Collin is almost two, so why has that suddenly opened up sleep anxiety for me? Surely, by now, I must be used to the bed sharing, breastfeeding-all-night version of sleep.
And yes, I am. And I keep it up not just for Collin’s enjoyment, but for the sheer fact that I love his little body next to mine at night. I love the warmth of his feet against my belly, and the sound of his little snores. Are you with me, here, fellow parents? Is there nothing sweeter than your child in the throws of sleep?
I suppose my renewed interest in getting Collin to sleep would be because we hope to have another baby on the way, another little creature to keep my belly warm with their feet. Another little heartbeat to feel through a onesie, another little person to nurture, and nurse, and adore. I feel like we’re ready to expand as a family, ready to love, and love, and love.
So, that takes us to Collin and Sleep. Sleep. God, how I labored over that word for about a year and a half, until something finally changed for me. It wasn’t by doing the normal parent things I hear my friends talking about, such as, transitioning the baby to his own space, or weaning (Although I suspect our flirtation with night weaning had something to do with it). It wasn’t Collin, or at least not solely Collin. I think what changed for me, was me. I have been embracing divine motherhood, looking hard at myself as a mother, as a person, as a guide for Collin in this life, on this earth. Taking in the enormity of my truth, that Collin chose us to be his parents, me to be his mother. It was when I finally stopped thinking my job as his mother was to mold or shape him to be the person I thought he should be, and began to understand that Collin has his own shape, his own place in this world, and it is perfect just the way it is. He’s loud. He plays rough. There is always something crusted on his shirt, and anything he is set infront of to eat always ends up on the floor or in his water cup. I don’t try to change that about him anymore. Now, it makes me laugh and love him all over again. In fact, I’ve felt lately like I’ve finally gotten the hang of this motherhood thing, I finally feel one-step ahead of it, like I can actually handle a parenting situation I’ve never been in before. So why, then, did I fail so badly today?
Collin woke to nurse mid-nap, as usual. To be honest, I didn’t know what would happen if I didn’t nurse him back to sleep, because I’ve always valued A Good Nap too much to find out (Wouldn’t any parent?). I always assumed it would involve lots of crying and being awake and angry about it for the rest of the evening. I was right, and I was wrong. Collin did go back to sleep today after he woke up and I, for the first time, refused to nurse him. However, I was right about the crying, only it was way worse than anything I could have imagined. It went on for about an hour, and involved lots of flailing and screaming and almost vomiting from the sheer exertion of it all. Collin has never vomited before (except the time he vomited on me when he put his Buddha figurine too far in his mouth- “Oh, honey!” I cried. “Oh, Buddha!” Collin answered). Definitely not from screaming, he’s not really a screamer by nature. In fact, I could hardly remember a time when I had seen Collin this upset. Somehow, I stayed strong, no matter how many times I told myself, “OK, I don’t care anymore. This isn’t worth it. I’ll nurse him as soon as he catches his breath.”
Only he would catch his breath, and instead of giving him a boob, I would just take a breath, myself, and continue to pat his back and Shhh.
Then it was over, and he actually fell asleep without nursing, for the first time ever, and I almost cried with relief. It had turned into a power struggle, something I hate and avoid at all costs.
I wish I could say that when Collin woke up, everything was back to normal. I wish I could say that he woke up smiling and talking about fruit and things that go ‘beep’, like he usually does. Instead, he slept fitfully, and woke up screaming. For the rest of the day, things were a little weird for us, and it was the first time I’d ever experienced anything like it. We spent the rest of the day holding each other and not talking at all about the terrible hour we’d spent battling wills. I realized, I was repeating an old family tradition of mine, one that goes a little something like, “if you don’t talk about it, it’s like it never happened. “
So, I picked myself up off the floor of my Self-imposed Bad Motherhood Moment, brushed myself off, and gave my child a kiss. I gave myself one, too, because you can’t move on unless you show yourself compassion. Then we talked about it, a little. And I I decided there must be a better way to get through a nap. Any suggestions? In the meantime, I’m feeling grateful for what I have, for the big spirit in a small package that is Collin, whom I am helping in this world. I am loving every minute of being a family of three, because things will change, I know this. Our family will expand, when the time is right. For now, I will love motherhood as I know it now, in good moments, and bad.