Busy in the Bedroom (book excerpt)

What’s going on behind our bedroom door, wouldn’t you like to know.  I’ll tell you, there isn’t much.  There are a pair of nightstands covered with medicine cups, hair ties, and tissues.  There are some lamps and a television but it isn’t plugged in.  There are probably some clothes hanging out of drawers and about two dozen pictures lined up on the floor and leaning against the wall.  They look like they’re waiting in line to be hung but the layer of dust on the top of each shows they’ve been waiting a long time.  Then, there is our bed.

For the first three years of marriage my wife and I shared a fullsize bed and we were comfortable.  I was comfortable because I can sleep through anything, my wife was comfortable because, well I don’t know if she was, let me ask her.  No, she was not comfortable.  She said a few more things, then threw a look telling me to go no farther in this conversation or she would start throwing actual things.  Once she became pregnant she insisted on a new bed.  I made the joke that getting a new bed was why she wanted to get pregnant, this was one of the last pregnancy jokes I made and one of the first times I saw that look.

Needing a new bed we ventured to a mattress store which is an odd shopping experience.  You go and test out the display beds by laying down on them and getting up and off them.  Because we were in a public place I found myself getting on and off these beds like a monk instead of like a drunk.  Normally I’ll fall into bed like a robot whose battery just expired and I’ll roll out in the morning like my limbs are being pulled.  Not only was I not acting like I normally would, but buying a bed is confusing.

The more beds you test, the less you can remember about each one and forget what your own bed feels like.  “Is our bed soft or firm?” you ask your wife.  She won’t answer because she only needs you for one things, to carry anything she buys.  Eventually we settled on a king size with a pillow top and some mysterious firmness level between grassy earth and cotton ball and placed our order.  Our bed was delivered and the first two months were spacious and great, there was so much room.  Then my wife became more pregnant and my room in bed began to shrink in proportion to how her belly expanded.  My room in the bed has a half life like the atoms the bed is made of, every so many years I get half of what I did before.

As my wife got more pregnant, and beautifully larger, she took up more of the bed.  I don’t dare say anything but it’s sometimes like sleeping with a fish, which is where you would find me if I said that to her.  She flips and flops and because the baby has no regard for when or where she kicks her, my wife has no regard for when or where she kicks me.  She’s a proxy for the baby she tells me.  Eventually I learn to weather the storm of kicks and get to sleep but only until our first child arrives.

Having a baby is hardest when you want to sleep because with everything else you can simply outlast them.  “You want to eat, okay, I’ll feed you until you look like this prune.”  Needing to sleep is harder because you can’t outlast them awake.    You only want to sleep and the baby only wants you to be awake.  To help with our nighttime trouble tantrums we Googled ‘co-sleeping’.  Co-sleeping is when the baby sleeps in the same bed as its mother and the father sleeps on the edge of the bed in fear of accidentally rolling over on the baby.

Single sleeper tents, which are cozy and compact allow about 17 square feet, I took half that.  I slept on the edge of our bed like a cat on the back of a couch, ready at any moment to fall out. Whatever disaster; fire, storm, or baby bottle, I was ready.  Eventually – it seemed like forever – and our first child transitioned to a crib and then bed.  Then our second child went down the same path; bassinet, our bed, crib, their bed and we had a few nights of great sleep until the dogs came back.

Sometimes our seventy pound labradoodle would sleep in bed with us and in doing so she would anchor our blankets in place.  My wife was much wiser to this than I was and would gather up what she needed and cocoon herself up while I was left to fight the dog for what was left.  Eventually the dogs retreated back to the floor, or more likely our couch, and the children returned but now they were bigger.  Our revolving door bed began to seem like a running joke to me.

One daughter likes to sleep on us, literally having one of her body parts on top of one of our body parts like a game of mahjong only with human limbs.  The other daughter likes to sleep with us but only if she can be perpendicular.  Usually that means I get her feet in my ribs, which is fitting because my wife says she was trying to kick me all along.  Our bedroom is a very busy place.

This is an essay from a book I’m writing and may not be fully polished.  If you’d like to read more about the process for writing this book, here’s my diary or see more excerpts.


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