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Funeral for a friend

The Co-Sleeper is leaving today. This should be a good thing, as the last time I saw it, I was pretty sure I wanted to hurl it down a staircase before kicking it into a crumpled beige wad. Instead, I just want to climb into a vodka tonic and have a good cry.

Historically, I’m not one to get emotionally involved with a piece of furniture, but the Co-Sleeper and I have a long, complicated relationship, as evidenced by this: While you may see a disassembled infant bed. . .

. . . I see a backpack waiting for its first journey to school, a suitcase packed for a summer at camp, a cardboard box filled with the treasures of a young woman who will pick it up and leave my house forever.

It was a shower gift when I was pregnant with Eliot, something we’d tacked onto the registry. The nursery was finished, but a Co-Sleeper meant I’d be spared getting up every few hours to haul her out of the crib, nurse in the chair, then stumble back to bed for more one-ear-open sleep. In other words, a Co-Sleeper would be a fabric-framed accomplice to laziness, my own little cotton-sheathed enabler.

And then Ellie arrived, and the crib, with its plush mattress and spendy linens, lay empty. The Co-Sleeper was brilliant: at Eliot’s first whimper, I would slide her from its sheets into my warm arms, nurse her in darkness until we both fell back into dreams. The Co-Sleeper let me listen to Ellie’s small, steady breaths, sleep with one hand on her tiny, thrumming chest. It was a pleasure I hadn’t expected: the luxury of her nearness. And at six months, when the books told us to transition her to the crib, I told Mike I couldn’t bear to watch him disassemble the Co-Sleeper, to break down and put away what had become a symbol for Eliot’s infancy, her night-and-day need for my closeness, and now, its end.

And then came Nola and the Co-Sleeper’s return, and with it those late-night visceral pleasures: small, soft eyes shining up at you, the warmth of joined skin, a velvet mouth hungrily suckling — the secrets that take place between a mother and newborn in the dark. It was bliss.

But nine months later, bliss needed to get THE HELL outta my bedroom. Mom had been staying in the guest room, where we would have set up the crib, and by the time she vacated it, Nola was literally outgrowing the Co-Sleeper. Too big to comfortably flip around in it, she woke herself (and us) up constantly. It was time for the Co-Sleeper to go, and though once again Michael cleared it while I wasn’t looking, I was ELATED to see those vacant square feet of bedroom floor.

So when friends asked to buy it for their soon-due second baby, I didn’t hesitate to say yes. I’m pretty sure we’re stopping at two, in which case the Co-Sleeper was just taking up space, and it would be nice to pass it along to someone whose kids play with ours. And since we’d scheduled pickup for today, I pulled it out of storage to give it a good cleaning, and then had a total breakdown.

Because I realized that since first receiving it, I’d never disassembled it, never been able to bear the weight of tearing it down and packing it away, and finally, I had to. And with each collapse of a structural joint, I said goodbye: goodbye to those cherished first months in which my daughters needed me within arms’ length, goodbye to our quiet moments in the night, goodbye — quite likely — to ever pulling a newborn to my breast again.

Goodbye, Co-Sleeper. Treat your new mother and baby well. (And at a wee hour, persuade them that you and I work much better with a monthly visitation schedule…)

2 Comments

  • Amanda

    June 2, 2008 at 8:11 am

    This morning I “harumpfed” into my office, completely over the mid-sized tyrant with whom I share my dwelling. Sure, I was going to be at work all day, but it would be eight glorious hours without hearing “Maaaaaaaahhhmeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee” – I even have a date with my stellar stylist today! A break from the kid was more than needed – until I read your eulogy for the Co-Sleeper. Now I am fighting the tears that come when I think of my once small baby and also fighting the urge to develop some mystery illness in order to leave work for the day & spend it with said small boy.

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