Following The Principles: Ensure Safe Sleep

Part 5 of a series of 8: I did not expect the arrival of my first baby to create so much upheaval in my bedroom. There was no room for a “nursery” so by default we became co-sleepers.  The room would have never won any awards for decorating to begin with, but after the baby it became a minefield of clothes, blankets, stuffed animals, toys, wipes, baby nail clippers, bulb syringes, diapers, and little mismatched baby socks.

My Reality Bedroom: With Stowable Nests

After firstborn moved into his own room at about two and half years, we spent joyous hours creating HIS space with all of HIS favorite things. It was then that I made a vow to create a special place for me to relax and recharge. I fantasized about my ideal Bedroom Solutions…my haven. I knew one day I would have the resources to make that happen!

While expecting Ella we lived in Florida and I vividly remember the aqua blue of the crisp sheets on my bed, the soft watercolor paintings on the walls, and the traces of sand in the corners that would always reappear no matter how often I cleaned.   I would lay on those cool sheets in the heat of the summer and day dream about our new little one joining our family– a sweet blond baby girl curled up in my arms breathing in the scent of orange blossoms  and warm ocean air blowing through open windows. Of course, after she arrived, that fantasy lasted about 10 minutes before the room was covered in receiving blankets, discarded breast pads, and wet nursing bras hung up to dry. But I do I remember how grateful I was to have the comfort of those peaceful memories in that room when Hurricane Erin viciously tore over our house and I held my peacefully sleeping babies in my arms the whole, long, dark night.  By the time Ella moved out of the room, the cool crisp blues and aquas had been replaced with whatever was clean that day, the watercolors with Brent’s glitter and macaroni artwork, and scent of orange blossoms and ocean breezes were masked by the humming of the A/C to keep the Florida heat at bay.  But for a time, it had been both a place of calm reflection for me and a safe place for my baby to stay close to me all night long.

When we made the move up north, both Brent and Ella were in their own rooms and the master bedroom was a clean slate awaiting my aesthetic whim. I went through multiple decorating stages in the eight years before Bug arrived. Black and red Chinese with pink cherry blossoms. Sage and Lavender with Art Nouveau prints. Warm Moroccan tones with spicy-scented candles.  A new piece of art or a swath of fabric would inspire a whole new scheme. While we were expecting Bug, I excitedly redid the room with an eye for incorporating the new baby– her oatmeal colored co-sleeper became the decorating focal point– natural fibers and textures accented with hand-painted cloth butterfly wall hangings. Again, I spent time in the room relaxing and preparing to meet our newest sweet baby. When she did arrive, the planning had paid off! The room didn’t fall into baby-induced chaos! I had managed to combine my desire to co-sleep with my desire to have a personal haven!

Five years later, when we were expecting T-Bird, although we had moved to a new house, I was able to use the existing decor to my advantage —the dark burgundy walls created a warm, womb-like glow and T-Bird seemed to hardly know the difference between being in utero and joining us on the outside! The room continued to be a restful, organized and peaceful place for our family to safely spend our nighttime hours together.

Soon, we needed to relocate again. This time to a much, much smaller space which called for some pretty big upheavals for our family. We found ourselves sharing the small master bedroom with our two girls. Cozy…but not the haven I had hoped to create in order to provide myself with an inviting and renewing space. Convincing myself that it was only temporary and that once we were settled I would have the time, resources, and energy to address the issue, I did very little to make the space my own.

Unknown to me yet, within weeks of moving in, our little LF#5 was already growing inside of me. The stress of the move…the inexplicable changes in T-Birds nursing behaviors…the sheer exhaustion…the nausea. Convinced that I had contracted a serious case of the flu, I took to the bedroom to await my recovery. Surrounded by chaos, toys, mounds of laundry with no storage space, a toddler who was constantly latched-on, and a hastily thrown together decorating scheme (which was basically a motley collection of whatever didn’t fit into any other room), I fell into a sort of despair! My sanctuary had become lost in a sea of parenting with no identifiable part of ME to be found! I became even more distraught when faced with the fact that I was not simply recovering from the flu for the past two months, but in fact was pregnant with a new baby. Our queen size bed was already overburdened! There was zero room for a co-sleeper! The thought of having three kids in one room was something that my mind just could not wrap itself around! I would be denied the calm, relaxing, joyous planning part of this pregnancy if I left things the way that they were…but what could be changed?

I realized that I was perfectly capable of creating an organized space to accommodate our family and my needs. It was just going to take some planning. We started by moving both of the girls into “nests” on the floor: toddler mattresses which are easily stowed under the bed or in a closet when not in use. I picked out toddler sheets in neutral tones so that if they do get left out I don’t have hot pink flowers or neon green polka-dots clashing with my decor! I evaluated what furniture/carpet/window treatments were staying in the room (whether I liked it or not) and decided on a color-scheme that would compliment it as much as possible–gold, burgundy and varying shades of brown won. Then, we found a suitable comforter and sham set on mega sale. Voila! It looks like a bedroom!

It is not the bedroom of my dreams…but I have taken what was a chaotic situation and made it the best it can be without moving, remodeling, or compromising the parenting values that have kept our family sleeping safely for the last 20 years. It isn’t about being materialistic or focused only on the decor of the bedroom…it is about feeling like I have a safe place for ME, too.  The older kids have their own bedrooms. Sir Hubby has his office. The young ones even have their own playroom. They can shut the door and feel surrounded by space and memories that they have created. I share every space in my life with someone…even my own body is a shared resource at the moment. I feel that I deserve to have a place where I can put away the chaos for a few hours a day and claim some space as my own…to nap, to read, to meditate, to think, to cry, to hope, to daydream about meeting our new baby and wondering how s/he will fit into our family.  How will it feel like to have a new little person sharing this cozy space with us?

The room may not be the picture perfect fantasy I had in mind…but it has become my sanctuary nonetheless. Each home we have lived in has turned out to be the perfect place to welcome our new members into, and I know LF#5 will fit right in here (no matter how little space there is)! I have the rest of my life to create that dream bedroom, but only this exceedingly brief period of time to spend sharing our nights together in safe & secure slumber.  And finding creative ways to find peaceful space for myself as well just makes the deal even sweeter.

Read the other posts in this series
Part One: Prepare for Pregnancy, Birth and Parenting
Part Two: Feed With Love and Respect
Part Three: Respond With Sensitivity
Part Four: Use Nurturing Touch

Author: justine

Justine Julian blogs at State of the Heart. Learn more about her work as a doula at JulianArts.

2 thoughts on “Following The Principles: Ensure Safe Sleep”

  1. This article is one of the best I’ve read on co-sleeping! I love the writer’s honesty, and the strive for creating a space just for her while also tending to the family needs. This really encompasses the Principles well. Thank you!

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