Parenting H

Category: sleep

Waiting It Out

Getting him easily and peacefully into his nighttime diaper. Rubbing a dab of ointment on each of his scabbed knees. Struggling to brush his teeth. Working against a mouth shut clam tight and a head that won’t stop moving side to side. Failing even as I pull out all my creative tricks. Watching Grandma sustain a tooth brushing injury. Acquiescing with a full and gentle heart to sad pleas of, “Need a hug!” Declaring victory after the brush has at the very least touched each tooth. Crawling into bed. Lifting him up after he has placed a requested book on our pile. Sitting propped up on pillows while he has milk. Reading I Know Here, Quiet Time with Cassatt, and Big Wheels. Grabbing his ankle so he doesn’t fly off the end of the bed as he drops Big Wheels to the floor. Inviting him back to turn off the star light. Reviewing the events of our day together as he has more milk. Picking him up and cradling him in my arms as we enter the final stretch of bedtime. Taking a moment to drink him and this moment in. Giving him Eskimo and butterfly kisses. Responding gladly to his requests for more. Telling him of the place he holds in my heart. Lying him down gently and offering him the requested other side. Asking if he wants me to sing Stewball, Puff the Magic Dragon, Return to Pooh Corner, Over the Rainbow, Make New Friends, or Simple Gifts and getting a yes, finally, to Taps. Lapsing into silence after he says, “Mama just be quiet right now.” Watching his body twist and his leg dart up in the air and then slow to stillness. Listening to his breathing deepen. Knowing with certainty that he is on his way to sleep. Thinking about how much he has grown and changed over the past two years, including in his needs for support with sleep. Missing the baby he used to be. Marveling at the little boy he has become. Resting with him for a moment longer before getting out of bed to be here at the page.


I ran into a neighbor while taking out the compost last night. The early evening sun burned low and bright in the sky, and the heat of the day lingered with no signs of giving way to the usual coolness of a Pacific Northwest night. We are in the midst of what constitutes a heat wave in these parts, it having been in the upper 80s for the better part of a week. There’s always a reason to talk about the weather here, as everywhere, be it bemoaning the consistent dreary grey of our winters or marveling at the good fortune of our easy, beautiful summers. Of course the weather came up as we chatted.

“How has H been sleeping in this heat?” she asked.

“About the same as always,” I reported, explaining that he was a wakey wakey infant and that he continues to be wakey wakey as a toddler.

“How many times a night?” she asked.

“Probably between four and six, although I have stopped counting,” I said, smiling at her.

“But he’s totally worth it, right?” Her return smile was warm and empathic.

And then the truest, most honest words came tumbling of my mouth fully formed without thought, as if they had bypassed the thinking part of my brain and come straight from the gut.

“He is such a joy, I wouldn’t trade him for sleep.”

And it’s true. I wouldn’t. Not for sleep, not for anything.

Waiting It Out

Making it to bedtime after a long day caring for a toddler while sick. Planning on going straight to bed with him. Watching while his grandma, at his request, puts on his nighttime diaper. Working every angle to get him to brush his teeth. Giving him the choice between reading books or having milk. Reading Good Night Gorilla until he emphatically points to himself and grabs the book away. Watching him look over a page or two before he drops the book and starts to roll around on the bed. Wondering, as he punches at my Kindle with his tiny index finger, how he always manages to find the panel for writing a note. Brokering a deal for the Kindle. Setting it aside and settling down to nurse. Letting him switch from side to side himself, back and forth so many times I lose count. Reminding him that twiddling hurts mama. Reminding him again. Feeling the burn on my nipples if he so much as grazes them with his delicate fingers. Focusing on my elbows and feet to distract myself from the discomfort of the nipple twiddling. Despairing that he will never sleep. Deflecting his second and third requests to read books. Singing, humming, murmuring. Drifting off to sleep, finally, as he does. Waking each time he wakes to let him latch. Looking at the clock as he falls back asleep to reassure myself it is not yet time to get up. Switching sides of the bed with him at one wake up. Lying down in a pool of wet. Trying to convince myself this wet is no big deal. Feeling the wet spot again to judge its size. Feeling H’s diaper. Feeling the bed. Feeling the wetness on H’s torso, too large a spot to ignore. Getting up for a diaper and pajama change. Resigning myself to the resulting 2:30 am baby party. Slumping against the bed as H plays with the shape sorting toy. Struggling against my sore throat to swallow as my head throbs. Musing about what life would be like if I were perpetually awake. Deciding the world would look as it does in Blade Runner. Wondering if I am dying. Making it through the baby party with hazy memories of what actually happened. Crawling back in bed at 4 am. Asking him to sleep on top of me when he struggles to resettle. Feeling the pressure of his little body against mine. Dozing through the early hours of the morning with him nestled beside me. Smiling at him when he sits up in bed, looks at me seriously, and says up. Asking if he would like to get up. Smiling more at his vigorous confirmatory nods. Picking him up. Climbing out of bed for the day. Knowing, with certainty and conviction, that the rough night was worth it, that H is worth it. Hoping against hope the upcoming night is easier.

