When I decided to have a baby on my own, I mostly worried about becoming a different woman. I feared I’d go from cool, independent, travel-happy writer to mom-lady who only talked about mom-stuff to mom-friends. That was a valid concern, sure. But, in hindsight, I had bigger issues on the horizon.
My future daughter and I would be sharing a bedroom in a small one-bedroom apartment – possibly for the rest of time. Because my parents owned the small apartment and I got to pay a discounted rent, there was a good chance we’d be sharing that same bedroom until she went to college! I have no idea why this didn’t make me anxious at all – especially because I planned to keep dating after having a baby, not to mention, I’m a major “need my space” person.
Rather surprisingly, I was in fact comforted by the idea of us falling asleep and waking up together, sharing our dreams, retreating from the world…just us. As I mapped out the room, my heart danced with premonitions of all-night cuddles and one day, all-night girl talk; a sense that mama ‘n kiddo had our own tent, amidst all the chaos, our own tribe, among the masses.
My mother – even earthier and less traditional than me – and I got to work on the bedroom while I was 7-months pregnant and huge, sweaty and chafed under my MuMuus. When we applied this metaphor of a tent within a village to visualize the room, we realized we didn’t much. There was just enough room for a full-size bed (which I already had) and a new, beautiful crib (which, luckily, a close friend bought me for my baby shower) and…not much else.
I’m a minimalist at heart, so I was okay forgoing baby-room-y things like a rocking chair or proper dresser. We turned a cool, white lacquer piece I already had into a changing table by adding a changing tray up top. I bought a beautiful macramé for one wall, and I painted my own large watercolors for the other.
I turned a little hallway outside our bedroom into a small, open closet for the baby. We draped her little dresses on neon pink baby hangers that we found at Ikea – not my favorite place but damn, I loved those baby-chic hangers.
In the end, our tiny, shared bedroom with only a bed, a crib, and a faux changing table – a construct my more upscale friends might cringe at – was photographed by stylish home design blogs. It looked – and more importantly, FELT, absolutely fabulous.
Before I knew it, I brought my new baby, Hazel, home to our wee bedroom. She came a month early and was a little small, so I had to nourish her and grow her around the clock. We spent a lot of time in that room trying to catch our breath and find our balance, just the two of us. Hazel was spectacular, and had some spectacular lungs on her, too. She cried a lot! I had some serious blood pressure issues, and I had to constantly monitor that. It was an adventure, to say the least….
I don’t envy any new mom in those first few days/nights of parenthood, but I look back at the beginning of things and wonder how I did it alone. My family helped for many hours a day, but I was a full-blown Single Mom and that made me as proud as it did drained. I tried my best to stay poised. I tried my best to stay strong. Simple pleasures kept me sane. Vanderpump Rules while breastfeeding, almond croissants from the local French bakery. Our warm, cozy bedroom with a dedicated space for her and a dedicated space for me continued to soothe me, at a time when I could have – and should have – been really scared.
Within a few weeks, Hazel reached a good weight and my blood pressure stabilized. However, despite her enviable crib and crib sheets and super-cool bedroom and amazing mommy (wink), Hazel was not much of a sleeper. This made it really hard for me to get my work done after bedtime, or have any semblance of a social life. If I left her with anyone at night, she’d scream and scream. So, as soon as her doctor said it was okay, I sleep-trained her. I used a light, modified version of Cry It Out and it took a full 10-days and nights, but eventually my make-shift method worked. I had a baby who slept! We still shared a bedroom, but once she was on a good sleep schedule, I felt alive again. Hurrah! I could take on more writing assignments, see my friends, and even start to date.
One of the first guys I met (via Tinder) was Sam. Hazel came on almost every single date with us and not before long, the three of us were together all the time. Sam became my boyfriend, and Hazel’s favorite human being in the world. He never pressured me to move out of the bedroom – we’d often just hang out together on my couch in the living room and then I’d kick him out around 2am (sorry, babe!).
After a few months into the relationship, with Hazel at almost one year old, my instinct told me it was time to change up our sleeping arrangements. While I never needed a man to complete our story, Sam was the best thing to happen to us – and just like I had to nourish and grow my baby, I wanted to nourish and grow my love for him. On top of that, my maternal instinct told me Hazel was ready for her own space.
So I bought a plush daybed and a well-reviewed twin-size mattress and prepared to transition out of our shared bedroom into my only other option, the living room.
While I knew it was the right move, I was extremely emotional about moving out of the bedroom with Hazel. The thought of this new stage in our lives excited me, but it also broke my heart. Things were changing. She was getting older. I was falling in love with someone, someone who would eventually become her father. Those first few months, when it was just Mamma n kiddo, were so incredibly sacred. We survived something so unique and otherworldly together. We existed on pure love – and almost nothing else. Soon, those days would only be a memory. How do you turn the page on something so powerful?
You just do.
The daybed came. Sam helped moved furniture around. Hazel’s bedroom got bigger, with a dreamy Moroccan rug and a lot more room. She immediately LOVED playing on the floor with all her dolls and blocks and instruments.
Still, the first night we slept in separate rooms was rough. I peeked on her sleeping several (hundred) times, and wept on and off throughout the night. Sam wasn’t there. I was alone, like in the beginning. While my insides hurt and I missed her so much, I knew it was the right thing. It was time. Though I loved every minute of sharing a room together, our door was always cracked open to the magic of new possibilities….and look what happened….life is stunning.
Today, Hazel is almost three, and we live in a new apartment with Sam. Hazel has her own bedroom and we have ours’. Our home is joyful and spacious and very “Brownstone Brooklyn.” Hazel’s crib is in storage, in case we have another baby, which we’re trying for – because, unsurprisingly, the three of us are really good at being a family. I still peek in at Hazel sleeping sometimes and get weepy over life’s incredible beauty, and inevitable pain, and the terrifying love that is parenthood.
When I think about our shared bedroom, which is quite often, I beam from the inside out. We were so cool. We were so us. I can't wait to see what comes our way next. Hopefully it won't mean giving up my new queen-size bed.
Alyssa Shelasky is a writer for New York, Cosmopolitan, Travel & Leisure, Conde Nast Traveler, Bon Appétit and Bloomberg. She is the author of Apron Anxiety: My Messy Affairs In & Out of the Kitchen and is currently working on a scripted TV series about her life for A&E Studios.
Photos: Christine Han (top), all others Instagram
pieces perfect for room-sharing & small spaces