Do mums ever really sleep? My husband started sleeping in the other room when our son was diagnosed with epilepsy a few years ago. That was about the same time I stopped sleeping in our room, too. I mean, I lie in our bed with my son every single night, but I don't sleep while I'm there. The fears that come along with having a child with epilepsy keep me from sleeping at night. But my husband? He needs his sleep.
Instead, I listen to him comfortably breathe from my son's Batman bed as he sleeps in the room next door. It's a fun room I set up with the full knowledge that it would never be used by our 4-year-old. My mum guilt wouldn't let me leave my son without his own perfectly decorated superhero room, even though I knew it wouldn't be the space he actually slept in, which is why it's the perfect place to go when my husband need some peaceful shut-eye. And it will be there waiting for my son when he's ready to sleep in his own bed.
If you had told me a few years ago that my husband and I would forgo sleeping in the same room, I would have told you you were lying.
If you had told me a few years ago that my husband and I would forgo sleeping in the same room, I would have told you you were lying. I hate hearing stories of couples who drift apart and can't even sleep together at night. But the difference in our story is that my husband and I don't sleep in separate rooms because we don't want to be together. We would much rather deal with each other's annoying habits — I'm restless and he snores — than be apart from each other. But sleeping in separate rooms for our son's sake? That's another story.
As a parent of a child with epilepsy, I don't sleep, because the fear of sudden unexpected death in epilepsy, also called SUDEP, will strike if I close my eyes for too long. SUDEP accounts for one in 4,500 deaths in children with epilepsy, and is the leading cause of death in people whose seizures aren't controlled. Those who die of SUDEP are found dead in bed, likely passing from suffocation due to being face down during and/or after a nocturnal seizure. We can't afford the monitors that prevent SUDEP, or any other equipment to ensure our son is safe, and since he does have nocturnal seizures every once in a while, I'm not willing to risk losing my baby so I can get a good night's rest with my husband.
Thankfully in our case, sleeping in separate rooms doesn't put a damper on our marriage. In fact, in some ways, I think it makes our marriage better. I kiss my husband goodnight before he heads off to the other room to get a good night's sleep before he heads off to work early in the morning. And he always says "I love you" as he marches into our son's room with his pillow. Sleeping in separate rooms is part of our job as the parents of a boy with epilepsy. It's the only way my husband can function so he can get up for work and provide for his family. And it's the only way I have the peace of mind to know I do everything to make sure my son is safe. It's the best way I know how to prevent SUDEP with the resources we have at our disposal.
What do we plan to do about the fact that our little boy has taken over this king-sized bed and kicked his father into the other room? Absolutely nothing. On the nights when my husband doesn't have to get up for work in the morning, he hops into bed with us. They say what's seldom is wonderful, and, boy, do I look forward to those nights when I know they're coming. And we both know that some day, this little boy will be grown and won't want his mum sleeping in bed with him. He'll be off on his own, being everything he's meant to be.
It's bittersweet. On one hand, I look forward to the days that I'll get my sleep back. I dream of the rest and peace I so deeply need. And my husband looks forward to the day he can sleep in bed with his wife again. But on the other hand, we feel OK about it because it keeps our son safe. I know I'll miss it, too — snuggling close with my son and watching him dream. I'm painfully aware that these moments are fleeting. And as my husband peers in from the hallway, he, too, knows that sleeping in separate rooms is just a phase of our lives as parents that will be gone before we know it.