a young sleeping olive. (and i'm pretty sure my shutter woke her up -- oops.)
seemingly simple, right?
ha. (that's me laughing out loud)
such a surprisingly complex, controversial topic. out of all of the issues and aspects of raising a baby that i've had to figure out, baby sleep would be the most difficult, by far.
i remember, long ago, the day i was riding in the car, with my mom. i'm pretty sure i was pregnant, thinking about the upcoming newborn days that were in my near future. i said that i felt pretty good about raising a newborn, if i had one that slept. i might have even thrown in the word 'easy' or 'piece of cake' but i am recluctant to admit to such phrases now i've been there. (i naturally had all of the answers before i even had a baby...)
well, i think a little olive soul in heaven heard those words and decided that she would give me a run for my money. or maybe God was listening and formulated the perfect learning opportunity for me because olive is no easy sleeper. words like 'sleeping through the night' and 'put herself to sleep' have never been part of my vocabulary. and let me tell you, i am not one of those people who can sleep for five hours and wake up refreshed and bright eyed. nope, i'm a 7/8/9 hour a night kind gal. (well, was.)
when olive was a wee little lass, i hit the books, trying to formulate a better sleep plan for her. not such a good idea, considering that all the experts have decided to agree to disagree. one book would tell me that co-sleeping would, indeed, put my baby in danger. and then another book would tell me that not co-sleeping and in a crib would most definitely be a bad idea. considering my sleep deprived state and all of the conflicting advice, i was so very confused. none of the methods felt right to me. some of it even gave me that sick feeling in my stomach, an obvious sign that it was not a good fit. i decided baby books weren't really for me.
so then i did what i'd like to call 'winging it.' you know, mama improv. i did what came naturally, i prayed about it, listened to the answers, and followed baby's lead. i kept doing whatever worked and stopped doing what didn't.
some days i was very zen about this approach. i would happily hold her for her naps, forgetting about outside world. i didn't have much energy anyway from being so tired, so the laid back time was much needed. honestly, those precious moments are some of rusty and mine's fondest olive memories.
then, there were the times that were a bit more difficult. okay, fine, really difficult. nights were i saw every hour. weeks were i was so tired i could barely function. nights when i swore up and down that tomorrow i would make a drastic change because the current plan just wasn't cutting it. moments when rusty and i were at our breaking point. rough, rough nights.
but it always got better. apparently, time doesn't only heal all wounds, but it also helps my baby sleep for longer stretches of time.
i'm always very relunctant to talk about how we do nighttime parenting. i've recieved my fair share of comments from others. i wish i had enough momma confidence to just let all roll of my back, but i'm not quite there yet.
i think as parents, we always view every situation through the scope of our previous experiences. we know what worked like a charm for our baby, so why not help other mothers out? why not give them the answers in the back of the book? but, i've found that babies are strangely vastly different from each other. driving a baby to sleep might work like a charm, but is something that would make my little one scream like a mini-banshee.
because i kind of walked my own walk, i got to see things that shouldn't have worked, well, work. i was told once that if i hold olive for naps, then she would always need to be held for naps. i held her for naps very often in the first part of her life because if i didn't, she would sleep for a super short amount of time. then, one day, a light bulb went off. she started sleeping for 1-2 hours, without any holding necessary. pretty cool, if you ask me.
after all this, i have a new found respect for personal parenting decisions. sometimes i hear about certain parenting decisions, and start to cringe, but then i tell myself to butt out. how am i supposed to know what is best for another little one? judge not, right? if i expect it for others, i better do it myself.
there are so many 'methods' out there of how to help a baby sleep. if you put all of the biggest proponents of each method together in a big room, you would have a crazy, heated debates. i would probably bet money on a fight breaking out. crazy, huh? all over baby sleep.
forget all of that chaos, i am a firm believer in following God-gifted mother's intuition. in the last couple of months, i've had to really focus on listening to that voice because it can often become drowned out by a number of different things. i stumble and fall and forget about that sweet little voice, but thankfully, it's always there. every time i listen to it, my mothering confidence grows just a bit.
i'm happy to report that i am now getting enough sleep at night. i finally learned the concept of napping. (i'm still trying to get the hang of an earlier bedtime.) every so often, we'll have a rough night, from teething or sickness, and i think to myself, 'how did i do this for so long?'
but, i think that is the real miracle of motherhood. those little babies show us what we are really made of. they stretch and they bend us, making us much stronger all the while. they show us how strong and capable we are, helping become people we never would have become otherwise. every mother has a story about how they did something difficult, something they probably could have never imagined themselves doing. my story happened to involve just being really, really tired, but there are other trials and walks through the refining fire that is motherhood. so many women have done much harder things than i, all for a tiny little human.
and that is why, through the tears, trials, long nights and hard work, motherhood is the best thing that has ever happened to me.