My child loves to sleep.
Joe was going 8 hour stretches without waking by the time he was 8 weeks. This stretched out to 10 and then 11 and then 12 hours without waking by the time he was 3 months old. People say that’s unnatural, that breastfed babies don’t do that unless they’re forced into it. Well, Joe wasn’t forced, and he did it. Like I said, he loves to sleep.
Sure, he’s had his rough patches. It seems like babies and toddlers are always growing into or growing out of some phase or another. There was the great nap consolidation at 3 months. There was the monumental move from the bedside bassinet to his own room. Don’t even get me started on teething and how that has affected his sleep. But throughout all of this, Joe has pretty much stuck by his 2 naps a day.
Until recently, that is.
Recently, like within the last 2 weeks, Joe has shown less and less interest in napping. Oh sure, he’d do his standard routine of rubbing his eyes, nuzzling my neck, and cuddling once the typical nap-time rolled around. However, that was where it ended. I’d put him down and he’d fuss and talk to himself in his nursery for the next 40 minutes before eventually drifting into dreamland.
This past Sunday was a real challenge. Neither Chris nor I were on the volunteer roster for church – a rare happening – which meant that not only could we walk together as a family, but Joe could have extra time for his morning sleep. Sundays usually mean a short nap for him, but since we didn’t have to be there till the 10:30am start time, he could sleep for a full hour.
That was the plan, anyway. What actually happened was Joe fussing and crying and not napping at all. We paid for it later on, us and the creche volunteers at church. Joe was a grizzly cub and I spent a good-sized chunk of the service seeing to him. I might as well have been signed up for creche volunteering after all. So much for a week off!
Monday was no better. Joe didn’t go down for his morning nap till an hour later than usual, and then I had to wake him because of needing to run errands. His afternoon nap was a farce – 20 minutes, if that – and the following morning dawned bright and early when he woke at 4am, then 5am, then 5:30am, and eventually 6:30am. Not the best start to the day, especially since I hadn’t fallen asleep till 2am because of work.
*****Let me take just a moment to step away from the issue of naps and address something else here: when you become a parent, you’re generally infused with all sorts of wonderful feelings about your baby. Images of the selfless, serene Madonna and Child pop into your mind and you think that this is going to be a foretelling of what life will be like post-baby. It is some of the time. We certainly have our serene, blissful moments, but I am not selfless. Instead of motherhood driving every selfish bone out of my body, it has instead made me keenly aware of each and every one of them*****
I love Joe’s naps because it gives me some baby-free time, something that doesn’t happen often for stay-at-home mothers. Yes, I do work casual shifts at the hospital, but those are often in the evening when I’m tired and worn out from a long, and usually fun, day with Joe. Going to work isn’t a break for me – it’s work. Joe’s naps are my breaks. The thought of giving up a break made me a bit pouty, to be honest. But weigh that against not sleeping through the night and doing battle with a cranky, tired 1 year old, and I’m sure you can guess which option won the day.
It wasn’t as difficult as I thought it might be. I think that knowing is half the battle, and I knew that it was going to be a fussy day and we would just have to work through it. Joe usually wakes around 6:30am and then naps at 9am. Once 9am rolled around, I loaded Joe into the stroller and we took a walk. The exercise + brisk morning air was the perfect tonic for both of us. I bumped up his mealtime from 12/12:30p to 11:30a, and determined to just see how things went.
Joe ate his lunch, was fussy and rubbing his eyes, and so I put him down for a nap at noon. It’s now past 2pm and he’s still sleeping.
So, Joe has dropped a nap. It’s not a huge deal in the grand scheme of things, but it’s a big deal for us. It’s another sign that he’s growing up and that his life is changing, bit by bit. I’d hoped that he would hold onto his morning sleep till he was a bit older – several baby websites say that babies can still nap twice daily till they’re 18 months – but that wasn’t to be.
I’m learning that motherhood is a combination of experimenting, trialling different things, adjusting, and love, with God’s grace overshadowing it all.
After days where I’ve had a busy, active toddler to run after, I often go to bed feeling frustrated and daunted at the thought of facing another day like the one that’s drawing to a close. On nights like that, I’m reminded of a Bible verse which says that “the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” That’s true – when I wake up, His mercy and love is there right from the start and it never fails. That’s encouraging to me.
What encourages you when your child is going through a difficult phase?