Tag Archives: wait it out

Everything I Asked For

Before my daughter was born, I prayed for and over her daily. I prayed that she would be strong and healthy, that she would be smart and curious, and that she would be full of joy.

I did not pray that she would sleep, that she wouldn’t cling, or that her need would only equal what I wanted to handle. In the greater scheme of life, those mundanities lacked import.

I remind myself of this as we struggle our way through this latest developmental leap meets wonder week meets teething meets learning to crawl and cruise.

She is strong enough to pull her body up, to support herself on her own feet; strong enough to practice the fine art of motion while laying in bed. She is curious to see and know the world; she is curious enough to be captured by the restless wonder of it even after the lights are dimmed at night. She is healthy enough to be meeting her milestones one after the other, an often arduous practice that keeps her awake. She is smart enough to already have learned a handful of words, to know animal sounds, to comprehend instead of just see the world around her; she is smart enough to practice these important skills at night when the rest if the world quiets. She is joyful; trusting that her needs will be met, that her development will be supported, that she won’t be left alone, she lights up any room with the exuberance of her laughing smile,

She is every single thing I asked for.

I was not prepared for the work of it. I was not prepared for the depth of her need; a need that is more emotional than physical. I was not aware that I would sometimes want nothing more than to be where I could not hear her, where she could not see me, where I could just be alone. I didn’t know that the sound of her whining cry would sometimes twist in my spine and make me grit my teeth while I, reluctantly, lifted her and we snuggled both of our frustration away.

It is more than I thought. But she is everything that I hoped.

And if I were to do it again, to pray it again before she arrives, my prayer would be the same.

Healthy and strong, smart and curious, full of joy.


Waiting It Out

Could I let my baby cry? Could I firmly remind her that “it is time for bed” and walk away, in tears to the sound of her tears? Yes. I could. I am “strong enough”, if that’s what you believe it takes.

Last night my 10.5 month old had a rough night. We had a rough night together. There was very little sleep for either of us. At a little after 5 this morning we got out of bed grumpily and with little interaction. An hour passed. I dressed her in warmer clothes. Changed her diaper. Gave her a snack. Found some solutions for her aching teeth. We went back to bed. Grumpily and with little interaction.

We lay in bed together, tummy pressed to tummy, as I nursed her. It took a long time for her to settle in to sleep. She lay still, and close, and our breaths found rhythm together and our heart rates slowed. I studied her face and saw her fatigue and my grumpiness melted. I stroked her hair and her eyes drifted closed.

Once asleep she turned from me and laid on her back. I turned from her and laid on mine. In her sleep she reached out a tiny hand and wrapped it around mine. And my heart melted and I slept. My larger hand held in the tiny one of my sleeping babe.

Could I let my baby cry? Am I dutiful enough to do the hard thing if it is the best thing? Yes. Am I grateful that crying it out and controlled crying are Not The Best Thing? You bet! Moments like these is why I have, do, and will continue to wait it out. 

Lazy Parenting

I hang out with a really cool group of mamas. Online, of course, like I have time, energy, and the wherewithal to consistently hang out with anyone in real life. We get together during our Velcro Babies (they taught me that term) naps, from our various countries and time zones and pieces of furniture. We talk about our challenges and throw tantrums and encourage each other, we share advice and ideas and brainstorm. It’s great.

Thing is, some of these moms make me look at my own parenting style and think, “man, I’m lazy!” They’re always teaching their babies stuff about sleep and sensory bins and the world at large. (Not training, we don’t train, training is for dogs.) It’s admirable, really. Some women are working on teaching their kids how to get through a sleep cycle without nursing, some are teaching how to sleep in their own space. Some moms are working hard to achieve important family goals (admittedly, most goals for most of us revolve around sleep).

Me? Although Mabel is nearly 10 months old, I’m still in the “oh thank God she’s asleep” category. I’m not trying to teach much of anything. You want to sleep in my bed? Fine, just sleep. You want to nurse all night long? Fine, just go to sleep. You want me to lay in bed with you while you nap? Well, you get the idea.

I call it lazy parenting, but I’m pretty okay with it. Sometimes I get all inspired by my awesome Internet friends and their cool success stories and think, “yeah! I’m gonna try something new!”, and then I’m up until 1:00 a.m. wondering what in the hell I was thinking. (That may or may not have happened last night. Hint: it did.) Truth is, Mabel wants to learn the things that are important to her – in the order and timeframe she wants to learn them in. And, honestly, I’m too lazy to demand otherwise.

So we’re making slow progress. (I may or may not be typing this on my iPhone while she naps. Hint: I am.) But it is progress. She no longer nurses all night long. I didn’t tell her to stop, she just did. She rolls away from me now to find her own space to sleep in. She doesn’t wake up at every noise. She doesn’t need the comfort of nursing between every sleep cycle. She sleeps longer and deeper and better, all by herself. Why would I want to mess with that?

in fact, she might not even need me to stay here for her nap. I’m not going to push it though. I mean, thank God, she’s sleeping, right? Besides, it’s dark and cool and comfy in here and there’s a machine that sounds like the ocean. Lazy parenting.

