“Let’s fall asleep”, whispers my four-year-old as he wraps his little arms around my neck. I feel the familiar sensation of the rise and fall of his chest pressing against mine as his body feels heavier and his breaths longer.
Minutes earlier he’d roused from his slumber. His ‘tummy was hungry’ so a midnight snack and a bedside picnic were in order.
As we turn out the light, he nuzzles into me, just like he has thousands of times before. My heart feels full as I’m cocooned with my young soulmate in our now perfectly messy bed.
So often during daylight hours, I find it challenging to stay in the moment, to just be without doing. But, tonight, in these dreamlike hours, all I want is to hit pause and stay here. A moment of gratitude has me delaying sleep as I know these precious moments with my son, who is growing oh-too-fast are numbered.
Surprisingly, quiet black stillness has become a familiar friend.
My fears and expectations about nighttime parenting have been completely shattered as I have found strength and solace in dark silence. As impossibly exhausting as motherhood is I wouldn’t miss a single wakeful moment. Because it is also very simple; he needs me. His need for comfort is valid. No matter what our desensitized culture says, this is normal.
The wakefulness of babyhood and the unpredictability of toddler sleep etched deep and beautiful memories on my soul; borne from the kind of experiences that change a person, reaching into a spiritual abyss that I rarely see.
It was in those dark moments that I strengthened my new maternal muscles, helping me find a resilience I never thought possible. The depth of these experiences have kept me by my son’s side as we’ve shared sleep every single night for the last four years.
Each time he’s fallen asleep I’ve been there; nursing, holding or laying beside him. Yet, everyone told me not to.
They said I needed to be tough or I’d create bad habits.
They said that I was a human pacifier as if pacifiers were invented before mother nature gave women breasts.
They said he’d never learn to self-soothe.
They said my marriage would fail.
They said babies and children need parents during the day but, strangely, not at night.
I confidently called bullshit as a new mother and I call it again now. Because I recognize that these comments come from a place of darkness. Of fear, ignorance, and lack. And I choose light. I choose intuition. I choose science. I choose consciousness.
Because the tenderness of my motherhood doesn’t diminish when the sun goes down.
These quiet sleepy moments where my baby sought comfort and nourishment are now the moments where my child tells me his innermost secrets. These are the moments our trust reaches new depths and he knows, by my actions, that I will strive to meet his needs, no matter how challenging.
But, they were right about one thing – I will be tough.
I’ll be tough so my son can be soft.
I’ll be tough so that he doesn’t go without comfort when he needs it.
I’ll be tough so that my baby doesn’t go without nursing when his belly is empty.
I’ll be tough so that my toddler isn’t forced to fake a maturity beyond his years.
I’ll be tough so that my child doesn’t need to fear monsters under the bed alone.
I’ll be tough so that he has a solid foundation from which to grow into a confident and independent little boy.
I’ll be tough so that my son learns that vulnerability is welcome, that his needs matter and expressing his emotions is safe.
I’ll be tough and continue to listen to my son, to his soft whispers in his sleep, to his breathing and to my own heart speaking.
I’ve learned that night time parenting is about so much more than sleep. We have everything to gain by leaning in, by having the courage to surrender to the unknown and trusting our instincts. It is a rite of passage our modern culture has sadly disregarded but those of us who choose to follow ancient wisdom and our inner voices know the rewards.
I’m not saying that it’s easy, but I choose to accept that discomfort is the price of admission to a meaningful motherhood. So, I will slow dance through my relationship with my son, day and night. I will lay with him to fall asleep for as long as he needs it because I know, that one day without warning he won’t need me to lay with him anymore. He’ll sleep in his own bed and my husband and I won’t believe how fast the nights of shared sleep passed. But, with gratitude, that day isn’t today.