I struggled to get the down comforter draped over the glass shower doors. I knew it would dampen the sound in the echoey bathroom, but I hadn’t anticipated how bulky and awkward the weight of the blanket would actually be. Finally satisfied with its position, I moved on to nailing a dark blue blanket over the window. If my firstborn was going to get a good night’s sleep in this bathroom, it would need to be both quiet and dark. I dragged in her bassinet and a fan for white noise, turned off the lights, and joyfully observed the bathroom-turned-sensory-deprivation-chamber.
Perhaps now we could all sleep.
Sleep. What was that? My three-month-old firstborn was giving me a run for my money. I had once been an unstoppable force—a music teacher who could teach 1,000 kids in a week, put on epic performances for the school principal and district superintendent, and handle the third-grade recorder unit with calm and ease. Having birthed one tiny baby girl, I was reduced to a haggard, exhausted, hopeless new mama whose only hope lay in making the baby sleep in our bathroom.
With her sleeping next to me or with me or on top of me for the past three months, both my husband and I looked the picture of new parent fatigue. I heard every gurgle and every sigh, and at one point, I could have sworn I actually heard her eyelids open. My husband had already found the living room couch a safe retreat at night, so he wouldn’t hear us getting up each hour. I needed to sleep and couldn’t do it with her sleeping in the crib right next to my bed.
The quandary spread out in front of me. We only had two bedrooms in our first apartment, each with an en-suite bathroom. My husband’s studio was in the second bedroom, and with his rigorous work schedule, I couldn’t see how we could put the baby in there. The living room was tiny and bright and attached to the galley kitchen, so that was not an option. The master bathroom was the place for her. We would use the studio bathroom as our main bathroom and upgrade the master bath to a baby nursery. With a door between her and me, perhaps we would finally get more than an hour of sleep at a time.
It was so unconventional. It was so…weird. I mean, who does this? Who sleeps their precious newborn baby in a BATHROOM? I heard the funny old story of putting babies in dresser drawers to sleep, or using a Moses basket to allow the baby to sleep anywhere, but a bathroom seemed like such a juxtaposition to newborn softness and innocence.
My new-mama heart and mind raced with what-ifs and scenarios about my daughter’s would-be adult therapy bills, but after a few days of her snoozing next to the toilet, she slept for a five-hour stretch. I felt like I was harboring a dirty secret, but I didn’t dare change a thing because it was working. My husband felt total freedom with the decision, and I was jealous of his nonchalant attitude. He was totally at peace with it.
I followed his lead and reasoned that perhaps running our home the way that worked for us would give us peace.
The freedom to put a door between my daughter and I, whether it was a proper nursery door or a bathroom door, created peace at nap time and night; a peace which I would not be willing to forego because it wasn’t the “right way” or “how things are usually done.”
I wouldn’t say the peace came right away, but I knew that it was there, in the back of my heart and mind. This understanding that we are allowed to make decisions for our family to make our home function for us.
A week later, I breathed a sigh of contentment as I nursed my little girl to sleep before gingerly transferring her to the bathroom bassinet. Maybe tonight, she’d sleep through even longer.
Fast-forward twelve years and four more kids, and I still search for peace through freedom in my parenting decisions. My littlest sleeps in a pack-and-play in a closet while the beautiful wooden crib sits empty just a few feet away in the bedroom. For a two-year period, while I nursed babies, my husband and I rarely slept in the same room because everyone was happier when one adult in the house was sleeping well. My older kids watch cartoons on Saturday mornings because it allows me some quiet time to read and write and finish a cup of coffee. I quit homeschooling because my own personal well-being was more important than adhering to a seven-year-old, outdated vision of home education, made when my oldest was four, and I only had three kids.
This parenting life and motherhood journey begs me to stay open to the possibilities, to the options, to the many ideas and hacks that allow abiding peace in my home. Even now, I am actively searching for the next opportunity to change up a system, move a trash can, lock a cabinet, or rearrange some furniture in my house. Perhaps I’ll even try sleeping in a home-made sensory deprivation chamber in the master bath. After all, it worked for my baby.
Lynne lives just northeast of Los Angeles in a little suburb called Canyon Country, CA. Her five children challenge her sock-matching skills, her culinary prowess (especially when it comes to boxed mac and cheese), and her ability to conjure the best bedtime stories possible. She and her composer husband of 15 years enjoy date nights about twice a month where they get to finish a thought and eat the food when it’s still hot.