It isn't always easy for me to blend out the noise from the outside. Lily is inching towards 17 months now and she sleeps in our bed, and only falls asleep with one of us present.
Sometimes I question whether it is necessary to "make it so hard" on us, when other mothers just walk out, close the door and their kids fall asleep in their cots, in their own rooms.
Sometimes I feel frustrated because she needs us - predominantly me - so much. Sometimes I am impatient and even take my frustration out on Lily when falling asleep takes more than an hour and I have to lie still next to her, pretending to be asleep, so she calms down.
Sometimes I just want to leave the room and let her scream because I am overwhelmed and mostly angry at myself that I cannot muster the eternal patience I envisioned myself to have as a mother. Or that I messed up the sleep patterns and she's just slipped out of the sleep window and I know I have to wait another 45 minutes before she will settle.
Sometimes I curse that she cannot play around happily in her cot next to our bed and gently fall asleep herself, but that we need to be there.
What I then usually start when I begin doubting the path we have chosen to pursue with her, is the "beshoulding". "It should be easier", "she should be able to fall asleep by herself", "I should be able to spend the evening with my husband instead of lying stupidly in the bed for an hour with her", "we should try out other things", etc. etc.
I've been reflecting a lot on these frustrating moments lately, and have found a method that works for me - definitely not all the time - but which eases the task a little: I see the time we spend together as a gift, rather than a duty.
On a good day, I blend out the noise from the outside that tells what "should" be and what other mums' babies already can and can't do. I think motherhood bestows a wealth of gifts on me, and many of them are unexpected and only possible to see as a gift when I make myself see them as a gift.
Yesterday, taking Lily to bed took over an hour, but she wasn't upset. She just was outside her sleeping window and rolling around in her cot. Exhausted from a long day, I curled up next to her and rested my eyes. I observed her how she rearranged her toys in an order only clear to her. Regularly, she came over to get a dose of cuddles before venturing off again.
I slowed my breathing, I worked on my mental affirmations and deep breathing. I let myself relax my pelvic floor and belly. I felt the baby kick inside me.
Eventually, she gently lay down next to me and fell asleep within seconds. Now this may sound like an over-romanticised version of motherhood, and, believe me, there are the nights where she screams and throws things at me because she's angry about being put to bed.
There are the nights where I storm out and snap at my husband he take over because I AM DONE.
But I am trying to realign my view on these moments to what they mostly are: deeply intimate, bonding moments with my child of which, and I am sure of that, I will think back as one of my fondest memories in a few years.
I am tired of the "beshoulding". Yes, I want to spend time with my husband, but, honestly, we've been together for ten years, eight of which without children. We had a long stretch where we played games at night, watched TV shows until the wee hours, had sex in every corner of our flat, ordered food and, basically, did whatever we wanted.
And we still do that on the many evenings she falls asleep gently and I get to get up. But I increasingly see it as an immense gift that my baby MAKES me calm down in the evening hours. That, in this hectic and stressful world, because of her we share these moments of quiet and calmness, cuddles and sleep.
Yes, I regularly fall asleep with her, but I guess my body needs it, so why condemn an early night? I mean, what would I have really done if I'd got up? Watch Netflix, eat some junk, maybe have a wonderful conversation with my husband - but I'm not getting up to cure cancer, so a cuddly night with baby might be what I need in between.
I am a person who struggles with calming down - always have been. The party always has to go on, or my thoughts start swirling around. Now I am in the prime situation that I HAVE TO calm down in order to make her calm down. Is it sometimes boring, is it sometimes frustrating? Yes. But it also helps me reflect on the day, make better choices the next - and acceptance is my best way out because it is just what it is, isn't it? The only alternative for me out would be discriminating the needs she currently expresses, which I am not prepared to do.
Plus, there is plenty to do in bed. While she's still settling and I am pretending to be asleep (or, actually, do fall asleep), I meditate, breathe, relax. Once she's fallen asleep but still holds on to me for a few minutes, I read on my Kindle, listen to a guided meditation, or even watch Netflix on my phone with Bluetooth headphones. Even sex isn't a problem once she's asleep, so the sky's the limit, I guess.
Some might read this as an overly romantic view and I get it. Bear in mind that this is MY approach for MY baby and OUR family. And it doesn't always work; however, I have found that the less I resist the needs of my baby and accept the situation as it is, finding ways how I can cope better with it, leads us both to less frustration, more rest and relaxation.
I hope I can take this approach with me when the little one arrives, but I think practising calmness with Lily is definitely a good preparation for me.
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