He used to be so small when I rocked him. His head would rest on my shoulder and his curled up little self would reach about to my ribs. Now he’s almost two and his long legs extend past my knees and I can’t believe how much he’s changed. Now instead of rocking him and seeing his little baby squirms, he tells me the names of his friends he’s thinking of and brings up various things that he remembers doing that day.
I don’t get to rock him as much as I used to. Recently he learned that he can go to sleep on his own, so he’ll ask to go to bed and I’ll listen to him shout and sing to himself for a while before he falls asleep.
But the other night I went to lay him down and instead of his usual “I love you! Bye!”, he stood back up and, with a tiny “please”, reached out his arms for me. I am many things, but someone who is able to withstand that is not one of them. So I picked him up and I held him. I rocked him until he fell asleep and then I held him longer. I held him even though my back was aching and his sweet little self basically functions as a miniature heater and it was approximately 5000 degrees at every point of contact between the two of us. I held him and prayed and tried my best to memorize every little bit of him.
Oddly, there are always critics about that sort of thing.
“Don’t hold your babies too much or you’ll spoil them.”
“They need to learn how to fall asleep on their own right away or they’ll always need you.”
“You shouldn’t pick them up every time they cry because they’re learning to manipulate you.” (When my son was all of four days old.)
Here’s the truth of the matter. Things don’t last. My son has always been a remarkably easy child, except for one thing: he liked being held. I mean, he really liked being held. For the first month of his life, I couldn’t put him down without a meltdown. Daytime. Naps. Nighttime. Awake. Fast asleep. Any time in any situation and he would lose his mind if he wasn’t being held. Attempts at swings or rock n’ plays or any artificial comfort would be met with derision, disdain, and extremely vocal disagreement on his part. I’d sit up in the middle of the night watching Netflix and reading articles about high needs babies and skimming articles or Amazon for any tips and products that people swore helped their baby sleep alone. (Pro-trip: delete the Amazon app before having a baby. Your tired self at 3 am is not strong enough.) Nothing worked.
Until something did. Eventually he was able to sleep at night without being held. Not for long spurts, but enough that my husband and I could both sleep at the same time. And I dreamed of the days where I could sleep through the night again. I did my best not to overreact at every person who told me about their newborn sleeping through the night (Every woman anyway. Their husbands always had a different version. Remember that when you’re exhausted and can’t handle the bragging.) I tried schedules and swaddling and noise machines and nothing worked.
Until something did. Eventually he slept through the night. And I started to become a person again. I don’t know if I’ll ever recover the brain cells lost during that period, but I started to get a full night’s sleep again. Started to enjoy having quality time in the evenings with my husband again. But for some reason, I couldn’t lay him down for naps. He’d be dead asleep and I’d slowly, gently lay him down and attempt to sneak out, but before I could make it to the door he would be up and protesting. And by that point he wouldn’t go back to sleep so I would spend the next bit of time counting down until I could put him down for the next nap or for the night. I would hold him through his naps and watch Bobby Flay beat most of his opponents or read a book because he just would not nap on his own. I held him through nap time for longer than I’m willing to admit publicly. I wondered what it would be like to have a few hours to myself to get things done because no matter what I tried, nothing seemed to work.
Until something did. I was finally able to lay him down and he’d stay asleep and take naps on his own. And then I wondered if he’d ever have the ability to fall asleep on his own. And I’d read up on attachment parenting and crying it out and do all sorts of research. But all the research in the world means nothing when your baby is calling your name and begging to be held by you. I thought he’d never learn to go to bed and sleep on his own.
Until he did.
My second son is due in about a month. My ability to focus on and rock or hold either of them won’t be the same as it was the first time around. And while I (daily) have a lot of things I’d do differently, and while, yes, there are times where different situations call for different actions and doing what they need isn’t always doing what either of you wants, the fact that I have up to this point generally held my son whenever he asked is not a thing I regret.
So what’s the point here? I’m not entirely sure.
Something about trusting yourself. Motherhood is rife with insecurity and when you’re a new mom and exhausted and every person is overwhelming you with different advice for what to do, doubts creep in and it can be easy for them to take over. Listen to the good, have confidence you’re doing the best you can to do what’s right for your child, and let the rest go. There are a lot of experienced parents out there with great wisdom and advice for what worked for them, and you can and should learn from them. But when it’s 3 am and you’re alone with your child trying to make the right decisions, your choices are the only ones that matter. So trust yourself.
But more than that, the point is something about seasons that don’t last. Babies don’t stay babies. And there is joy in each season. I miss the sweetness of my son’s newborn self, but I also love the growth and changes I see in him every day. I love the kisses he gives me now and watching him discover things and develop an imagination and fall in love with ice cream and watermelon. I love seeing him become a sweet, outrageous, loving, silly, kind, helpful little boy. But I’ll also take the time to cherish the things that don’t remain.
It’s hard for me. I’m a worrier and like for things to be settled. I like to know what’s coming and when it will get here and how to prepare. And parenthood doesn’t allow that. I don’t know when the next stage will arrive or when the current one will suddenly end. I can only teach and train and do my best to take joy in and learn from the joys and struggles and lessons of each day. I can only thank God for His grace in allowing each one and strive harder to understand “sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” I can only prepare for the future, but live in the moment.
So I’ll hold my babies while I can and continue to do my best to show them they’re loved when I can’t. And I’ll try my best to treasure and appreciate the moments as they are, not how I think they should be.