The king size bed came into my life when I was eight months pregnant with my first son. My husband and I had just returned from a trip where we spread out like melting blobs on the hotel bed of our king suite. During my last four months of pregnancy, my giant belly could only sleep comfortably if nestled inside the cocoon of pillows which came to be known as “The Fort.” The Fort took up significant space in our queen size bed, leaving only margins of mattress and sheets for my 6’5” husband. Once we had a taste of the king life, the queen had to be overthrown.
Like the well-meaning first time parents we were, my husband and I decided we would not bring our child into our bed. The glorious 76 by 80 inches of Tempurpedic bliss was an adult only zone. A sacred space that would not be infiltrated by any baby, no matter how cute! But neither my husband nor I expected we would have two children in fifteen months – so any plan that was not directly related to meeting basic needs, died along with my high heel collection and metabolism. There are endless tasks to negotiate in those early years and it is inevitable that some good intentions are going to slip through the cracks. Now, after eight years of little ones crawling in and out of my bed, I am so happy our child-free bed plan was never properly executed.
It was not for lack of trying. In the beginning I was dedicated to keeping my son in his crib, but it’s hard to have a long game when you are utterly exhausted. By the time my first son was six months old, I was pregnant with my second. Sleep is a precious commodity in the economy of parenthood and if bringing my baby into my bed bought me one more hour of sleep, I was willing to risk any undesirable outcomes. Undesirable outcomes, you say?
You know the ones all the parents that have come before you warn about: Babies who sleep in their parents’ bed never learn to sleep on their own. Babies in the bed ruin that insanely hot sex every couple with a newborn throws down each night. Babies who come in their parents’ bed at night never learn to be independent people. If you let that baby into your bed, you’ll be making a huge mistake! But no one ever told me how deliciously sweet this “mistake” could be.
Not one person said how the sound of my sleeping child breathing on my cheek would make my heart grow so big my chest would swell with love. I don’t recall anyone informing me of the relief I would feel having my fevered child lie by my side through the night. I suppose these people have never cuddled under a blanket with their toddler and wrapped their grown-up toes around a set of chubby 4-year-old toes; because if they had, I am certain they would have told me just how much joy a tiny bed crasher can be.
In the spirit of honesty, let me be clear that night time visitors are not all snuggles and toe hugs. I have spent plenty of nights repositioning a small set of feet that want nothing more than to dig into my rib cage. Many wee morning hours have been spent startling out of sleep – over and over – to the staccato cough of a toddler. Those nights are miserable and rage inducing, yet even during the worst of it is an undercurrent of sentimentality, the feeling that these moments will be among the best I will recall, the highlighted passages in the story of my life.
Over the years my king size bed has become more than just a bed. It is a dreamcatcher that captures the bad guys who hijack little boy dreams; a clinic that keeps watch over sick children who are restless with fever; a dimly lit lounge to snuggle on lazy weekend mornings; a cozy spot to read a stack of story books. My bed has become a sacred space, although not the one my husband and I envisioned eight years ago. Some nights it is a place of solace, where just the two of us read and rest and dream. Other nights it is a place of gathering and piling in, yet little sleep is taking place. But most of all, my king size bed has become a touchstone for our family, during this golden era when my children still crave the physical closeness of their parents.