Sleep is Like An Orgasm (or, Finding Empathy)

Usually, when I watch my daughter try to fall asleep, it is with utter confusion. It’s obvious she’s tired, it’s clear that she wants to be asleep, and yet, there she is, awake. It’s unbelievable to me, the sleep deprived mom. How can she want something so badly and not be able to just give into it, just go to sleep?

I jump through all her hoops; I hold my body just so while we side lie nurse, I pace the floor in just the right rythym, I sway her in my arms just right – not too fast, not too slow, and move my own body just the way she likes. I didn’t make these hoops up, they are time tested and proven, the product of many nights’ trial and error. And yet, sometimes, they just don’t work. I haven’t empathetically understood her inability to just go to sleep…until tonight.

Tonight a new epiphany struck my tired mind. (How tired? Keep reading…) Mabel flopped from one position to another, trying to find the perfect spot and when she couldn’t get comfortable enough to find sleep, she whined and then cried in frustration. Watching my daughter try, actually work to, fall asleep, it struck me – it’s like an orgasm.

Now don’t freak out, I’m not attributing sexuality to my infant daughter. I am attributing sexuality to myself (which, to be frank, is an equally absurd idea lately, I might choose sleep over an orgasm). I have found a way to wrap my head around this physical inability she sometimes seems to have to fall asleep.

Think about it. Even if all the right buttons are pushed, sometimes it just doesn’t happen, even if you hold your leg just so. Right? Sometimes you could just cry from the frustation of it. Right?

Okay, it’s weird. But tonight, when my back and knees were loudly complaining at the extended nursebounceswaytwist combo we had going, the humorous parallel bought me enough bemused patience that I was able to get Mabel to sleep, gently and lovingly.

Find your own thing, your own way to understand what it is the tiny, nonenglish speaking, mass of doughy rolls and toothless mystery, is going through. Whatever you choose – humor, zen, actual research – you’re going to need some kind of perspective and empathy to get you through a bazillion nap and bed times with sanity intact.

What is your strangest coping strategy for nighttime parenting?

Waking Moment

Mabel wanted to take a nap an hour after we got up. I didn’t want to nap. I wanted to drink my hot vanilla coffee and get started in the garden before the storms hit this afternoon. Mabel is very convincing, so up to the dark and air conditioned bedroom we went. We laid down to nurse but she wasn’t falling asleep, which was irritating considering how far away my vanilla coffee was. We bounced and walked but it didn’t work, and my thoughts kept roaming to the garden. Finally, we lay down again, under a comforter thanks to the ac, and she pressed her baby buddha body against my curves in a way that demanded my attention. I focused my eyes on her and my thoughts turned to how her posture seemed to say that she sometimes wished we could still occupy the same exact space the way we did before she was born. I hummed her favorite song and snuggled her as tight as I could. I forgot about the coffee and the garden and focused on matching my breath to hers. She fell asleep. Neither of us moved. When she woke up her eyes opened to mine and she smiled, leaned forward, and planted a drooly kiss right on my lips. The coffee was just as good cold and the garden didn’t grow legs and run away. That hour and a half in bed cost me nothing but earned me the sweetest waking moment with my baby.

Nap Oasis

My daughter requires that I lay with her for naps. She’s 8.5 months old and stirs awake between sleep cycles. If I am here beside her she will stir, her gaze will find me, and sometimes she’ll drift back to sleep. More often than that, she will stir with closed eyes and open mouth, rooting for the comfort of the breast to ease her back to sleep. If I am not here beside her when she stirs and hovers momentarily in the land between asleep and awake, she will awaken fully and cry out for me; her nap will end prematurely, leaving her sleep deprived and cranky.

And so, two or three times a day I stop what I am doing and take my daughter to bed. We share a bed in the master bedroom, a comfortable queen. The room is kept dark and cool no matter the time of day or the weather outside. It is our shared oasis.

We snuggle together as she nurses to sleep. I stroke her back and she studies my face – sometimes with her eyes and sometimes with a hand, tiny fingers stroking and poking. Many days she needs a few minutes to settle and so we play first; we talk to the ceiling fan, practice blowing raspberries, explore new sounds as she learns them, and giggle through a few tickles. When she is tired, she begins to hum while she nurses, her hands and feet slow, and she sleeps.

When she is fully asleep, I gently pull my nipple from her slack mouth and roll away. This is progress. She used to require that I stay tight to her, that she be latched on. She is slowly learning how to nap without me. Without tears, without training, without a fight to force independence she’s not ready for, she is learning.

I used to resent the time I spent laying in bed during daylight hours. I used to lay here and think about the housework or errands. I would will my daughter to nap quickly so I could get back to doing something more productive.

I realized, however, that these hours were beginning to be a delight. I’ve read more books in the last few months than I did in the decade before. I connect with other moms in online groups and forums. I slow down and blog. Everyday my daughter forces me to leave the to do list, the mess, the hustle and bustle of the day and spend a little time with her, and then with myself. I am grateful to her for this. I will miss these oasis moments when she is past the age of needing me so close.

Soon she will wake from her nap. She’ll rub her face and open her eyes. She’ll stare at the ceiling fan and blink herself awake. Sometimes she talks quietly to herself as she wakes up. Eventually, when she’s ready, she’ll turn and smile at me. She’ll find me where she left me, exactly where she expects me to be, and she’ll smile joyfully.