Waiting It Out

Spending some time diaper free before bed. Reading Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You? and Mommy! Mommy! Scrubbing, with his help, the spot where he peed on the floor. Shrieking joyously with him, from opposite sides of a closed closet door, as we reach underneath to touch hands. Tickling his buddha belly when he opens the door to let me out. Shrieking and laughing and playing the closed door game again and again. Squeezing the last of the ointment that combats his winter dry skin from the tube. Brushing teeth himself. Putting on his pajama tops as he stands on tip toes and stretches his arms as high over his head as he can to fish toiletries out of a bathroom drawer. Putting on nighttime diapers and pajama bottoms. Fighting little hands and tears to brush his teeth myself. Crawling into bed. Reading, at his request, Hush Little Baby until he flips the book closed and signs more. Starting over. Stopping short when he signs all done. Turning off the light. Lying down to nurse. Letting him switch back and forth himself. Murmuring, singing, and humming through our now familiar and comfortable repertoire of lullabies. Listening to him babble. Rocking him in my arms when he pops up in bed. Snuggling. Nuzzling. Giving and receiving kisses. Soaking up his sweet toddler energy. Lying back down. Nursing again. Feeling his body quiet and then a rush of grief rise up. Longing for joy and connection. Watching H, through tear struck eyes, unlatch and roll away, asleep. Listening to him breathe. Studying him, the turn of his head, his starfished limbs, the rise and fall of his chest with each breath. Realizing, like an epiphany, that the loss of one relationship in my life has momentarily blinded me to the joy I have with those that remain, including the sweet toddler sleeping next to me. Pausing to savor the relief of my gladdened heart before climbing out of bed.

Waiting It Out

Bedtime. Turning down the blinds. Turning on Ocean Waves. Crawling into bed. Pulling him close. Nursing on the first side. Murmuring Wherever You Are: My Love Will Find You. Humming Silent Night, Away In A Manger, and What Chid Is This. Feeling his little hand tip my torso toward him so he can nurse from the second side. Smiling at the hint of what it will feel like to be hugged by him someday. Humming We Wish You A Merry Christmas and Auld Lang Syne. Tipping back when he asks to switch sides. Feeling the strength of his legs as his feet knead my thighs. Gazing down at him lying on the bed next to me. Marveling at how long he has grown. Relaxing my body. Matching my breathing to his. Crawling quietly out of bed. Covering him with a blanket made by his grandma. Pausing for a moment to watch him sleep.

Waiting It Out

Taking him to bed despite, or maybe because of, his frantic protests. Letting him crawl away and then back to me. Feeling the warmth of his body as he lies on top of me to nurse. Murmuring. Rubbing his head. Rolling him onto the bed. Cradling him close. Feeling his feet kneading my thighs. Watching his arm rise and fall on his ribcage with each breath.  Listening to his breathing slow. Feeling his body quiet. Giving thanks, as he falls asleep, for a healthy and beautiful baby boy.

