Now that this is my fourth baby (in the last five years), I really and truly SEE how fast time flies, and rather than spend hours combing the Internet looking for ways to get my six month old to “sleep through the night”, I’ve just decided to enjoy it.
I look at my oldest daughter Ruby who is five, wise beyond her years, so independent, and asserting her personality boldly into the world, and I remember those days when she was a tiny little babe cuddled in my arms and nursing into the wee hours of the morning.
As I pull her close now, she melts into my arms, and as our skin touches, I am intoxicated by the electricity between us. It’s not that I long for the days when she was a little baby again, because I have these incredible moments with her now that are just as amazing, but when I remember the days of long ago, and my mind drifts to the Zelda song Scott and I would sing to her every night before putting her to bed, how I would look at her a thousand times in the night to make sure she was still breathing, and how much we loved her laying inbetween us in our Saturday morning bed as we would ooooohhhh and ahhhhhhh over every little sound and motion she made, I feel a sense of honor and a sense of pride about how I hung on to each of those moments rather than pushing through them to get to the next stage.
All of the sleepless nights that I was up with her and all of the tired mornings that I slugged through, they all melt together into one big insignificant blur. And as I look at my little one now, finally asleep on his own after I held and rocked him all night long, I know that the memories of tiredness are not only but a flash, they are an honor.
When I look at each of my four children and remember our special moments in the night, the thought of it practically brings me to tears. They are only these little helpless babies for but a fraction of their lives, and before we know it, they are sleeping in their own beds and then we are left alone…with empty arms.
The other morning, my husband, who is always so wonderful and supportive as he not only thinks about what’s best for the children, but me as well, saw me asleep on my pile of pillows with Julian tucked in my arms, asleep on my breast, and my head bent back in an awkward angle and my body twisted in a half sitting, half laying position, and he just thanked me for that. And of course I started overthinking things (like I always do), and I thought, “He’s six months old, maybe he should be sleeping on his own.”
So that night, I was determined to get him to sleep on his own, and as soon as he drifted off, I placed him in his crib (two feet away from our bed on the floor). “Well, that was easy!” I thought. But as I climbed into bed, I felt lonely. I missed him being near me, and I could only half sleep because one ear was pricked up listening for any little sound of rustling. But eventually, I drifted off into a very very deep sleep, only to be jarred awake an hour later by Julian’s little whimpering voice.
So I got out of bed, picked him up, cuddled him close, and nursed him until he fell asleep once again. Still determined to have him sleep on his own, however, I placed him inbetween Scott and I in our giant king size bed, and was pleased to see that he layed there peacefully. But that only lasted briefly before he started to stir again, and so I cursed and angrily picked him up wondering what I was doing wrong. Scott woke up to ask me what was wrong, and I complained that he just wouldn’t sleep without me holding him.
I awoke the next morning feeling unfulfilled. All of the getting up and down, all of the strategizing and worry, and all of the anger did not make for a very restful night. As Scott and I chatted about it on our two hour weekly milk run, I came to the conclusion that I wasn’t going to try to do anything differently than I had been in the night. (Do you ever get the feeling that you’re doing everything wrong and that you need to scrap everything and start completely over only to realize later that what you were doing before was actually right all along? Yeah, me neither.) So I decided that if he slept best with me holding him all night, than that was just what I was going to do.
It’s now the second morning after my little epiphany, and I’m sitting here typing on a quiet Memorial Day morning while everybody sleeps. Am I tired? Yes. Am I happy? Incredibly. Am I stressed? Not a bit. Last night, and the night before, I held Julian while he nursed on one side and in the process, we both fell asleep. An hour later, he woke up, and I sluggishly maneuvered him to the other side where he nursed and once again, we both fell asleep. All night long we did this dance of nursing and falling asleep from one side to the other. Never once did I have to get out of bed, never once did I awake fully, and every time I easily and quickly drifted off to sleep. I didn’t worry if I was doing it right, I didn’t fret about not getting uninterrupted sleep, and I didn’t allow myself to think, “Is it going to be this way forever?”
Because the realization is that it’s NOT going to last forever! My husband and I always joke about how every milestone we encounter with our children such as potty training, illness, and sleepless nights have one remedy… TIME. Time will pass, it slips through our fingers now like puke spilling down the middle of my bra, there is nothing we can do to stop it, and there is nothing we can do to slow it down.
If we approach each milestone as something to “get through” and something that will “pass”, we miss the fact that these are the moments we want to remember, the moments we want to cherish, and the moments we will reflect on and look back on when we are old and gray in an empty house with only our memories to keep us company in the wee hours of the night when ironically we are the ones who can’t sleep through the night.
And so I’ll hold my little Julian all through the night, feeding him as often as he needs, knowing that sooner than I think, he’ll be eating solid food and there will come a time when he won’t even want to nurse anymore, and I’ll look back on these nights of ours together with a warmth and a fondness in my heart that I will cherish for a lifetime.