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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Regrets . . . I've had a few . . .

Would you like to know what I am listening to right now? Silence. Pure, golden silence. AJ is snoozing happily beside me and D is off in Dream Land. I have all fingers and toes crossed that the two prior days of nap strikage were just flukes and that we can hang on to this nap time a bit longer. Thank you so much for your encouragement and commiseration yesterday! It means the world to me.

Stressing out Thinking reflectively on D's nap times (and lack thereof) hearkens me back to a different place and time. A time when I was a shiny brand new mama (and by shiny, I mean shiny-faced due to lack of personal hygiene combined with not a just a few shed tears. And my - that sounds pitiful! It wasn't all that bad. I suppose.) Anyway, Shiny Brand New Mama spent the first three to four months of her oldest child's life completely, utterly, stupidly obsessed with her child's sleep, or lack thereof. See, a well-meaning family member had well-meaningly given Shiny Brand New Mama a copy of a book said family member had found to be helpful when her children were babies. The subtitle to this book is Giving Your Infant the Gift of Nighttime Sleep. Shiny Brand New Mama had read this book voraciously before her oldest was born and fully intended to follow all of the book's commandments in getting baby on a schedule so baby and Mama and Daddy could all sleep through the night by the time she was six weeks old. I mean, come on! Who wouldn't want that?!

Oh, sure, there were mamas on her mommy message board who tried to offer warnings about this book - that it was not only unnecessary (and actually quite unrealistic) to put baby on a schedule at such an early age, but it was also sometimes dangerous. Shiny Brand New Mama brushed off the warnings, thinking to herself that these mamas just didn't follow the plan correctly. Again, sleep through the night at six weeks! Come on, people! What on earth could be dangerous about that?

So the day came when Shiny Brand New Mama's baby woke up to the world, just about two weeks after her grand (albeit late) arrival. It become quite obvious to Shiny Brand New Mama that Baby didn't read a copy of this book with all that free time she had in-utero. No, in fact, this Baby was born with a plan. A plan to get her Mama to get to know what she needed to get acclimated to this big, scary new world. She tried and tried to tell her Mama that she had no intentions of being put on a schedule at this tender young age, but her Mama . . . well, she wasn't listening.

And so Shiny Brand New Mama and her Baby had a rough start. Mama kept a tediously detailed sleep journal, noting the exact minute Baby went to sleep and the exact minute she woke up and all of the various techniques she tried for getting Baby to go to sleep (except - heaven forbid! - rocking and holding and cuddling and slinging! Oh my, no. Gotta get Baby to be an independent sleeper, or you know what will happen . . . she'll need to be rocked to sleep until she is seven and she will never, no not ever, sleep through the night. And it will be all. your. fault.)

Well, very, very long story short, Brand Shiny New Mama spent most of Baby's early months wracked with guilt and plagued with tears over her inability to get Baby on The Schedule. Every time a friend or stranger innocently asked how she was sleeping at night, Brand Shiny New Mama cringed. And lied. Every New Mama knows that how her baby is sleeping at night is a direct reflection on how good of a mother she is. Or isn't.

I can write this now as a Not Quite Shiny Mama, a mama who looks back on those days with such regret. Not the aching, desperate kind of regret that follows me around all day. Nah. Just the resigned regret of knowing I missed out on such sweetness in D's earliest days. I missed out on having her sleep contently on my chest (as AJ is doing at this very moment). I missed nuzzling and snuggling her off to sleep. I missed experiencing the unforced rhythms of life with a newborn because I was so angry that she wouldn't sleep when she was "supposed to". I couldn't allow myself the joy of getting to know her amazing and vibrant personality because I was too busy fretting over how I was failing her. If only I had possessed a crystal ball in those days . . . some manner of seeing into the future and being able to be assured that yes, D would eventually be able to go to sleep without being rocked for even a minute. That, indeed, she would sleep through the night. It didn't happen until she was around two, but it happened. And it's wonderful. And she's wonderful. And I did not fail her.

Eventually, I found another book that brought me such peace in choosing to parent instinctively. Ah yes, when you know better, you do better. And the regrets - well, you accept them, even embrace them, because without them there is often little motivation for change.