Category: sleep

“I do not want to rest!”

“Okay. You don’t have to. We’ll just have milk.”

We crawled in to bed, and it took him less than five minutes of milk to fall asleep for what turned out to be a two and a half hour nap.

“Winthrop* asked what I was doing,” he said upon waking up, then without pausing, “Find Grandma!”

“How was your nap?” Grandma asked.

“I did not have a nap! Just milk!”

Sleep resistance turned sleep denial.

*H’s stuffed zebra.

“I’m tired,” he said. “I would like to rest.”

Then he climbed into bed, pulled down the covers, and invited me to join him. He was asleep within minutes. Later, we woke up looking just as we did when we had drifted into slumber: me curled around him, his feet pushing into my thighs, my lips buried in the warmth of his hair.

“Are you waking up?” I ask H as I enter the bedroom. It is his first nighttime wake up. He has called out for me.

“Yeah,” he mumbles in his sweet toddler voice.

“Where are you?” I ask him. My eyes have not yet adjusted to the dark of the room.

“I’m on the bed,” he informs me.

I love the guilelessness with which he answers my questions about such things.

“Where are you?”

I am patting the bed carefully, but I have not located him yet.

“Are you waking up for milk?” I ask to fill the time between now and when I lie down next to him.

“Yeah. I’m waking up, because I am waking up,” he explains.

I smile at his circular explanation.

“I am waking up a lot,” he says.

My smile grows wider and spreads to my heart. He does wake a lot. I am not sure if his statement comes from self-awareness or from stringing together words he knows from other contexts in a way that happens to fit the truth. Either way, in this moment, he has found a way to expand the space in my heart yet again and even more than I knew possible, just by being himself. When I feel the vastness of the space in my heart, as I do now, I step more easily into the expansiveness of the universe and all of the possibility, wonder, and peace that comes with feeling connected to something larger than oneself.

H does wake a lot, and while I vaguely recall how good a night of solid, uninterrupted sleep feels, I am grateful for the lessons in the wake ups. This child, like all children, knows nature and spirit, and I am so lucky, at any hour of the day or night, to have him as my guide.

“Are you waking up?”

It is the first wake up of the night, and H has summoned me by calling out mama three times.

“Yeah,” he mumbles.

“Are you waking up for milk?” I ask him.

“Yeah.” Another mumble.

My eyes have not adjusted to the dark of the room. I search for him on the bed with my hands.

“Glad to see you,” he says in a small, quiet voice, as I slide him to the side to make space for myself. He is still half asleep, and it is hard to tell whether his response is conversational or whether he is cycling through the words and phrases he heard during the day.

Either way, my heart tells me it means something. It means he knows that I will come for him when he calls. It means he knows nothing different. It means he senses I will always be glad to see him, day or night. It means he trusts me.

This is the only thing I imagine I will ever need in exchange for responding to his nighttime needs. His trust.

Waiting It Out

Getting him easily and peacefully into his nighttime diaper. Rubbing a dab of ointment on each of his scabbed knees. Struggling to brush his teeth. Working against a mouth shut clam tight and a head that won’t stop moving side to side. Failing even as I pull out all my creative tricks. Watching Grandma sustain a tooth brushing injury. Acquiescing with a full and gentle heart to sad pleas of, “Need a hug!” Declaring victory after the brush has at the very least touched each tooth. Crawling into bed. Lifting him up after he has placed a requested book on our pile. Sitting propped up on pillows while he has milk. Reading I Know Here, Quiet Time with Cassatt, and Big Wheels. Grabbing his ankle so he doesn’t fly off the end of the bed as he drops Big Wheels to the floor. Inviting him back to turn off the star light. Reviewing the events of our day together as he has more milk. Picking him up and cradling him in my arms as we enter the final stretch of bedtime. Taking a moment to drink him and this moment in. Giving him Eskimo and butterfly kisses. Responding gladly to his requests for more. Telling him of the place he holds in my heart. Lying him down gently and offering him the requested other side. Asking if he wants me to sing Stewball, Puff the Magic Dragon, Return to Pooh Corner, Over the Rainbow, Make New Friends, or Simple Gifts and getting a yes, finally, to Taps. Lapsing into silence after he says, “Mama just be quiet right now.” Watching his body twist and his leg dart up in the air and then slow to stillness. Listening to his breathing deepen. Knowing with certainty that he is on his way to sleep. Thinking about how much he has grown and changed over the past two years, including in his needs for support with sleep. Missing the baby he used to be. Marveling at the little boy he has become. Resting with him for a moment longer before getting out of bed to be here at the page.

I ran into a neighbor while taking out the compost last night. The early evening sun burned low and bright in the sky, and the heat of the day lingered with no signs of giving way to the usual coolness of a Pacific Northwest night. We are in the midst of what constitutes a heat wave in these parts, it having been in the upper 80s for the better part of a week. There’s always a reason to talk about the weather here, as everywhere, be it bemoaning the consistent dreary grey of our winters or marveling at the good fortune of our easy, beautiful summers. Of course the weather came up as we chatted.

“How has H been sleeping in this heat?” she asked.

“About the same as always,” I reported, explaining that he was a wakey wakey infant and that he continues to be wakey wakey as a toddler.

“How many times a night?” she asked.

“Probably between four and six, although I have stopped counting,” I said, smiling at her.

“But he’s totally worth it, right?” Her return smile was warm and empathic.

