I love being a nursing mother (well, most of the time). Although I couldn’t nurse my oldest son, I completely embraced the experience with my next two boys. I used nursing not just for feeding, but also for comfort, bonding, and soothing. It became a very special time between my baby and myself–drawing me closer to my little one as it created feelings of tenderness which washed away the strain of my difficult pregnancies. I admit, however, that one drawback to nursing remains: the hours.
Let me tell you. our bodies are not designed to wake every two or three hours throughout the night for months on end. During the year it took my second child, Caleb, to sleep through the night, I thought I would never make it. Then I had Benjamin, who, at 14 months, was still up every two hours with no end in sight. I looked as bad as I felt: weary, red-eyed, with a zombie-like way of getting through the day. I was reaching a breaking point.
Moments with Baby
One time, I found myself in the nursery at two in the morning (again). Benjamin’s sharp cry had awakened me from a light doze. I leaped up and rushed to his room so the other boys wouldn’t wake. I scooped him up and sank into my glider, shushing him as I deftly began to nurse.
My exhaustion gave way to anger and frustration with thoughts that said this would never end, and that in spite of what people say, this would be the first kid to still be waking me up in the middle of the night as a teenager. (Seriously, I know people say I will miss these times, but right now all I can think of is getting eight hours of sleep!) As I felt my blood boil, I clenched my teeth, flared my nostrils, and tried to steady my arms. I wanted to scream and yell and cry and take flight. And yet I didn’t, because I knew my baby needed me.
Then somehow, as often happened, the touch of my baby’s skin against mine soothed me. A calming wave swept over me as I watched his little body stretched out across mine. His eyes were closed, a peaceful smile was on his lips, and his soft downy red hair brushed against my arm. Just like that all the negativity was gone. I basked in the connection of mother to child–that tie that binds through thick and thin and middle-of-the-night feedings.
This story has repeated itself many, many nights. Rarely am I chipper when awoken in the wee hours of the morning. But there is something uniquely soothing about nursing when the house is still and the moon casts the only light around me–it is a moment that stays with me and helps me through the 18 hours of chaos the next day.
Moments for Mom
As the holidays approach, I will somehow need to find a way to do 36 hours of work in those 18 hours of chaos each day, while fueled with only a couple hours of sleep. There will be baking, shopping, organizing, decorating, and cleaning, cleaning, cleaning, as I prepare to host gatherings with friends and family. Much of it I will do with a toddler on my hip, a preschooler running ahead, and my six-year-old as my only aide. It will be more important than ever to take a moment here and there to unwind, regroup, relax, and just smile–moments to enjoy the season. While I don’t necessarily recommend getting up at two in the morning to do that (especially if you are past the nursing stage), there are some quick ways to recharge your batteries.
First, never feel bad for taking a quick break during a gathering.
I am an introvert, which means that I need time by myself to re-energize. I love to have friends and family over, but people can be overwhelming for me (even if I am enjoying their company). Solution: about half way through an event, I sneak upstairs to my room and take five minutes to myself. I might read a couple of pages of a book, do a Sudoku challenge, tidy up a cluttered corner, or just sit on my bed and stare out the window. No one has ever mentioned my short disappearances, and probably no one has ever even noticed. This quick break is enough for me to recharge and enjoy the rest of the party.
Second, get outside when you can.
I don’t recommend this lightly. I live in Canada, but have my mom’s Australian blood coursing through my veins. It is COLD! And yes, it requires seven layers of clothing including long johns. But, there is nothing like a crisp, blue sky and bright beaming sun to give me a boost. We harness the sun for solar energy all the time, and I often imagine myself as a human solar panel taking in the suns rays and converting it to my own energy.
And finally, if you find yourself awake in the middle of the night unable to sleep, don’t just lie there for hours, tossing, turning, and worrying.
Get up and find a comfortable corner in your home to curl up in for a short time. Draw back the curtain and look at the beautiful moonlight. Feel the calm stillness of the night air. While you may not have a tiny baby to hold in your arms, hold a moment instead, a moment of mothering that smells as sweet as a newborn and fits perfectly into the crook of your arm. Hold onto that moment from earlier that day, or week, and remember why it is you fell in love with being a mother from the moment of your first baby’s first cry. Because that, more than anything else, is what moves all of us mothers through life.
QUESTION: Which moments in your life give you peace, comfort, perspective, and joy?
CHALLENGE: Seek out these moments, and wrap them around your heart and mind–really let them sink in. In the more chaotic moments, call these gentler moments back to your mind and see if they do not help you embrace motherhood.
Wow, Teri-Ann…I cannot tell you how desperately I needed to read this tonight. I’ve been fighting with this very situation…a 13-month-old who still thinks he needs to wake up three to five times a night and who won’t eat well during the day. This little baby has two older brothers, ages 3 and 5 who hit the ground running every morning at full speed. Even though I’m sorry this is your experience, as well, I must say that it is very comforting to me to know that I’m not the only one going through this. I, too, have welled up with frustration in the middle of the night VERY sure that there was no end in sight only to be soothed by my baby’s soft breathing, wispy hair, beautiful eyelashes, and soft skin. I know that he doesn’t want to wake up in the middle of the night either, and that this difficulty won’t last forever (even though it really feels like it a lot of days!) But, I appreciate your reminder to pause for even a few moments to look at the moonlight, to watch my baby breathe, to be still and breathe myself, particularly as the busyness of the holidays and the stamina of my older boys seems to overwhelm me in the morning. Also, above all, I so appreciate you writing this as a reminder that I am not alone in this experience, because, as you probably know, it can feel so very lonely in the middle of the night when everyone else is sleeping and you want to be. Thanks for your honesty and perspective.
Rachel Ream says
Beautifully written. My nursing baby just fell asleep in my arms. I think I’ll skip changing the laundry and just hold him awhile before his toddler brother wakes up. Thank you for the reminder to enjoy these sweet moments.