I have waited for three years and eight months for this day to come. There have been nights where I was reduced to a quivering tearful wreck, nights where I didn’t think I would make it to morning, that sheer exhaustion would kill me first. Nights where I’ve sat upright for hours on end as your little newborn tummy digested your milk, knowing that if I dared to lay flat you would empty the contents of your stomach over the both of us.
Nights where you screamed and I couldn’t find a reason, couldn’t soothe you, could only comfort you through the mystery ailment. And nights where I sat vigil at your side, when your breathing ran ragged with the croup we soon learned to fear, unable to sleep, unable to switch off, just waiting for those moments when you would stir and call out “Mummy,” and I would be right there waiting to hold you and ease you back to sleep.
Through that time, I often dreamed of the day when I would wake up in the morning and find you sleeping soundly beside me with a realisation that you hadn’t woken me in the night. I fantasised about the boundless energy I would have, pictured putting myself to bed at 9pm and enjoying a full and delicious twelve hours sleep with no interruptions. It was a beautiful and necessary daydream to keep me going through the tough times.
When teething got intense, when you woke eight or ten times a night, my mantra to get me through was “This will pass. This is temporary.”
I trusted you. I did, though there were times it felt as though we went three steps forwards, five steps back. I waited it out and I resisted the sleep trainers and their twisted ideas on how a three year old’s sleep habits should look.
And last month, a few weeks after we decided we would no longer have milk at night, you began to sleep through the night. For the first week, I did not. So used to you needing me, I would wake the moment you stirred, rolling gently towards you and waiting for your hand to reach out for mine. But it didn’t come. You simply rolled over and continued sleeping. Once or twice you stirred, rolled towards me, planted a big kiss on my cheek and then went right back to sleep without a word.
You were finally self settling, but my body was still on high alert. A Pavlovian response developed over the years, a Mother’s inbuilt wiring to provide comfort. It has settled down now, and I too am starting to sleep through the night for the first time in four years (remember all those middle of the night trips to the toilet in those last few months of pregnancy?)
But much as I am enjoying the extra sleep, I feel a strange sadness too. Though you are right beside me, I miss you. I miss your tiny warm hand reaching out for me in the darkness. I miss hearing your croaky call for “Milk please Mummy.” I miss breathing in the smell of your breath, burying my face in your hair as you fill your tummy with my milk. I never thought I would, but I miss you needing me to help you back to sleep.
You are growing up, day by day and this move into the next stage of our relationship has taken me by surprise. I find myself clinging to those ever infrequent daytime feeds now, trying to soak up every last drop of this time we have together. I know I will miss them with all my heart when they are over. I am so grateful I didn’t rush you to sleep through before you were ready, because I realise now, I wasn’t ready either.
That almost four years nurturing you through the darkest hours was a challenging, exhausting, educating and magical experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything, even a quiet hotel room with a feather bed. I didn’t wish it away then, I knew it would be over before I could blink – though some nights felt like an eternity – and I am so thankful that I have those memories to take with me as we continue to grow and change.
The best nights of my life have been spent holding your warm little body against mine, listening to your breath slow as you drifted off to a world of sleep, safe in the knowledge that when you opened your eyes I would be right there. I don’t regret it for a second.
Thank you for teaching me patience, thank you for giving me compassion, for building my kindness and for showing me how strong I can be when I need to.
I wrote this post a few months back, not long after my post on night weaning. Now, due to my milk drying up completely in the first three months of pregnancy, our breastfeeding relationship has come to a complete end at three years and ten months old. I plan to write another post about this soon.
If you enjoyed this article I would love it if you clicked the share button below, thank you!
To get your free copy of The Parenting Revolution and start creating a family life you adore, enter your email below!