Waiting It Out

Hoping he does not fall asleep in the car on the way home from the zoo. Working his sleeping body carefully out of the car seat in the hope of transferring him to the bed still asleep. Hurrying through an unhappy but necessary diaper change. Nursing in bed. Murmuring Wherever You Are: My Love Will Find You. Hoping the sawing and banging coming from the gut renovation next door does not keep him awake. Grimacing when Ocean Waves transitions to Octopus’s Garden instead of looping back on itself. Laughing out loud when he unlatches, looks up, and begins dancing in bed. Resetting Ocean Waves to repeat continuously. Nursing on the second side. Humming Simple Gifts. Wrapping my arm around his wriggling body. Breathing deeply. Patting his back as he crawls on top of me. Rubbing our noses together in an eskimo kiss. Nursing  on the first side again. Pulling him back as he crawls to the foot of the bed. Denying to myself that this will likely be a naptime fail.  Rocking him in my arms until he requests to be put down. Nursing some more. Stroking his hair. Pulling him back. Nursing. Humming. Breathing. Feeling seeds of frustration rise up. Choosing love instead. Gently picking him up. Getting out of bed. Believing that, even if not now, sleep will come.

The flip side of the longer, independent bed naps that H has been taking is that sometimes he fights those naps tooth and nail or skips them entirely. Today he was in a nap fighting, nap skipping kind of mood. His tired cues, the yawning and the eye rubbing and the fussing, were clear, and I broke out all of my sleep-related parenting tools. Sleep did not come for him, but frustration did for me. Sometime during the bouncing, patting, nursing, rocking, singing, murmuring, humming, walking, carrying, and frustrated thoughts pinging around in my mind, Importanter Than a Diaper showed up.

Importanter Than a Diaper.

It comes from a piece by Andrea Scher in which she recounts wrangling her younger child into a diaper while her older child calls for her from the bathtub. She struggles. She struggles with getting the wriggling child into the diaper, she struggles to balance the needs of both of her children, she struggles to stay calm. She struggles and then she yells at her older child. As she apologizes for the yelling, snuggling her older child close, he tells her through tears that he is importanter than a diaper. “Yes, yes, you are right,” she tells him. “You are much more importanter than a diaper.”

In my own frustration, Importanter Than a Diaper became a mantra. As I repeated it to myself, it stood in for all the things H was much more importanter than. He was importanter than that article on the internet I had wanted to read while he napped. He was importanter than my desire to have five minutes to myself to do nothing at all. He was importanter than my need to have illusory control over the napping situation. He was the importantest thing in my world at that moment. Importanter Than a Diaper slowed the frustrated thoughts pinging around in my mind until they were quiet.

We got out of bed and played on the floor. It ended up being a nap fighting, nap skipping kind of day and it was okay. There were importanter things to do. Everything else could wait.

Read Andrea Scher’s essay Importanter Than a Diaper.

(Originally posted in slightly different form in my sleep support group, July 2013.)

My 12 month old has currently been napping for an hour and a half, independently on our bed. I nursed him to sleep and rolled away. He is not always taking long, independent naps these days, but it is happening more and more.

This is a baby who had to be held or worn for months for every nap. From months 6 through 11, I could not even put him down on the bed beside me. I have never done anything to encourage him to sleep in bed. I held him or wore him when he needed it, and ever since he started nursing, we have nursed for sleep.

I used to worry that I was creating bad sleep habits or doing us both a disservice by not cultivating more varied tools to help him learn independent sleep. But now I know that nothing I have done has created bad sleep habits. New tools work when he is ready for a new tool, not because I have decided he needs one. His sleep shifts and changes in ways I do not expect, cannot always predict, or can even figure out as it is happening. I help him with sleep and still his sleep develops and matures.

There is peace and beauty in watching him grow up on his own terms. This is the peace and beauty of waiting it out.

(Originally posted in slightly different form in my sleep support group, July 2013.)

Waiting It Out

Nighttime diapering. Nursing for an hour, interspersed with rolling, crawling, and pulling up. Breathing deeply. Murmuring Wherever You Are: My Love Will Find You. Running through my mantras. Singing Stewball, Simple Gifts, My Favorite Things, and Taps. Singing them again. Deciding to get up and play it out. Reading Click Clack Moo: Cows That Type and Horns to Toes and In Between, three times each. Walking in Babyhawk, during which H uses gentle hands petting a neighborhood cat. Breathing. Murmuring. Singing. Changing his diaper. Nursing again. A peacefully sleeping baby.