And then the truest, most honest words came tumbling of my mouth fully formed without thought, as if they had bypassed the thinking part of my brain and come straight from the gut.

“He is such a joy, I wouldn’t trade him for sleep.”

And it’s true. I wouldn’t. Not for sleep, not for anything.

Waiting It Out

Making it to bedtime after a long day caring for a toddler while sick. Planning on going straight to bed with him. Watching while his grandma, at his request, puts on his nighttime diaper. Working every angle to get him to brush his teeth. Giving him the choice between reading books or having milk. Reading Good Night Gorilla until he emphatically points to himself and grabs the book away. Watching him look over a page or two before he drops the book and starts to roll around on the bed. Wondering, as he punches at my Kindle with his tiny index finger, how he always manages to find the panel for writing a note. Brokering a deal for the Kindle. Setting it aside and settling down to nurse. Letting him switch from side to side himself, back and forth so many times I lose count. Reminding him that twiddling hurts mama. Reminding him again. Feeling the burn on my nipples if he so much as grazes them with his delicate fingers. Focusing on my elbows and feet to distract myself from the discomfort of the nipple twiddling. Despairing that he will never sleep. Deflecting his second and third requests to read books. Singing, humming, murmuring. Drifting off to sleep, finally, as he does. Waking each time he wakes to let him latch. Looking at the clock as he falls back asleep to reassure myself it is not yet time to get up. Switching sides of the bed with him at one wake up. Lying down in a pool of wet. Trying to convince myself this wet is no big deal. Feeling the wet spot again to judge its size. Feeling H’s diaper. Feeling the bed. Feeling the wetness on H’s torso, too large a spot to ignore. Getting up for a diaper and pajama change. Resigning myself to the resulting 2:30 am baby party. Slumping against the bed as H plays with the shape sorting toy. Struggling against my sore throat to swallow as my head throbs. Musing about what life would be like if I were perpetually awake. Deciding the world would look as it does in Blade Runner. Wondering if I am dying. Making it through the baby party with hazy memories of what actually happened. Crawling back in bed at 4 am. Asking him to sleep on top of me when he struggles to resettle. Feeling the pressure of his little body against mine. Dozing through the early hours of the morning with him nestled beside me. Smiling at him when he sits up in bed, looks at me seriously, and says up. Asking if he would like to get up. Smiling more at his vigorous confirmatory nods. Picking him up. Climbing out of bed for the day. Knowing, with certainty and conviction, that the rough night was worth it, that H is worth it. Hoping against hope the upcoming night is easier.

Waiting It Out

Spending some time diaper free before bed. Reading Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You? and Mommy! Mommy! Scrubbing, with his help, the spot where he peed on the floor. Shrieking joyously with him, from opposite sides of a closed closet door, as we reach underneath to touch hands. Tickling his buddha belly when he opens the door to let me out. Shrieking and laughing and playing the closed door game again and again. Squeezing the last of the ointment that combats his winter dry skin from the tube. Brushing teeth himself. Putting on his pajama tops as he stands on tip toes and stretches his arms as high over his head as he can to fish toiletries out of a bathroom drawer. Putting on nighttime diapers and pajama bottoms. Fighting little hands and tears to brush his teeth myself. Crawling into bed. Reading, at his request, Hush Little Baby until he flips the book closed and signs more. Starting over. Stopping short when he signs all done. Turning off the light. Lying down to nurse. Letting him switch back and forth himself. Murmuring, singing, and humming through our now familiar and comfortable repertoire of lullabies. Listening to him babble. Rocking him in my arms when he pops up in bed. Snuggling. Nuzzling. Giving and receiving kisses. Soaking up his sweet toddler energy. Lying back down. Nursing again. Feeling his body quiet and then a rush of grief rise up. Longing for joy and connection. Watching H, through tear struck eyes, unlatch and roll away, asleep. Listening to him breathe. Studying him, the turn of his head, his starfished limbs, the rise and fall of his chest with each breath. Realizing, like an epiphany, that the loss of one relationship in my life has momentarily blinded me to the joy I have with those that remain, including the sweet toddler sleeping next to me. Pausing to savor the relief of my gladdened heart before climbing out of bed.

Waiting It Out

Bedtime. Turning down the blinds. Turning on Ocean Waves. Crawling into bed. Pulling him close. Nursing on the first side. Murmuring Wherever You Are: My Love Will Find You. Humming Silent Night, Away In A Manger, and What Chid Is This. Feeling his little hand tip my torso toward him so he can nurse from the second side. Smiling at the hint of what it will feel like to be hugged by him someday. Humming We Wish You A Merry Christmas and Auld Lang Syne. Tipping back when he asks to switch sides. Feeling the strength of his legs as his feet knead my thighs. Gazing down at him lying on the bed next to me. Marveling at how long he has grown. Relaxing my body. Matching my breathing to his. Crawling quietly out of bed. Covering him with a blanket made by his grandma. Pausing for a moment to watch him sleep.

Waiting It Out

Taking him to bed despite, or maybe because of, his frantic protests. Letting him crawl away and then back to me. Feeling the warmth of his body as he lies on top of me to nurse. Murmuring. Rubbing his head. Rolling him onto the bed. Cradling him close. Feeling his feet kneading my thighs. Watching his arm rise and fall on his ribcage with each breath.  Listening to his breathing slow. Feeling his body quiet. Giving thanks, as he falls asleep, for a healthy and beautiful baby boy.