The Empty-Nursery Syndrome

Posted by savannahkase on August 28, 2013 in Mom & Dad Dynamics, Parenting, Personal |

IMG_2607I vividly remember the moment it hit me that I was about to become a parent. We had received our carefully-selected co-sleeper as a gift back in October, but – as a matter of superstition and practicality – I had forbidden my husband to set it up before I was 38 weeks pregnant. When that time came, he eagerly assembled the little bassinet, attached it to our bed, put on the mattress protector and still-creased sheet, and carefully laid out a pacifier, swaddle, and Sleep Sheep inside. It was a deeply symbolic gesture, telling our baby-to-be, “Okay, we’re ready for you.” That night, we cuddled in bed looking at the empty bassinet, marveling that it would soon be filled with our crying, pooping, wiggling, sleep-depriving, precious child.

Before that night, I had not really thought much about what would happen when our baby finally arrived. I was consumed with the effort of getting through each day, and by doing everything I could for my unborn child (eating pregnancy “superfoods,” doing prenatal exercises, learning as much as I could about labor and delivery, and making sure we had everything the books said we needed). I had never really been around babies, definitely not newborns, so was not sure what to expect. In the weeks before my son was born, I could only imagine him as a little bundle swaddled in the co-sleeper next to my bedside, and I fell in love with that nameless, faceless bundle.

After we brought our newborn home, my husband and I spent many nights lying in bed admiring our little “baby burrito” as he slept in his co-sleeper (every time we wrapped him in his swaddle, my husband and I would say, “There you go, snug as a bug in a rug,” earning my son the nickname, “Bug”). When I went back to work, I got into the habit of falling asleep with my hand on my son’s little back, letting the rise and fall of his breath lull me to sleep and basking in our closeness. My ear is now so attuned to my son’s movements that I can get up to calm or feed him before he is even fully awake, and without disturbing my husband.

At our son’s four-month checkup, our pediatrician noted that he was ready to move into a crib in his own room. I balked at the suggestion that my son no longer wanted/needed me nearby at night, and easily dismissed her advice since we lived in a one bedroom. There was simply nowhere else for our baby to sleep except for right next to me. Then, one month ago, we moved into a condo where my son has his own bedroom/bathroom/play space suite. We quickly filled our son’s room with his toys, playmat, crib, and glider, but his co-sleeper stayed firmly attached to my side of the bed. For the past month, my son has happily played and napped in his room, but at night, he’s in with us.


When our friends and family learned we had upgraded to a two bedroom, they invariably asked if we’d moved our son to his own room. My husband always points at me laughingly, and explains that although my son is ready to transition to the nursery, I am not prepared to let him go. I do not like to be seen as a clingy mom, so I often get defensive, and point out that our current system is working very well, so why mess with it? I also explain my fear that my son would be crying on the other side of the apartment and I wouldn’t be able to hear and respond to him before he got himself all worked up. Three weeks ago, we bought a two-way baby monitor, which works very well, and my son is increasingly sleeping straight through from 8pm-7am. I know it will only get harder for my son to adjust to sleeping in his own room, so it is better to move him sooner than later. In other words, I am running out of excuses . . .

So this week, I finally told my husband that I am ready to move our son to his own room at night. He is crawling now, so soon may be able to squirm out of the co-sleeper. Besides, my husband deserves to have his wife to himself again, at least for a few hours at night. And I am being worn down by the peer pressure.

Imagine my surprise when my husband admitted that he wasn’t ready to move our baby to the nursery at night. As it turns out, we both are reluctant to take this big step for the same selfish reasons. We love looking over at our sleeping angel, and waking up to his babbles and smiles. It is nice that when one of us gets up with him in the night, the other is right there offering support – whether it’s a glass of water, a back rub, or just words of encouragement. For example, last night the baby was congested and kept us up most of the night, but instead of being a nightmare, we treated it as unplanned family time. What it comes down to is that moving our son out of our bedroom and packing away the co-sleeper is as symbolic as was setting up the co-sleeper eight months ago – it means our baby is growing up, and is less dependent on us. That is difficult for any parent to accept.

We remain in denial, and our son remains in our bedroom (at least, for now).


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  • Aunt Anne says:

    You can continue the way things are because you only have one child. It will get harder with a second child. I bet your second will be sleeping in his own space much sooner. It goes by so fast. Enjoy it.

  • Grant says:

    The best Blog to date a lovely written piece that very clearly expresses the angst as well as the support and change needed in a relationship. I love the way the end tied up again with the beginning.

  • Aunt Sue says:

    Love it! And what a wonderful thing for C to have when he is older (although he may not want to read all of what promises to be a voluminous collection of musings!).

  • We co-sleep too and love it. I think people stop questioning us after seeing we could care less what anyone thinks about it. 🙂 UNICEF recommends for babies to co-sleep until at least 1 and they have studies backing it up if you want to check it out.
    I love this post because it’s nice to know we’re not the only ones. We looooove waking up every day to a huge smile. Every morning my baby is so excited to see us that I can’t imagine her being anywhere now. Oh! And I’m sure if she was in her room I would not sleep worrying about her.
    We know one day she will sleep on her own, regardless of how long she stays in our room so we just embrace it and enjoy every moment. She’ll be all grown up before we know it.

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