Tonight my baby boy woke up around 11:30 p.m., crying pretty hard. I had just sat down for “my time” after getting things done around the house, and my husband had gone to bed about 30 minutes earlier. As usual, on the rare occasion that Jenson wakes at this time, Lo went in to re-situate him in the crib, as he had scooted himself into the top corner and was “stuck”. At nearly 11 months, he’s quite mobile and able to crawl and scootch around as he wishes, but when he’s sleeping, sometimes he just gets stuck in a corner of his crib and needs a little help. On the camera, I saw Lo pick him up and I went back to browsing Facebook. I noticed his cries getting harder and harder – and when they got to the gasping frantic cries, I headed up to help. I turned on his turtle nightlight that projects stars and the moon on the ceiling and started stroking his head and talking to him, hoping that both of our voices would make him realize he was safe and that we were both there.
I’m not sure that he fully woke up, and he calmed a little, but it didn’t seem like his crying was going to end. I whispered to Lo that I can just nurse him. I hadn’t started my before-bed pumping, so the timing was fine. Normally I try not to nurse him so soon after he’s gone to bed, as I know he probably isn’t hungry – that he just wants comfort – and he starts to wake at the same time out of habit night after night when I do nurse him at this time. But we think he’s getting his top teeth and has been clingy and in need of extra cuddles for the past two days, so I was happy to be able to make him more comfortable.
He sleeps through the night about 50% of the the time now, and while I’m grateful for those long stretches of sleep, I’m not sure that I feel any worse on those nights when he wakes once. On the nights that he does wake, it’s usually between 2 – 5 a.m., which is unfortunately just a few hours after I choose to go to bed. I often don’t get done with stuff around the house until almost 11 p.m., and want an hour or two as my free time to blog, check facebook, and edit photos. But that’s my choice, and I certainly can’t blame my lack of sleep on Jenson. Nevertheless, when I do nurse him in the night, I study his face while he nursing and while I’m rocking him gently in the glider rocker. I’m always struck by how much older he looks in the dim of the nightlight. Shadows thin out his chubby baby cheeks and adorable double chin, the crease at his wrists and elbows isn’t visible in the darkness, which makes him look longer and leaner. He already has a lot of hair for his age, but it looks thicker and more filled in, and they way he sets his mouth while he’s sleeping always reminds me of his daddy. Sometimes I feel like I know what he’ll look like at different ages by what he looks like in the darkness. Some nights I see what he’ll look like as at age 10, other nights, just what he’ll look like next year. Tonight he looked how I imagine he’ll look at age 4. No longer a toddler, but a boy who is getting ready to go to kindergarten the next year…who is started to pull away from needing his mama as much…who is started to become independent and focused on boy things and on friends.
While it’s exciting to get a glimpse of what I think my beautiful boy will look like at those ages, it makes me sad that these times are going to be ending once he is no longer nursing over the next several months, or once he is sleeping through the night regularly. I know he’s going to still need comfort here and there in the night, and that he’ll have bad nights when he’s sick or scared, but at those ages it’s likely that Lo will be able to comfort him just as well – or that he’ll just crawl in bed between us and we’ll barely wake up. I know that it’ll be good for him to “cut the cord” so to speak, and that I’ll connect with him in other ways as he gets older, but it won’ t be quite the same connection as I get with him in these late night rocks in the glider when he needs me to nurse back to sleep, and I need the late night silent and still snuggles from a baby who is ever-increasingly on the go when he’s awake.
Sometimes Lo will ask me if Jenson got up during the night and I tell him that I don’t know. The late late night feedings kind of blend together and I don’t remember if it was the previous night, or one earlier in the week when I got up with him. I barely wake up for the ones that occur after I’ve already gone to sleep. I stumble out of bed and into his room and nurse him until his falls back to sleep. As soon as I decide that it’s safe to unlatch him, I do so and rock him for another minute or two, trying not to fall back to sleep myself. I carefully lay him back in his crib, holding my breath that his sleep will “stick”, and I take two large steps out of his room into the hallway, trying to avoid the creaky floorboards between his crib and the doorway. I hurry back to bed and am almost immediately back to sleep for just a few more precious hours. And in the morning, I barely remember waking and going to him in the night. But on these nights when he wakes before I’ve even gone to bed, and I’m awake enough to study his face while I hold him, I’m not worried about missing out on “my time”, or about being tired for work in the morning. I don’t rush to unlatch him or put him back in his crib…I take the time to enjoy watching him and connecting with him silently in the tiny bit of light.
So when people as me when I’m going to stop nursing, I don’t have an answer. I’m not planning on extended breastfeeding, or nursing through a future pregnancy as some do, but I’m not concerned planning for that time yet. I’m just happy we’ve made it as long as we have, since some aren’t as fortunate. When people ask me if he’s a good sleeper, or if he’s sleeping through the night yet, I don’t say no and complain about being tired or trying to get him on a schedule. I just say that he sleeps through the night some, and other times he wakes once, and on occasion he wakes twice. This isn’t to say that I don’t complain to Lo on occasion about having to get up several times on a particularly bad night, or that I don’t complain about being tired, but in general, I’m happy to be able to give him the comfort that he needs in the night while he’s going through all of the many first year leaps and changes. And I’m grateful that although he’s growing up so fast, too fast; he’s not as old as he may appear in the light of the moon.