I put all this energy, during my pregnancy, so that my Son would have his space and his room and in my pregnant mind that is where he was always going to sleep: alone, happy, long, long hours. I am such a sound and good sleeper that not even for one brief moment I thought my baby could be any different. Or maybe it was just the denial of the possibility driven by my own attachment to precious undisturbed sleep.
The calming quiet nursery, as well as the peaceful images of a profoundly sleeping baby, were very honorable, harmonic and kind, but, soon to be proven, utopic imagery in my mind.
My son happens to have a different kind of awareness of the world, and mind, and alertness and sleep patterns. He only now at age 2 sleeps through the night (half of the nights) and it’s not one thing that wakes him up, like milk or water or diaper or stuffed nose.
Rather, it is his alertness that wakes him up with every little discomfort. Babies can’t soothe themselves as we can, and the process of teaching him that (or better yet, being there for him until he figured it out) was long, and still in progress, to be quite frank.
In the beginning it was super hard for me, as a heavy and sound sleeper, to be there for him, fully present and happy. But harder than the physical demands of that, was dealing with my previous expectations about his sleep.
I was not a bad or not functional mother because my son didn’t sleep through the night at age 20 months, as it turned out. Nor did he have a “sleep problem” because of that. It was just his process through early childhood, our process. It was and is about his nature, and not me, or the parenting books, or the nurse telling me to let him cry.
When I took the pressure off of me, and him also, of “having to sleep though the night”, all that concern gave way to a wonderful discovery, thought and consideration about sleep. Sleep became a journey, and not an end. Something with which we will, as a family and as individuals, have to deal with for our entire lives, and I made a conscious decision of being there for my son, whenever he needs me to be comfortable to sleep, at 2 months old, 2 years old, 10 years old, or older.
Being hands down about it, accepting what our sleep reality at the moment was, and dealing with that integrally, rather than behaviorally – expecting results in detriment of understanding essence before behavior – proved to be for me, and my family, a truthful rich path to follow.
I started to listen more to my son’s signals. He likes to sleep on his own bedroom, with my presence. If he wakes up and needs me for whatever reason, I go to his room.
I really use my intuition to know what he wants and needs (it was especially useful before he could talk). Some phases he needs me and calls or cries, and other phases he’s pretty good on his own.
Being a part-time stay-at-home-mom and observing his early development closely, this kid has been through so much.
We take it for granted how much there is to learn once you pop out your head from your mother’s body: it’s a crazy, complex and beautiful world out here (I would totally be calling my mom over every once in a while to cuddle with me).
Every new developmental milestone is filled with excitement and also insecurity and fear of the new – it’s human nature, especially for tiny humans.
So, the way I see it is: I’m happy and glad to offer my presence and love whenever he needs, be it night or day. I don’t expect him to be able to deal with the “days affairs” by himself, as I also don’t expect me to do so. I don’t sleep well every night, and I still need my mom more than I’d like to admit.
Sleep and relaxation is a much more complex thing that it seems: think about how many close people to you have insomnia.
Aaand, he is just going to be this little and smell and look like this once, so I might as well enjoy it. Soon enough he will be a pre teen and I will be locked outside his bedroom!
In time, with this text I am not trying to sell our solution to other parents. I don’t even believe there is such thing as a “solution” about sleep, just as there is no universal child and parent.
What I would like to share through this journey is, how rich and liberating of a process it was to listen to my intuition, my nature and my son’s nature, to re-think our entire relationship with sleep. It doesn’t make me “right”, it doesn’t make me sleep more, it doesn’t make me tell people that my son “is a good sleeper”, but it brings me (and my family) contentment and peace.
Patricia Borelli is a yoga and meditation practitioner and teacher, who thinks a whole lot and loves to write, as a way to help understand, and live, life.
She currently learns and teaches at Hosh Yoga (Brooklyn) and Ishta Yoga (Manhattan), in New York CIty.