weakly enforce the "stay in your bed all night" rule. But everyone was getting plenty of sleep, and no one was complaining.

Then in early summer, my mom left to visit family in another state for many weeks, and Jeff and I thought - this is it - our chance to get Evie back to sleeping in her own bed! We had bent the rules long enough. It was time to straighten them out.

Jeff and I talked to Evie about sleeping in her own bed - THE WHOLE NIGHT. She was fine with the new rule. She didn't mind sleeping in her own bed - she never has.

So we were a little surprised when, on the first night Nana was gone, Evie wobbled into our room at 1 am. She was whiny and groggy. She was also very hot. She had a fever of 102.

I was torn. I couldn't go back to her bed with her. I have to sleep in the same room as Jeff in case he needs me. But she needed me too.

I immediately opened my bed and she climbed in.

This nighttime ritual lasted the duration of her fever, which was about 3 days.

And during those three days, I discovered something ...

I liked when she came in. I found myself looking forward to it. So much so that I upsized my bed from a twin to a full to accommodate those nightly visits.

Jeff liked them too. He said he loves when she walks in with her little seahorse fired up, playing soft lullaby music. He listens as she hops into my bed, and a comfort comes over him as he knows his girls are safely tucked in next to him - even if they are in another bed.

Sometimes when she floats into our room, he whispers to her and asks her to raise the head of his bed up. She knows the buttons on his bed by heart, and in the darkness, she pushes the up arrow and raises his head slightly. Whispers of "Thanks, Sweetheart" and "Welcome, Daddy" follow.

So now, each night, we repeat this routine. And each night we find we love it more and more. I love feeling her little body snuggle up next to mine. Yes, sometimes I get an elbow in the back, and more than once she's been a bed hog (thankfully she's outgrown the alligator phase), but having her next to me - having her and Jeff and me all in the same room - creates a level of peace I haven't felt in a long time.

Every morning I get to wake up to her sleepy smile and fuzzy hair floating all around her head. She usually doesn't linger in the bed long though. Now that Nana is back, she jumps out of my bed, abandoning the motley crew of stuffed toys she brought with her in the night, and skedaddles down the hall to snuggle with Nana before getting up to welcome the day.

* * * * * * *

And so we've found ourselves breaking a once rigid rule. If you know me at all, you know I am a play-by-the-rules kind of gal, so this one was a challenge for me. But if there's one thing I've learned throughout the last two years, it's that life has a way of changing. Priorities shift. And rules often have to be broken and re-forged to better accommodate a new way of life.

This sleeping arrangement works for us right now in our life. For seven months, the three of us were forced to sleep under separate roofs, dictated by circumstances we had no control over. Now that we are getting settled into our new home, the nights are no longer stressful or scary. They are peaceful once again. We just have a new setup.

I know that one day Evie will grow out of wanting to snuggle in my bed. And that's okay. Growth and transition are necessary parts of life. But for now, I am loving this phase. The one where Mama and Daddy's bedroom is the center of love, safety, and comfort.

Where I get to spend a restful night with the two most important creatures in my world.

Here's to a good night's sleep - for everyone.


  1. Hi Kristen,

    I'm a friend of Angela Ribeiro's and I follow your blog. This post really resonated with me, as a fellow mom (10YO daughter).

    I read Baby Wise, and thought I didn't subscribe to that extreme philosophy myself, I understand the reference and what you were trying to do. In fact, the one piece of advice we got from ALL friends who became parents before we did was, "Don't let your kids sleep with you, or you will never get them out of your bed!" So, from early on, our daughter slept in her crib with occasional visits as she grew.

    Then, when she was 3-1/2, her Dad and I divorced. It was not my or my daughter's choice, but it was our life. I imagine you can relate. Different circumstances, but a life change completely beyond your control and not of your choosing at all. You get it, I know.

    After the divorce, she wanted to sleep with me frequently, and even had night terrors. Sleep became so difficult. She needed comfort, and quite frankly--as you described yourself--so did I. So I said yes. It took a while, but sleep patterns went back to normal as we adjusted to our new life. But now, even at age 10, my tween still asks to sleep with me after she watches a scary movie, or if we have an argument (even though we always resolve it before going to bed). And every time she asks, I say yes. YES.

    We are their safe haven right now, and someday they will leave our homes and not have that from us (at least not on a regular basis). Until then, the comfort of my bed and my arms is her safe place to fall. No matter what. You deserve the same comfort. ALL of you do. No matter what any book says.

    Keep doing the right thing for those you love. I have tremendous admiration for you, from one mom and one woman to another. And thank you for sharing your experiences. Puts so much in perspective. None of it is a competition, but I think you know what I mean.

    All my best,


    Karla Frizler

    1. Hi Karla. Thank you SO much for sharing this part of your story. Your words really resonate with me. I am a firm believer in finding what works for you in your life regardless of where the mainstream wants to steer you. What you say about "doing the right thing for those you love" speaks directly to my heart.

      Thank you for following our family's journey. A big part of why I write it out is to connect with people - and I'm glad we've made a connection through similar experiences.



  2. I am currently in the stage of the little alligator in our bed. I have a two year old who is nearly impossible to put back to sleep in his crib if he wakes up in the night and I don't usually have the energy to fight with him. Its hard to get a good night's rest but when I roll over and look at his little angel face I know this won't last for ever and try to soak it up while I can. I enjoy following your story. --Rhea Wilcox (My husband is Cody)

    1. Hi Rhea,

      I know what you mean about not having the energy to fight "the alligator." :) Soon enough that alligator will leave the pond, and then we'll have all new issues to deal with!

      I was blown away when Cody told me that you read my blog! Not only that, we're practically neighbors!

      Thanks so much for following our story.