My new baby woke up at 5:30 this morning. As I rocked him back to sleep, I stared at the sleep tracker app on my phone and tried to decide, if he went back to sleep, would this be considered a nap, or an extension of the night? The sun was just beginning to make its appearance, but was it technically daytime or nighttime?
His second and fourth naps of the day only lasted twenty minutes each. I wondered if I should count them at all, or try to extend them to at least forty-five minutes, because I think I read somewhere that forty-five minutes is technically one baby sleep cycle.
Every time my baby woke, he was laughing and cooing up a storm. He gave no indication that he wanted to go back to sleep until a full wake cycle later.
All of the books tell me he’s going to be up at all hours of the night tonight. They tell me that the key to sleep is more sleep, and that the key to cumulative sleep is a routine, and most importantly the key to a happy baby is rest.
Over the last month of my son’s four and a half months of life, I’ve been so focused on making sleep “work” that I’ve allowed myself to feel shame, to feel guilt, to feel trapped.
After all, R’s second nap was short because he was with me at a work lunch, and looking around the restaurant was too much fun to pass up. He breezed through his fourth nap because some friends came by, and the sounds of the new voices and his momma’s laughter filling the house made it difficult to concentrate on deep sleep. Instead of being persistent and moving back bedtime in order to maintain our routine, my husband and I put him in the baby carrier and walked to get ice cream. Instead of closing, my son’s big eyes were wide open. He was in awe of the trees and the breeze, and his father’s voice as he narrated the goings-on of the neighborhood.
These were all choices that I made that may lead to hours of waking tonight. Our sleep schedule might be off, and things might be crappy at bedtime tomorrow. But, forget it. Today was one of my best mom days yet. Today, I felt alive. I balanced work, a social life, and quiet time with my husband. Most importantly, my baby was happy today. I saw a hundred little toothy smiles and heard dozens of tiny giggles.
For tonight, I am actively deciding to be positive. I’m going to be his mommy for the rest of my life. Not every day is going to be on “the schedule”, and the routine is just not always going to work. For tonight, I’m putting the sleep books down because quite frankly they are driving me insane. As much as I want to master nighttime rest, I don’t want to do it at the expense of daytime peace and play.
I can’t help but think of that saying, about how it’s easy to be heavy, but it’s hard to be light. It’s easy to be obsessive about setting my baby up for a lifetime of good habits, but the most important habit that I want him to master is the ability to cultivate happiness. With any luck, he’ll learn from my example.