I never saw that one coming. Sure, I knew people would ask about the baby's age. I knew they'd have opinions on nursing versus bottle-feeding. I knew they'd share ideas about how to cure colic. But I had no clue about the sleep thing. People really seem to care. And if your answer is "No, he's not sleeping through the night yet," they act as if that's a bad thing.
I'll admit I don't get nearly as much sleep as I used to. And I'll even go so far as to acknowledge that it would probably be really good for me to sleep more than three or four hours at a stretch. That's pretty much all I can complain about, though. My dirty little secret is that I love the nighttime feedings.
See, during the day, feedings tend to be a little rushed. We're either coming back from somewhere or on the way out the door. We're waking up to tackle tasks, or we're winding down to grab a quick nap before an afternoon appointment. And while my eyes are on my son, my mind tends to wander, visiting and revisiting my endless mental to-do lists. But nighttime's a different story.
Boy goes to bed around 7 or 7:15 each night. He's up for the first feeding around 11 or so, before I turn in. I call it a night around midnight or later, so I'm really only awakened for the second feeding. I usually hear him stirring via the monitor on my nightstand. A bit groggy, I fumble for my glasses, check the time, and head upstairs. With each step I wake up a little more, and by the time I reach the door to his room, I'm firing on all cylinders again. Within a few steps, I'm at his crib-side, and when he hears my quiet greeting ("hey, baby"), his cry instantly changes from angry or frantic to relieved -- it really does, every time, and it touches my heart to know that I can bring him comfort, that he is always glad to see me. I scoop him up and do a quick pat-down for diaper status. If it needs changing, we attend to it, but if all's well, we get a few seconds to just cuddle as we make our way in the dark to the rocking chair.
As I sink into the soft chair and settle him to start nursing, my eyes adjust to the darkness enough to see the shape his jammies make in my arms, and I can marvel one more time at how much he's grown and changed from the fragile little newborn we brought home. Nursing contentedly, boy's hands and arms settle into their usual nighttime positions -- one clutching my shirt, as if to say, "stay with me, mommy," and the other wrapped around my side, skimming across my skin, as though he needs a moment's reassurance that I'm really there. And in the peace and quiet, it's just me and my son, his warmth a perfect anchor in the darkness, the soft touch of his downy hair in the bend of my arm. There are no phones to answer, no pressing tasks to perform, nowhere I need to be but with my boy, wrapped around him in the dark, trying desperately to soak in every second of the fleeting baby-ness of him.
Within ten minutes, he's had his fill, and is sound asleep in my arms, sated and heavy with sleep. I lay him gently in his crib and tiptoe out the door to my own room, glad to have had an excuse to touch him once more, at peace knowing that he's full and happy and resting comfortably. As I drift off to sleep again myself, I glance at the monitor on the nightstand, a sentinel in the dark, and know that when I'm called again, I'll know it within seconds.
Maybe in a few more months, I'll feel differently about the nighttime feedings -- maybe. For now, I find that some of my richest memories are of the few moments I have alone with my son in the night, when everyone else we know is asleep.
Is he sleeping through the night? We'll get there. All in due time.
I thank you, Lord, for the gift of this perfect child. I ask you to make me worthy of him. Help me to be the mommy he needs and deserves. With all that I am, I implore you to keep him safe, healthy, and happy. Show me how to nurture him to grow up into kindness. Protect him as he learns, grows, explores the world around him. Help me to raise this healthy baby into a happy child, and that smiling child into a loving person of faith and courage and strength.
Please, God, help me to do this right -- this job of being a mommy. Never have I been so blessed as now, and never have I needed You more than I do in this work. Guide my steps, my words and actions, please.