Mommy: The Ultimate Sleep Association
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More Than the Old Adage
You’ve heard the saying, “all babies do is eat, sleep, and poop”. And while these three things certainly are the majority of my baby’s day (with perhaps the exception of poop, which isn’t currently an every day occurrence), there is so much more going on than that.
He is learning and growing at an amazing rate! And I don’t know about your babies, but mine has been playing with toys, fingers, faces, and toes for quite a while now.
Sleep on a Deeper Level
I’ve been thinking a lot about my son’s sleep, as it is currently the biggest challenge I am facing. Why, you may ask? Because I’m very tired and his sleep habits so drastically affect my sleep habits.
Choosing Our Sleep Method
I have mentioned before my dedication to the no-cry method. Each parent has their different style and this is simply mine. I make no judgments about others who have chosen different methods that work for them.
While I subscribe to the no-cry idea wholeheartedly, there have been times when I’ve played with the idea of just setting my son in his crib and walking away. In fact, I’ve gone as far as to set my son in his crib without his normal sleep associations, but before I get to the walking away part, instant whimpering and tears melt my heart and I’m quickly set back on the path I chose in the first place. (Yes, I’m a sucker!)
My husband and I have been following the No-Cry Sleep Solution ideas for about two months now. Have we seen improvement? Yes, we have. When we started, my son was waking up every hour from 8 pm to 6 am. Now, and nearly six months old, he wakes up about three to four times a night. Has it been a quick-fix? Nope, but that was expected.
In the book, author Elizabeth Pantley even says, “it will either take time or tears”, and just as she said, we too have chosen time.
To recap our specific challenge, I have been working on changing my son’s sleep association from nursing to sleep each time he wakes up.
In the beginning, we struggled to make breastfeeding a reality, and he was a sleepy, lazy eater as it was. The natural progression was that nursing became his main sleep association. It wasn’t truly an issue until we were blind-sided by the four month sleep regression and I realized I’d allowed a “bad habit” to form.
The amount of patience and shear will power it has taken to stick with this method has been a challenge simply because it is not a quick-fix method. I must be honest, the method may work faster for others as I have not been as consistent as I should be – some nights I just choose the fastest path to sleep, instead of the methods spelled out in the book I have mentioned.
The lack of sleep has impacted me in so many ways and I’m learning many things about myself and what I need to improve upon.
Kindness, Humility, & Apologies
This week, my husband was sick and so I tried to be a good wife and let him sleep. Usually, after I have gotten up for the majority of the night wakings, my husband will get up with my son at 5 am. This is when my son becomes alert for the day, and I take a nap to recover from the night’s events.
After morning two of going it alone, it’s mild to say I was cranky. In fact, I was outright mean. Not to my son, whom my husband and I truly try not to have any negative emotions around, but toward my poor husband. Why was I mean? I was jealous of his sleep, of course!
The week previous, I had been sick too, and although my husband took care of my son as much as possible, my son only falls asleep with me, his ultimate sleep association. So no matter how much I needed to sleep, my son needed me more.
So after my sleep-deprived, not-fully-recovered-from-sickness self lashed out at my husband, he calmly got up, sick as he was, to spend time with my son and me. Of course, I immediately felt guilty and humbled by his kindness toward me. Realizing the horrible person I was for waking him up so cruelly, I started to cry. “I’m so sorry honey. I didn’t mean it. I’m just…so…tired.”
He gave me a hug and a kiss and told me to go lay down for five minutes. What an amazing man my husband is.
I went into the next night fully aware that I would be exhausted the next morning, but I was GOING to let my husband sleep and I was GOING to be happy to be awake with my baby, and I was GOING to be the mother and wife God wanted me to be.
Being a Source of Comfort
With much prayer throughout the night as I woke up with my son, each time becoming more and more difficult as my body craved sleep, God gave me peace about the situation and revealed a few things to me.
Here I was, a mother, incredibly blessed to even have a child, and this child only wanted me. He fussed for me and I got out of bed and began our “go back to sleep routine”. I picked him up, held him, spoke gently to him, nursed him and patted his back, then propped him up on my shoulder and stood and swayed with him.
