A Nightly Prayer
Sleeping with our daughter between us has been a blessing
By Mary Rose Bacani Valenti
It’s another romantic evening with my husband.
“You know, I’ve been thinking,” I whisper to him. “I’m really happy that I’m staying home with Chiara, but should I work on the side to help support us financially? I don’t want you to feel burdened.”
“We’re going to be okay,” Richard reassures me. “We’re able to make our mortgage payments for a home we love in a neighborhood we love, and we have a happy daughter. Thank you for being a great mother to her.”
He fumbles for my hand in the darkness, accidentally hitting Chiara’s head.
No, we’re not in a fancy restaurant with candlelight between us. We’re lying on our own bed with our sleeping toddler in between.
We’ve been co-sleeping with our daughter ever since she was born, not just in the same room but in the same bed. Our decision to do this has been a major turning-point for us. Not only for our relationship but for our entire way of living and doing things. So how did we come to this decision and why do we continue to keep it?
Well, in the beginning we had a crib set up in a separate bedroom with all the baby clothes and accessories. But the first time I held my newborn in my arms and felt her skin against mine, I fell in love. My husband and I both did. Richard’s job used to be his priority, and working late was a pleasure. When Chiara came, his world became her. In her first few weeks, he’d be home so early. He’d rush through the door, scan the place for Chiara and quickly lie down beside her. He wouldn’t move for half an hour, his eyes fixed on her, saying, “I love her so much. She’s so beautiful.”
What was it like for Mary and Joseph on the night Jesus was born? Richard and I talked about this once. I imagine that Mary and Joseph would have spent so much time just gazing on Jesus. On that first night and on every other night. It’s like being in constant adoration. Just gazing on Love and having that Love fill your heart. For us, the more we gazed on our daughter, the more drawn we were to prayer and contemplation of God’s awesomeness. The more her presence blessed us, the more that co-sleeping became so natural a decision.
At night, after she’s bathed and settled, Richard and I usually bring Chiara upstairs to our room together. There we spend over half an hour with her. We tell stories, go over our day, and thank God for what each day brings. I feel Chiara’s contentment that both Richard and I are there. Slowly, she falls asleep in my arms, with Richard on her other side. Lying in bed with her prompts us to enjoy time with her as she sleeps peacefully. And we talk. It’s like Chiara slows us down and makes us reflect and be. There are so many things we feel we need to do, but for a few minutes we forget. When we’re ready, we leave the room to get on with our night. We either continue our intimate conversation and time together or get a few things done before we go back to bed with her.
As much as we feel strongly about our decision, there are times we feel insecure. Are we putting our child before our relationship? Are we preventing our child from becoming independent? We’ve done our research on all the benefits and disadvantages of co-sleeping and we also know it’s not for everybody.
But how do we give a quantitative and clear-cut answer as to why it’s better for us? How do I even measure a bond, a feeling, a spiritual connection? How do I describe what it’s like to have the two most important people in my life in the room with me at night, listening to them breathe, hearing them move? There must be something that happens when we’re resting together. There must be some bond that forms because I can feel it so strongly. I feel how my relationship with my husband has become deeper. I see how joyful Chiara is, how strong and secure she is in our love.
But the most important reason is that we feel we’re with God in our decision. It’s like we enter into prayer with Chiara from which flows a life of stillness and being and slowness. Consequently, our lifestyle decisions have surprised us. We always thought we were city people but we found our happiness in the suburbs, close to quiet nature and away from the busyness. We are happily getting rid of stuff and are so content with owning very few things. We are starting to appreciate the mystery of Sunday, our Sabbath, when we let ourselves rest.
Maybe Chiara is not the candlelight in a romantic dinner, but she is a shining light for us on our path to true intimacy and connection. With the second baby coming, we don’t know how our sleeping arrangements will change. But if we continue to stick with God and maintain our peace and right judgment, then we can only be doubly blessed.
Mary Rose Bacani Valenti was a producer and host for Salt and Light Television, based in Toronto, Canada, from its founding in 2003 until 2011. She is expecting her second child with her husband, Richard, who is senior editor at Salt and Light.