Taking Back the Family Bed

Leaving the baby phase behind to regain the privacy of an adult bedroom

All of our babies shared our bed. During the years my husband and I were raising our family, our bedroom resembled a nursery instead of a place of rest for adults. A mesh rail stood guard on my side of the bed to catch rolling infants; receiving blankets and baby clothes occupied the foot of the bed; and both nightstands were littered with nasal syringes, burp cloths and wipes.

Despite grandma's pointed opinions and the co-sleeping controversy, keeping our infants close at night worked best for us. Due to a medical condition on my part, all three of my children were born small for gestational age. The littlest was four pounds ten ounces and the biggest weighed in at five-one. These miniature versions of already tiny newborns needed more calories than the average baby, and for me that meant frequent feedings — often around the clock. For a tired mom, rolling over to nurse was infinitely easier than plodding down the hall.

The first child slept with us for eight months, and the other two for somewhere around a year each. Because our kids were spaced four years apart, we didn’t completely exit the baby stage for nine years.

When my third child was 3, my pregnant neighbor asked for advice in using cloth diapers. Having cloth diapered all my kids, I was happy to help. I went to the garage and pulled out the big plastic tote that held my diaper stash. As we chatted and looked over the prefolds, velcro covers and pins, the realization hit me. I wouldn’t be needing these again — ever. My friend owned a home sewing business and was interested in creating custom-sewn cloth diapers. She needed some material to practice patterns on, so I offered to sell or trade my stash. This practice may seem strange, but diaper services and moms often trade or sell sanitized, used cloth diapers.

My eyes welled up with tears as I remembered those dainty, preemie-sized newborns. Sitting there crying over diapers, I realized what I was really mourning: the last of the baby stage.

“Well, is there anything you need?” she asked. “I could sew you something.”

I thought about my bedroom. The duvet had shrunk from many washings, and the sheets were worn thin. We’d needed bed linens for years, but I hadn’t wanted to buy new ones until the messy kiddos were out of our bed. The last child had been sleeping in his crib for a couple of years, and I’d browsed in stores for new linens a few times, but nothing seemed just right. This was my chance. My friend and I agreed to trade my diapers for a new custom-sewn duvet set and matching curtains.

Later that week, my friend took me shopping and I chose my colors in non-kid-friendly charcoal gray and plum. For an accent, I purchased stainable off-white with a grey leaf print and silver glitter. My excitement grew as we discussed patterns and curtain styles. I realized that this would be the first time I decorated a room for me — for us — since my first child was born. I’d labored to create beautiful nurseries and kids’ bedrooms and had even made the public spaces in our home stylish, but I’d never gotten around to the master bedroom.

Experts tell parents that their bedroom should be a haven: a clean, organized place of rest and renewal. But for tired moms and dads, just keeping the rest of the house clean is a challenge, and our bedroom was always the most neglected room in our home. As my friend and I looked over my room and she took measurements, I saw the space with new eyes. The layer of dust on the nightstands. The pile of folded laundry next to the bed. The clutter on the dresser. I was suddenly seized by a fresh energy to take back our bedroom.

Once I got started, I went a little crazy. I purchased lamps, painted the walls dove gray, and placed a purple candle — not a child-safe battery type, but a real one, with a real flame — on my nightstand where all the baby necessities used to live. I used some of the leftover fabric from the renovation to cover a bulletin board and repurpose our clothes hamper to match it all.

Once my friend was busy sewing up my new linens, I got out the tote filled with diapers again and started to go through them. While I was at it, I also pulled out all my other baby items. I laid everything on my living room rug and made little piles of all the different accoutrements. I picked up a tiny velcro diaper cover, so small it fit in the palm of my hand. My eyes welled up with tears as I remembered those dainty, preemie-sized newborns who had worn these diaper covers. I unfolded the bed rail and was overtaken by the memory of lying on my side in bed, nursing a hungry baby while half asleep as the clean, sweet smell of breast milk drifted in the air. When I saw the sling, I recalled the stiffness I felt in my shoulder after a long day of babywearing. Memories clung to each and every piece. Sitting there crying over diapers, I realized what I was really mourning: the last of the baby stage.

When my friend presented me with the finished bedroom set, I was speechless. The duvet and throw pillows — combined with the custom curtains and bed skirt — were worthy of a lifestyle magazine cover. That, along with the new paint, lamps and absence of nursery supplies, made the bedroom ours again. Although I was sad to leave the baby stage behind, our shiny new room and bed gave me a glimpse into the next chapter of my life.

My husband came in to see the big reveal and slipped his arm around me. I leaned into him and realized that I’d had traded in diapers for something equally precious — us.

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