the smell of my desperation has become a stench

An ode to co-sleeping

At 2AM this morning a silhouette of tangled hair appeared in my room. I leave a light on in the hallway at night, and Leta’s wiry frame cut a sharp line through the opening of the doorway. She stood there hesitating so I sat up and asked what was wrong.

“I had a really weird dream and… and…”

I didn’t know if she could see me, but I waved her over to the bed. “Come crawl in beside me,” I said oddly calm about the fact that I knew I would not get another wink of sleep for the rest of the night.

She snuggled up under my left arm, her back curled into the curve of my chest. I pulled her closer to me and in my sleepy haze marveled at the length of her limbs, how she felt so fragile in my embrace despite her ever increasing height. All her pointy edges, her elbows and knees and ankles and shoulders, they felt subdued in the quiet of my room.

I could feel an intense heat on the edge of her ear, a fever I assessed by pressing my palm to the side of her face and forehead. This probably explains why she fell back asleep immediately, her lungs expanding with deep, heavy breaths under my arm. I thought for a moment that we would sleep like this all night, quiet and calm, a mother and her first born keeping each other warm. And then she whipped her arm in the air and slammed the back of her hand square on my nose.

For the next four hours I avoided various swinging limbs. One by one all her pointy edges resumed their former shape and became weapons I tried to dodge: an elbow to my temple, a knee to my jaw, a shoulder directly in my eye. She groaned and made other various noises of discomfort, so I tried to keep a hand on her the whole night, something to let her know she’d be okay. It also served to let me know when another part of her body was headed straight for my face.

At about 6AM Marlo called out for me. I left Leta’s side momentarily to retrieve the second born who upon my arrival moaned, “I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.” Her nose a runny mess, she let out a cough that rattled the room. I pulled her into a cradle in my arms and carried her to my bed, setting her beside her sleeping older sister. When I climbed in beside her she immediately kicked up her legs and landed them directly on my abdomen with a piercing thud.

“I wanna watch sthomething,” she managed to utter between coughs. I obliged her, found a cartoon on the DVR and then turned over and closed my eyes, but not before reminding myself to add “call both schools” and “google hernia” to my to-do list.


  • Tammy Clough

    2014/01/09 at 12:33 pm

    Ahh the pain you feel when your babies are sick. And just when they start to feel better the Universe decides it is OK for you to be sick now.

  • Daddy Scratches

    2014/01/09 at 12:45 pm

    There are few things that suck more than when your kids are sick and you can’t do anything about it. My kingdom for the option to kick-box the living hell out of whatever ails them … and then get them back in their own beds ASAP.

  • SmithShack71

    2014/01/09 at 1:09 pm

    Hate to hear they’re sick.
    Maybe you should get a hockey mask. Or the full on gear.

  • agerstein

    2014/01/09 at 1:23 pm

    It’s great to cuddle with them, but it’s possible that boys (or at least mine) is worse. On top of the occasional flailing, he is like a snake: always seeking heat. If he comes to bed with us, I end up on my side, right on the edge of the bed, with him wedged (back to me) right underneath me. He sleeps like a log, I sleep like someone about to fall off their bed.

  • Edwina

    2014/01/09 at 2:42 pm

    Yup. I was woken this morning by an empty milk bottle being (possibly intentionally) whacked into my head. Must remember to put my helmet on before bed.

  • JenVegas

    2014/01/09 at 2:50 pm

    My boy is 3 and the last time he was sick, with the why-is-he-throwing-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night variety illness, I opted to snuggle him on the pull out sofa bed and, even at 2.5yo he still managed to bruise all of the bruisable points of my body with his tossing and turning. I’ve never been so glad to be a non-co-sleeper than I was after that night. Ugh. I can’t imagine what it’s like with TWO.

  • Bonny Bard

    2014/01/09 at 2:51 pm

    I love sleeping with the kiddos but I also love to actually sleep so they come to the big bed when sick (the Husband leaves…) and we all sleep together when traveling,,, but co-sleeping all the time… nuh-uh can’t do it. Hope the girlies feel better soon and that you don’t get whatever they’ve got, but if you do, you can always go bother them in their beds!!

  • jess crawford!

    2014/01/09 at 2:52 pm

    I used to refuse to share a bed with my little brother in hotels for this reason. Nothing like a dodge-and-weave night of sleep! I woke up once with his hand in my (relatively short) hair, all tangled in it. I got up and slept on towels on the floor. He’s 16 now and I had to share a bedroom with him for one night over the holidays and even on the other side of the room his tossing and turning kept me awake. GOOD LORD!

    I hope the girls are better soon. xo.

  • Stephanie

    2014/01/09 at 2:57 pm

    It’s harder to sleep with kids who aren’t used to sleeping with someone else. One of my children has never been a co-sleeper and when he does make the rare appearance in our bed his scrawny 5 ft’ frame somehow manages to lengthen and contort so as to poke me with as many pointy bits as possible. The other child however, has (sigh) always been a co-sleeper. At 6 he’s finally sleeping in his own room but often makes his way into the parental bed. Since he’s so used to sleeping with us, even in his sleep he knows how to move and lay so we hardly notice he’s there.

  • Candace

    2014/01/09 at 3:07 pm

    I’m sorry they’re sick, but this post has me laughing so hard. Best line from the movie “Date Night” is when the kids jump into bed and Tina Fey says “You have so many elbows!”

  • KathyB

    2014/01/09 at 3:08 pm

    Flailing limbs, communicable diseases. I am still sorry for waking myself up kicking the shit out of my grandmother when I was maybe nine. Just because I had a full sized bed didn’t mean there was room for anyone else in it.

    Hope they get well soon.

  • Mack N. Cheese

    2014/01/09 at 3:47 pm

    love this! who needs sleep and functioning internal organs?! 😉 hope you are all well soon!

  • Andrea

    2014/01/09 at 3:50 pm

    this sounds like how my husband sleeps. That is how I slept the 1st 11 years of marriage. We moved into a bigger house this summer, I bought a king size bed and for the 1st time in 11 years slept the whole night!!!!!! I always slept with one eye open to see what body part, generally elbow was coming at me first. Hope the girls and you are doing ok.

  • Ali

    2014/01/09 at 4:00 pm

    My husband elbowed me square in the eye once and I had a black-eye like a prize fighter. Do you know what it is like for a social worker with a black eye to walk into a morning meeting with a room full of other social workers.
    Make-up or not. I spend ALL DAY assuring them I did not need a referral to a battered women’s shelter.

  • àlaune

    2014/01/09 at 4:14 pm

    <– Not a problem penguins have 😉 Funny!

  • Mindy Williams

    2014/01/09 at 7:29 pm

    Beautifully written. I’m so sorry they are both sick.


    2014/01/10 at 7:55 am


  • Becky

    2014/01/10 at 9:32 am


  • Black Panty Salvation

    2014/01/10 at 11:43 am

    I love it when you write all motherly. Hope your babes feel better soon.

  • Graham Godrules

    2014/01/12 at 3:45 am

    Well no one likes their sleep to be tempered with, but for your kids and some persons in your life, the love will make you endure no matter how hard.

Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

read more