I woke in a sweat, panicked with the realization that my newborn had not cried out for his wee-hour feeding. At only three months of age and so fragile, one missed feeding would surely dehydrate him, I thought. Immediately I imagined several sordid, horrible reasons for his silence: could it be SIDS? My husband always wants to put him down on his tummy: a big no-no! Could he have spit-up, only to choke and be suffocated? Had a drunken teen-aged driver careened out of control, up over the curb, across our front lawn and right through the window of my only child’s nursery? I leapt to my feet and raced down the hall to his crib at breakneck speed.There he lay, his little chest gently rising and falling with each peaceful breath. I couldn’t help myself; I broke the cardinal rule: I woke a sleeping baby. Just to hold him. My husband has asked, countless times, between yawns: “When will we finally get a full night’s rest?” I’ll admit I’m a good percentage of the hold up. Primarily, I miss him. All day long, we’re essentially joined at the hip, connected at the breast with gazes locked, making the hallway between our bedroom and his seem incalculably substantial. Each night, the moon’s appearance demands we bid goodnight and good-bye, at least until sunrise. Truly, the question isn’t, “When will the baby sleep through the night?” but, “When will Mommy sleep through the night?” I want my son next to me in bed, and while my husband and I rarely get any sleep when he joins us, our son does, nonetheless, sleep in my arms many nights. Those nights he doesn’t, I lay awake in bed, listening closely for each little sound as he drifts off. His little coos quiet down to silence as he falls into a deep sleep. I hang on each and every one, and when they fall silent at last, I inevitably tiptoe down the hall to check that one or all of my above-mentioned fears have not suddenly befallen him. In the dimness, if I cannot detect the rise and fall of his chest, if his little lips are not making that most adorable suckling motion typical of infant sleep, I’ll touch his head softly or brush my fingers against his to cause a reflex, and only then become convinced he is alright. In truth, this happens several times a night. Indeed, my baby sleeps more than I do. By a long shot. My husband regularly canvasses other fathers for tricks and insider tips about helping a baby to sleep through the night. The advice is invariably the same: put the baby in his crib and let him cry. In a week—or less, depending on whom you ask—cherub will be crib-devoted, he’s assured. As one might guess, I’m not a fan of the Ferber method, but my unwillingness to comply with this advice runs deeper; I rarely allow my son to issue the slightest discomfort without coming to his aid. Allowing him to cry, potentially for hours, seems impossible.I’ve been pondering the reason for my attachment. I suppose I feel I’ve won the familial lottery and I’m terrified that if I go to bed without my beloveds within arm’s reach, I may just wake to discover my beautiful child and cherished life partner were figments of an idyllic dream. After all, my husband and I—overjoyed to have found one another after having both survived a failed marriage—believed we were absolutely unable to have children because we had both tried unsuccessfully with our former partners. Imagine our elation to discover my pregnancy and our abundant gratitude for our healthy child’s safe arrival.To that end, I’ll admit I have been overly concerned that my son should know how passionately is he loved. I must remind myself that where he lays his head to rest each night, be it in the crib or between us, does not dictate the degree to which he is adored. Furthermore, soiled diapers, car troubles and dust bunnies are proof that my life is not, in fact, a dream. I have been richly blessed, it’s true, but acknowledgment of blessing presumes faith, and it is faith, and only faith, that can carry me through the night. It’s time to let go. There will be more dirty diapers in the morning, and the dust bunnies aren’t going to vacuum themselves. A few weeks ago, my son slept—uninterrupted—through the night for the first time. I was out of town visiting dear friends who are expecting their first child this summer; we talked, (and laughed,) (and cried) late into the evening about the mysteries and surprises of babies and pregnancy. I slept with my baby son in my arms, waking at six in the morning to him trying to work his little fingers into my pajama top. No tears, no wailing from starvation. I nursed him contentedly, and couldn’t wait to tell his dad. This long-awaited event was discounted, however, because, a.) the baby went down later than usual; b.) the occasion went “unwitnessed” by Daddy; and, c.) it was, unfortunately, not to be repeated at home. That is, until this day. Roused at 5:30 a.m.by full, untouched breasts, I was delighted and relieved to find that our son had slept through the night—as had we! My husband and I peeked in on him, diagnosing the situation. No cause for alarm, it was the real deal. When he did wake about a half hour later, he gently alerted us with soft coos and coughs. I plucked him from his crib, brought him to bed with me, and he nursed heartily.Now, however, our son is more than making up for an entire night without a feeding. All day, he has been extremely hungry. This afternoon, he’s demanded breast milk on an almost hourly basis. I can only hope he’s stocking up for another full night’s run. Now that I am quite certain the baby can make it through the night, that he won’t dehydrate, that he will be safe from harm, perhaps I too can make it through the night. To me, the bigger milestone than the first full night’s sleep is, yawn, the second.
Goodnight, See You In 3 Hours June 25, 2007