I’m in a deep sleep. I gradually awake to my baby whining. I open my eyes enough to see the monitor and hit the button to turn on the camera, hoping to just see her sleeping and turning over letting out a whine as she does so.
She’s standing up calling for me. “Mommy! … Mommy, Mommy!”
I feel my boobs.
My peaceful slumber is over.
I grab my pillow and go into her room. I kiss her forehead and give her a hug.
“It’s the middle of the night, honey. You have to go back to bed.”
Maybe she’ll just lay down and I can pat her back and leave. It’s happened once before.
“Nurse?” she asks tapping my chest.
“Yes, Baby, of course.”
I crawl into her crib with my pillow. I get comfortable and she snuggles up next to me like a puzzle, her legs over mine, and her head turned to nurse with her little hands around my breast. We’ve been here before. It’s familiar. It’s comfortable. We slept like this for the first year of her life before she moved to her crib.
I drift off and she does too as she nurses and empties me.
She comes off.
“Siiiide?” she asks tapping my other breast.
“Sure honey, but you have to go back to sleep, ok? Then I’m going to go so you can spread out.” She stretches her little arms out and smiles as if to say, “Like this!”
We get comfortable again and she nurses and eventually drifts back to sleep. As I feel her slip off and unlatch I slip away and get out of her bed with a stunt worthy of a scene in Mission Impossible. My muscles are attuned to this movement as I have done it repeatedly over the past 9 months.
I nurse her to sleep every night like this and, if she wakes, I do it again.
My little girl is 21 months old now. She has consistently slept through the night… Until now.
The last two nights she has woken up once in the middle of the night to nurse. I was spoiled for about three months, I think, of her sleeping soundly straight through the night.
It’s hard to get into a routine only to have it changed again, but this is motherhood. This is, especially, motherhood of a nursling.
There is nothing wrong with her.
There is nothing to fix.
It just is.
She is doing what she needs to do. I think about why it might be changing and I remember her smile and how each day I notice another tooth. I remember her at dinner time and how she had two helpings of turkey meatballs the night before and two helpings of oatmeal that morning. I remember how she is noticing new things around her each day and how she could be noticing a new shadow that makes her feel uneasy if she wakes in her dark room all alone. I remember how she seemed taller the other day and how my cousin had growth pains when he was a child when the growth plates developed at a rapid pace. I remember how she is starting to feel the sensation of her needing to go “pee pee” and “poo poo” for the first time and how she is just learning what to do with that new sensation and asks to go on the potty.
Any one of these things among an infinite number of other possibilities could be happening in my little girl. I really have no way of knowing, and she might not even really understand either even if she could articulate what it was that woke her up and made her want her mommy. But who am I to question her? Who am I to tell her she doesn’t need me?
The plain and simple truth is, she needs me. That’s it. Sure it sucks at that moment when I’m getting out of my bed like a crickity old women hunched over with my pillow to make my way to her room, but you know what? I’ll miss this. I’ll miss her needing me when she doesn’t any more, so I’m going to soak up every kiss, every hug, and every chance I get to be her matching puzzle piece. Because before I know it, it’ll be over and she’ll have a “Keep Out” sign on her teenage bedroom door and I’ll be yelling at her to turn the music down.