Naptime. H is showing tired cues: He’s yawning and wants to be in my arms. We get into bed together. He nurses and then rolls away onto his tummy and gets up on all fours. He rocks back and forth, practicing crawling. I pull him back and offer him the second side. He nurses some more and then rolls away to practice crawling again. He’s all over the bed, rolling and scooting backwards. I assess the situation. He’s not sleeping.
We get out of bed and read Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes, There’s a Wocket in my Pocket!, Hop on Pop, and Horns to Toes And In Between. He seems alert, so we play. He picks up the stroller toy that we never actually used on the stroller, and I wonder if it would look good on the wall above his changing table. We play with his cone sorting toy. He takes it apart, and I think of ways to put the pieces together to make things other than a cone. It becomes a merry-go-round, a tree, a hut. He seems tired again. He’s getting a bit frantic, throwing the pieces of the cone sorting toy around.
We get into bed together. He nurses and then rolls away onto his tummy. He’s practicing crawling again. I think about how persistently he pursues his goals. It’s admirable. I pull him back and offer him the second side. He nurses some more and then rolls away again. He shakes his head and kicks his feet. He’s seeming more and more frantic by the second, but he’s still not sleeping. Do I wait this out in bed or do I get up and wear him? I decide to wear him.
We get up and I put him in Babyhawk. We do a few things around the house together, wash the wool insert from his nighttime diaper, make a phone call to the library about where to drop off donated books. I know he’s tired. He’s yawning and rubbing his eyes and he becomes unhappy when I make the phone call. We bounce. He’s still unhappy, and now he looks tired. I can see it in his eyes.
We get into bed together. He nurses and then rolls away. I pull him into me and curl around him. He resists, his legs kicking, his torso twisting toward me then away from me as he continues to nurse. He rolls away again. I feel my body tense. I want to leave him in bed and run away. Why isn’t he sleeping? I wonder if it would be bad to throw him out the window. Yes, I decide that would be bad. I promised him in the hospital that I would never leave him. We’re in this together, I told him, I’ll never leave you. I stayed with him as much as I could, day in, day out, through a spinal tap and an IV inserted in a vein in his head. I stay with him now. Breathe in, breathe out, smile comes to mind. Thank you Summer. I breathe deeply in and out and soften my face into a small smile. I feel my body relax. He’s not giving me a hard time, he’s having a hard time. Thank you Michele. I can wait it out so that you don’t have to cry it out. Thank you Sarah. I offer him the second side. I can feel his body relaxing. He stays latched. I think of my sister, my first wait it out friend. We’ve had each other since the beginning, before I knew I would make so many other wait it out friends. Thank goodness for my sister. I think of Lisa and E in Ohio, Emilie and H in California, Sara and her little ones. Where is Sara? I make a note to find out. I think of Emily and her H in Canada somewhere. I think of Nora and her little one in Oregon. I think of Ashley and S in Missouri. I think of Nicole and L, Jen and her little ones, Kelly and her little one. I think of meeting Kristine and P on Tuesday. I think of Rosie. I think of Kaci. They are all in bed with me and H, all these wonderful mothers and their babies.
His breathing has slowed and his body is still. He’s sleeping.
Why I Am the Best Mother for H
I smile at him. I smile at H when he wakes up at 5am and I am bone tired. I smile at him when we are playing on the floor together. I smile at him when he is in Babyhawk and we are on a walk. I smile at him when we are going into hour two of bedtime and he is flopping all over the bed. I smile at him when he eagerly reaches toward the bucket swing at the park. I smile at him when we are eating and he is dropping more food on the floor than goes into his mouth. I smile at him when I am changing his diaper. I smile at him when we are in the pool and he is having a grand old time splashing around. I smile at him. And I mean it every time. Whether it is out of pure, unadulterated joy at his presence or to remind myself to slow down and relax into him, I mean that smile. He is a pleasure to journey through life with. I feel lucky that we found each other, and that makes me smile all the more.
H has been on a Good Night, Gorilla kick lately. We read it seven or eight times tonight before I gently put it to my side and asked him if he wanted to read something else. A Book of Sleep and Goodnight Moon remained in front of us. He requested Goodnight Moon, but flipped it shut and pushed it aside before the end. He then reached over my leg and slightly behind me to request Good Night, Gorilla. After a showering of kisses and peals of laughter from both of us, we read it three more times.
Bedtime. He curls into me. I curl around him. We nurse. His breathing slows. His body stills. He drifts into quiet, peaceful sleep.
Full disclosure: He was awake 30 minutes later.
We asked close family who would be visiting with H to make sure they were up to date on their Tdap vaccination and made sure that we were as well. I’m so grateful to them for creating such a loving cocoon of protection around H so he could be safe from pertussis during the time he was unvaccinated.
Last Thursday, H worked at putting a rod inside a cylinder (two pieces from his cone sorting toy) for the first time. He was not successful, but it was clear that he had the concept of one piece fitting inside the other.
Last Friday, H turned the pages of Rainbow Fish Gift of Sharing, a soft book we’ve been reading for the past six months. He’s old hat at turning the pages of the board books we read, but he had never turned the pages of this soft book before. It was clear that he had generalized the concept of a book.
H is not the first to grasp these concepts, of course, but watching him in these moments feels like witnessing something extraordinary.
H had air continuously pumped into his airways for a day after he was born. He was jaundiced and could not eat on his own. He was tethered by cords and wires to a monitor that told us whether his heart rate was too high or too low, whether his breathing had stopped, and how much oxygen was reaching his lungs at all times. And he was perfect. He was, without a doubt, whole and complete. I knew it right from the start. I knew that he didn’t need to be anything other than himself, that he didn’t need to do anything at all, that he was whole and complete just the way he was.
At 11 months, H cannot yet crawl, he makes a monumental mess when he eats, and he wakes often during the night. We have been through three rounds of biting while breastfeeding, each worse than the last. And he is perfect. He is, without a doubt, whole and complete. He doesn’t need to be anything other than himself, he doesn’t need to do anything at all, he is whole and complete just the way he is.
I thought about this a lot at the hospital, sitting with H in my arms or watching over him as he slept in his isolette. I wondered then, as I wonder now, about when we stop seeing ourselves and each other this way. Why do we feel we need to do something or be something different in order to be good? Why do we forget, or cover up, or ignore our essential goodness? Why do we become blind to it in others?
I don’t know the answers to these questions, but H serves as a good reminder to me to be gentle with myself and others. When I’m hardening toward myself, when I find judgment about someone else rising up in my mind, I think of H and how he is whole and complete just the way he is. And I am reminded to let go of the harshness and the judgement and instead be open to seeing each of us as we are, whole and complete.
Some Things I Want to Remember About the Baby I Have Right Now
The sweep of his red-tinted hair across his forehead. The thickness of his feet. The way he curls into me as we nurse side lying, one tiny foot resting on my thigh, the other pressed into my abdomen. His milky baby breath. The way he reaches around himself to touch my leg in the middle of play, as if to make sure I’m still there. The fullness of his cheeks. The way his right eyebrow wrinkles when he furrows his brow. The way he curls his toes toward the soles of his feet. The way he lifts his arms away from his torso when I ask “Up, up?” The way he ever so slightly reaches towards me when he is held by someone else that lets me know I am home to him. His large hazel eyes. His delicate pincer grasp. The way his breathing slows and his arms fall from his body as he nurses to sleep. His easy, wide-mouth baby smile. The weight and warmth of his body in my arms. The downy softness of his hair against my cheek.