It’s 2 o’clock in the morning, and it feels like my head just hit the pillow, but now he’s crying again. I wait for a minute to see if it’s just a quiet whimper and he’ll fall back asleep, or if it’s more of a full on cry and he needs me.
His cry gets louder and takes on a shrill brassy tone. I jump quickly to my feet keeping my eyes still half closed because I don’t want to fully wake up.
He’s sitting up in his crib, and I pull up my shirt over my right breast so that I’m ready to nurse before I even scoop him up. We plop down onto my tower of pillows (that have been there since he was born), and as we nestle under the covers, my head tips back, my eyes close, and I drift back to sleep.
I awaken to little fingers tickling at my neck, and before he can fully wake up, I cradle him in my arms and tuck him back into his crib.
As I walk through the closet door, take one step, and plop immediately back into bed, I wonder once again why I didn’t just leave him in our king sized bed in between us, like I did when he was smaller. There’s definitely plenty of room, but for some reason, I just sleep better when he’s in his own crib. And even though I know I’ll have to go and get him again in a few hours, the time in between I will be sprawled out on my belly hugging my body pillow (that is now just a part of my side of the bed after four pregnancies) and sleeping HARD knowing that there’s no one next to me that I might squish or who might kick me in the face.
I nurse him again at 4:30 a.m. and wonder if I should just get up for the day. I’ve already gotten about 5 hours of sleep, which is pretty much par for the course these days, and there’s so much to do…
But against my better judgement, I decide to close my eyes again just for a moment. Before I know it, I am startled awake by a small little cry. I know that I must have been sleeping because the remnants of an intense dream still dance across the backs of my eyelids, but it doesn’t feel like more than two minutes have gone by. When I look at the clock, I realize it’s been about two hours since I’ve last nursed him.
As I meet him in front of his crib, he starts babbling, “4, 5, 6, 7..” and I know that he’ll want to be awake for the day. Still, I cuddle him up in bed and nurse him one last time. When he’s done, he pulls away and smiles happily at me, “A, B, C, D…” he says in his sweet little voice, and then proceeds to chant through the entire alphabet as I rock him in my arms, turning up the red glow of the salt lamp beside my bed as I look at him, smiling, and nodding the entire time.
He eventually he squirms out of my arms, slides off from our mattress on the floor, and heads over to the door happy and ready to start his day.
Not every night is this peaceful. Some nights he’s up every hour, and I feel like the walking dead as I shuffle through our nursing routine or try to bounce and rock him to sleep when he’s teething, sick, or really gassy. Other nights, Scott awakens to hear me cursing or crying as I gather my phone, Ophelia’s monitor, and Julian’s silky knowing that we’ll be out in the living room for the next few hours when all I want to do is just close my eyes and drift away.
But still, even when things are at their toughest, I’m glad that I can be there to rock him in my arms as those sharp little daggers of teeth torture his gums, help him breathe by sucking out all of his boogers with a Nose Frida, rub his tummy and pump his legs to help him with his gassy tummy, and give him nourishment and sustenance with my body’s milk.
Lack of sleep is like a badge of honor that I wear as a mother, and I’m proud of it!
On days when I’m really tired, I close my eyes for a few minutes after story time, or I might get a quick nap when Scott gets home (Napping when the baby naps doesn’t happen when you have four kids!), and I always get to sleep in on the weekends! (Thank you love!)
This idea that babies should sleep through the night at some certain age is completely arbitrary, and seems kind of fishy the way that this abnormal fallacy is spread throughout the major “parenting websites” out there as “normal”. Sleep train your baby before they can stand you say? Don’t let them fall asleep breastfeeding because it’s a bad habit you say? Make them cry it out because a baby needs a well rested mommy you say?
Hogwash! It is an HONOR to nurse my baby to sleep every night! I love being in tune with his needs! I love how his nighttime nursing keeps my milk supply up!
I don’t want to turn my mommy heart off while I listen to him scream himself to sleep every night, I don’t want him to stop needing me, and I don’t want him to stop telling me that he needs me.
Already, he is starting to show signs of not needing me anymore, and it’s scary! After 15 months of nursing to sleep every night, he is starting to pull away before he’s done, preferring instead to burrow his face in the silkies tucked in the crook of my arm and fall asleep that way. And sometimes after we do our bedtime routine and nurse, he squirms away from me until I lay him down in his crib, ready to fall asleep on his own.
The mistake I made with Ruby and Elliot was thinking that there would be some magical day that they wouldn’t need me in the night anymore.
Now, with Ophelia and Julian, I realize that the progression with sleep is just as gradual as the progression with any other milestone.
2 and a half year old Ophelia didn’t just start reading one day. It was a gradual sequence of events that began with daily flashcards at 8 months old and progressed a little more every day from there. Ophelia still needs me in the night a few times a week. Sometimes she wants some milk, sometimes a pacifier, and sometimes I think she just wants to be covered up again. Heck, even Ruby and Elliot still need to go to the bathroom or get a drink of water in the night sometimes! It’s never over. It’s never done. Having kids means that you’ll probably always be sleeping with one ear open, and IT’S WORTH IT! It’s so worth it!
I have finally learned (after 4 children) to stop Googling so much and to start listening, really listening, to what my mommy heart has to say. My mother’s intuition has more answers than any book on the shelves, and I know that when I trust in it, the answers are always more individualized and nuanced that anything some Dr. Sleep with a doctorate could have ever written.
It’s time that we all listened to our mommy hearts. It’s time that we stop trying to perpetuate the idea that there is ONE right way of doing things and that there is some unrealistic standard that we are all somehow failing. I get that it feels good to be supported by the attachment parenting group or the cry it out group once you’ve made those decisions, but neither group knows what’s best for you in every possible scenario. Maybe your mommy heart IS telling you that if you don’t have your child cry it out you are going to straight up lose it! If that is what you need to do then do it! You DO know best! Read the blogs, look at the forums, skim through the books if you must, but know that they are only there to kickstart what’s inside.
When we listen to our mommy hearts, when we respect our intuition and demand that others respect it to, it will give us the confidence to own this thing called motherhood.
Because sleep issues are just the beginning of this journey of motherhood. Before we know it, our little ones will be teenagers, and then adults, and someday (maybe) mothers and fathers themselves. And when this happens, I want to share with them how I loved these nights, how I cherished this time, how I gave everything I could, and how I loved it.