As he fell back to sleep, I gently stroked his face, then kissed him, and whispered, “I love you, son.” Upon lifting him up to put him back in his crib, I hesitated and hugged him close, just soaking him in and enjoying his warmth and soft breathing.
Then I began again to lay my son in his crib. As I lowered him, he put his arm out on the bed, creating resistance to being put down (smarty pants) and whimpered. He wasn’t ready just yet, so I picked him back up and just held him close.
As I held him and swayed, I realized, this baby feels so much comfort, safety, and peace in my arms. Not even my husband can get him to sleep at this stage (and my son loves his Daddy). For now, these precious and fleeting moments are mine and mine alone. What a privilege to hold such a place in my son’s life.
Our Interactions with God
Whenever my husband and I are trying to decide how to deal with a new challenge as parents, we try to understand how God would want us to handle the situation. How can we best emanate God’s character in our lives towards our child and towards each other as well?
When it comes to this sleeping thing, God is teaching us patience. Especially me!
A few weeks back, I was chatting with a friend (who has four children, I might add) about asking God for patience through the night. She said, “I have to pray for patience with one of my kids every day. And I’m usually confronted with a situation that TRIES my patience.” I said, “Yes, I know God uses circumstances to build our character. But I didn’t really want my character built at the moment, so my prayer last night went something like ‘please give me patience RIGHT NOW!'” She laughed. (Now how’s that for irony? A little impatient praying for patience.)
Through mothering my son, God truly is teaching me how to be a more patient and loving person.
When all I want is sleep, my son needs my attention and comfort. And although he is not “cooperating” with what I would like him to do regarding sleep, I will wait. I will give him the time he needs to adjust. I will train him, day by day, to learn to sleep without me. No matter how long it takes, I want to choose to lead him gently.
This path is probably not the easiest one. It’s certainly not the quickest way to restful nights. It is a sacrifice, and is requiring a graciousness that God is providing beyond my own abilities.
When I think about how God interacts with us, I am so humbled. How often are we “uncooperative” with His plans for us, yet He is patient, kind, and consistent in His guidance. His methods are perfect. He alone is wise. He is gracious and merciful beyond our comprehension or ability to imitate.
Despite already giving us so many gifts, God continues to provide peace and comfort in these times in the wee hours of the night, when the only words I can short-sightedly pray are, “please let this child sleep tonight”.
And yes, I have wondered, “Why would God not immediately grant this request for sleep? He gives good gifts. Sleep is a good thing, right?” Yes, but perhaps I am needing to learn these lessons now. Perhaps there is a more difficult challenge than sleep-deprivation in my future. (Teenage years come to mind…)
I am also reminded that my sleep sacrifice for my son pales in comparison to the sacrifice God provided us through His own son.
I’m so very grateful for the comfort and peace He provides me, though I admit, I rarely embrace it. Just like my baby putting his hand out to keep from being set down, I want to acknowledge His comforting presence in my life and embrace the peaceful place God has provided in Himself as my Father.
How Sweet it is to be Loved by You
Despite the “problem” nursing to sleep has caused (particularly in public), during my son’s nap today I was again reminded in such a sweet way, what a privilege it is to be his “ultimate sleep association.”
My son sleeps longer if I nap with him, and let’s face it, I can use the sleep anyway, so win win for us!
He awoke from his light sleep, and I had moved back a bit, away from him (one of the suggestions given for co-sleeping). With his eyes still closed, he reached his little hand out searching for me. I watched, as he patted his lovey, and the bed next to him, then I moved in close to him and said, “I’m here, baby.” Upon feeling me next to him and hearing my words, he went right back to sleep.
Then tonight as we were going through our bedtime routine, my son lifted his head off my shoulder, not to fuss or burp (as is typical), but to lift his hands to my face. He proceeded to pat at my mouth and my nose, (and my eyeball…) before laying his head back down on my shoulder.
With my heart as warm as can be, all I can say is, “This is love” and how very sweet it is.
What about you?
What lessons has God taught you through your interactions with your children? Your spouse?