If I’d known from the start how healthy, good and normal it is for babies to wake at night, I wonder if I would have felt inferior to those mothers who boasted that theirs slept through.
If I’d known from the start how much babies need the security of their mothers’ bodies, would I have bothered with the Moses basket?
Would I have expended so much energy trying to put Talitha down? Would it have taken me weeks to sort out a sling? Would I have ground my teeth wondering what I was doing wrong?
If I had known that there are no goals in this relationship but only a journey, would I have wished away the weeks and months? Would I have partly longed for her independence, only to be surprised by it when it began?
I have a lot of books and articles running around my head at the moment: references to anthropological studies, findings about how we physiologically work, beautiful reflections on mothering.
The recurrent theme through all of this reading and thinking has been for me “acceptance”.
If we accepted what babies are like and what they need, would we form so many strategies to try to change them? Would we get so stressed about them behaving the way they are designed to be?
For instance, I have been in and out of giving myself headaches over Talitha’s naps. She’s had months of half-hour stints. she went through a phase of 3-hour blocks.
She now very reliably goes down for a one and a half hour nap most days, four hours after she gets up in the morning. Not that I have much to do with this rhythm. We just found it, somehow.
And yet, I’ll still throw a hissy fit (mostly inside) if there are few days of her needing me to stay with her during her nap in order to sleep. Usually it’s a sign that’s she’s not well.
Why do I get so upset I wonder? We’ve nowhere to be urgently. Our plans are usually flexible. I’m at home, not at work. We can go with the flow. I could probably use the sleep, the time to pray, a chance to read something on my Kindle or write on my phone.
And, thankfully, she still naps. Thanks, thanks, thanks!
What it essentially comes down to is my expectation. “By now” she shouldn’t be needing me like this. This is not what I hear that others her age are doing, what I thought months ago that she’d be doing, what some “experts” say she should be doing.
But going to sleep on her own is something she will do in her own time.
This is what a baby is like, what a toddler is like, what a small child is like.
It is what my small child is like.
I’ll accept this.
I’ll curl around her, enjoy her smell and not wish away what little is left of her babyness.
I accept how small she is.