When we found out we were pregnant I assumed we would need to upgrade our living space from our current one bedroom granny flat. While I was undoubtedly excited about our future little one, the thought of leaving the place we had spent five years making into a home felt a bit disappointing.
More time and sweat (and probably tears) have been given to creating a home here than either of us initially anticipated. It's far from our dream home, but we've done countless projects to make this simple 1950's one bedroom, one bathroom, 650 square feet abode as much of our own as our renters hearts and wallets have allowed.
Lined with historic craftsman homes and towering palm trees, we're awfully fond of our active little neighborhood which sits just above downtown San Diego. We've been lucky to live down the block from dear friends, across from a beautiful park, and a quick walk or bike ride to favorite local spots.
At some point we realized there are no real rules to the living situation of a new baby (besides the obvious keeping them safe and warm and loved of course). A brief search also confirmed we weren't in a position to upgrade our space while staying in our beloved neighborhood. Not willing to sacrifice location, walkability, or friends (with babies!) nearby, we decided to stay put.
I began to let go of my imaginary standards of living and explore what it might be like to share our bedroom with our baby - something I rarely heard talked about or had ever considered myself. I was hesitant to entertain the idea at first but soon came to the conclusion that surely this is not a new concept. After all, the majority of the world shares living and sleeping spaces much smaller than most Americans occupy.
I started to question my own notions of space: how much do two adults trying to live simply really need? How much does a tiny new human need? How are we currently using our space and how can we make better use of it?
Beyond decor ideas and stylized set-ups not much in practical advice surfaced from my searching. Hoping for a little push away from uncertainty, I wanted to know what the actual experience of sharing one small bedroom with one unpredictable baby could be like. Discovering this blog about (among other things) a family of three living simply and sharing one bedroom in a 500 square feet apartment was the nudge I needed. Encouraged by our soon-to-be similar living arrangement and their thoughtful approach, I was inspired to make our own situation work.
In the first weeks of bringing our newborn daughter home we camped out in our bedroom mostly anyway. Sleeping and feeding and sleeping and feeding. It was nice having her right next to us, just an arms reach away. I could pull her over to nurse without getting out of bed, helping all of us sleep just a bit more. And when she made one of her weird, crazy, sometimes scary noises newborns often make when they sleep, we could reach over to feel her chest and reassure ourselves all was okay.
So here we are. Six months into parenthood. Six months into sharing our bedroom with our baby. We have our nightly routine of sneaking into bed by the dimmed light of our iPhones, avoiding creaky floorboards, quietly sliding under the covers without notice. Sometimes she stirs. Sometimes she wakes up and cries. Sometimes her head pops up, she looks around, and falls right back to sleep. Most times though she just sleeps right through.
We each suffer nights of poor sleep here and there. One of us will sneeze or cough or readjust and wake someone else up. One of us will need to use the bathroom in the middle of the night. One of us will wake wanting to eat every few hours or to be resettled or because who knows why. Some mornings feel as though we've hardly slept at all, because sometimes that's true. But I imagine it's not so different than other new parents navigating sleep with a new baby no matter the sleeping arrangements.
Adding our new, tiny, sometimes noisy, somewhat sensitive roommate has taken some getting used to. But now it's just what we do. And really it's all we've known. My initial worry and questioning seems silly now that sleeping in one bedroom feels so natural, almost insignificant. Turns out there's no parental playbook, just trials and errors until something sticks just long enough to get comfortable with, only to then change again and start the cycle back over. And on and on.
One of the benefits to sharing your bedroom with a baby is how little you actually need. We take a more pared down approach to decor as it is, which helped keep baby items mostly to the essentials. The main pieces that have helped our room sharing experience:
Ikea Sniglar Crib - Probably the most popular crib on the planet and for good reason. Simple design, natural wood, completely affordable. We ended up making our own co-sleeper* by removing one side of the crib, clamping the base to our bed frame, and butting the crib mattress up to our own mattress.
*She recently began to consistently roll over which became a problem when she discovered the thrill of rolling from her crib into the middle of our bed. We decided it was time to turn our makeshift co-sleeper back into a crib and reattach the side (not shown). Still sleeping alongside us but now in her own space where she can safely roll and pivot and scoot around as much as she'd like.
Lullaby Earth Breeze Crib Mattress - The more we read about crib mattresses and what typically goes into making them the more unsettled we felt. Chemicals. Flame retardants. A whole slew of questionable materials we could hardly pronounce. For the amount of time our sweet baby would be spending nuzzled up to this mattress it was worth investing in something we could trust. Owned by the pioneers of non-toxic baby mattresses, Naturepedic, Lullaby Earth is the more affordable counterpoint within the brand. The Breeze mattress is breathable, super lightweight, and made here in the USA.
Dohm Sound Machine - Living beneath the flight path of an International Airport, we've been sleeping with this white noise machine for years. Add a baby trying to sleep while household business goes about as usual amidst uninsulated walls and creaky floorboards and white noise is a must.
Yi Wireless Home Camera - For the first few months we didn’t have a baby monitor or really see the need for one. We were just in the next room, but found ourselves sneaking in to check on our daughter periodically while she slept to make sure everything was alright. After disturbing her sleep enough times from our sporadic peeking we decided to try another approach. This monitor has not only eased our worries but brought endless entertainment. Watching her sleep (or not sleep) never gets old.
While we dream about owning a home to truly make our own someday, we are learning to love where we are. We know this is just a season in our family's life. Our daughter will only be a baby for so long. We will only live in this one bedroom for so long. Time is already passing faster than I'd care to acknowledge. Someday things will be different and we will remember how we shared one bedroom at the start of our family. Someday we may even long for these simpler ways.
Every baby, parent, and space is different and we realize anything can change at any time. While it would be nice to read in bed or talk in reasonable voices before falling asleep, we’re making where we are and what we have work for now. And so far, to my surprise, it’s actually working.