The little man didn’t sleep well last night. He had trouble going down, acting restless and fidgety as I tried to rock him in is dark room, squirming and arching his back against my cuddling and “talking” instead of settling down. I felt frustrated, tired from the long day I’d had, and my patience was starting to dissipate.
When I finally laid him down in his crib, he cried, and I let him. I felt terrible, but I kept thinking, I don’t want to start bad habits up again. He needs to learn to self soothe. (He’s been fussy at bedtime for the past few nights, and I didn’t want to fall back into our old ways, having him rely on us completely to be able to fall and stay asleep.) As much as I told myself that, I still felt like a jerk.
I laid in bed awake and unhappy for hours after he had fallen asleep, feeling guiltier and guiltier … picturing his sweet little face crying and calling out to me. Hating myself for not going to him. I felt so conflicted, wanting to prioritize sleep in our household, even if the measures are sometimes unpleasant—but also wanting to keep my baby as happy as possible, wanting him to feel loved and secure.
Around midnight as I was finally drifting off, I heard him crying. I was surprised; he hasn’t cried during the night lately. I turned on the monitor, and he looked frantic, turning on his side looking toward the door as he cried, waiting for me, hoping for me. I didn’t hesitate, I broke our rules, and I went to him. I felt almost relieved that he was awake, like this was my chance to redeem what I had done earlier, letting him cry himself to sleep. I picked my sweet little boy up and his face was wet with tears, his tiny chest heaved with sobs, he buried his face in my neck.
I felt like a monster, a terrible mother, to have let him cry it out so many times. You start to become desensitized to what’s happening in the nursery when you’re downstairs, out of earshot of the sad cries and telling yourself that you’re doing the right thing, teaching your baby to “self soothe.” But here in his room, wiping the wet tears away and feeling his chubby little fingers touching my face and burying his head in my chest, the full weight of what I’ve done hits me. I feel like I’ve been abandoning him; he’s so little, and I’ve expected so much of him. He quickly began to calm down, holding on to me, his chest still catching from the earlier crying.
Hot tears welled up in my own eyes as I thought, all he needed was me. He wasn’t hungry, his diaper was fine. He just missed his mama. Was it so hard to give him that? I curled up with him in the rocker, rubbing his back and kissing the top of his head, inhaling his sweet baby scent, breathing him in. This perfect little boy is mine. I am beyond blessed to be his mama. His little head nuzzled my chest as he began to drift off. I held him for a long time after he had fallen asleep, watching his eyelids flutter and rosy lips twitch as he dreamed, looking at his perfect little features in wonder. Eventually I laid him down in his crib, he didn’t protest as he rolled over and got comfy. He slept peacefully the rest of the night.
My heart felt lighter than before as I crawled under my own covers. My heart is telling me to to find more balance as a mother. I’m learning that this parenting thing isn’t black and white; there’s no line in the sand between the right way and the wrong way.