It is precisely 8:03 am as I sit in my car at my son’s school, glancing in the rear view mirror to see him sleeping peacefully. For a brief moment, I think so sweet. I mean look at that face! And now it’s 8:04. He suddenly awakens and cries. Much like our night has gone. I take a pause in writing and bring him into his school. He is not happy. I try to gently bring his attention to the kids and his teacher and then he begins to wail. The saddest eyes I’ve ever seen. So big and filled with tears. I hear the screams as I pretend to walk away confidently, signing “I love you,” but secretly feeling like I should go back and hold him.
As I return to my car and decide to keep writing to save my sanity, I wonder if I should even pull away. There is this weird feeling once you start sending your child to daycare or school or anywhere the ratio of teacher to students is less than 1:1 when you think, is this selfish of me? Do I need to work today or could I have taken the day off? Is it fair to my child, the teacher and the kids when my son has not slept for days? Or is it helping to build resiliency? Trusting that he will get over this small bump. Learn how to trust in other adults. Learn how to sleep when he’s tired and just get through the day without me there? I sometimes wonder what the right answer is. Should I just take off work so I can sleep? Maybe I’d be a better mom if I just got some sleep myself.
I've read many blogs, books, articles and research on sleep. Sleep training. Not sleep training. The right sleep equipment, set up, jammies, temperature. I’ve talked to many moms and asked their advice. I’ve asked my doctor. My husband. My grandma. My dad. And have tried to channel the answer my mom might give me if she were still alive. Sometimes I hear something that makes the struggle a little easier. Puts my mind at ease and gives me hope that it will improve. But on days like today, all I want to do is vent. Or cry. Or sleep. I’m not even really sure. All I know is today I have no freaking clue why my son is waking even more to nurse. Not settling to sleep until much later. Waking at 2 am for a full hour ready for the day. Only to finally fall asleep around 3:15am, but waking an hour later because he’s wet the bed for the first time in forever even after he went pee at the 2am wake up. Then is up at 5:55am again ready for the day. Meanwhile, those in between times he is nursing almost constantly.
Now after reading the above, I’m sure there are a lot of moms who are going to ask me how old my son is. Why I’m still nursing. Have I tried x, y and z. And all I want to tell all of you is I have tried it all. I have done everything that feels right in my mommy heart and have not done what doesn’t feel right. And 90% of the time I am ok with where our family is at with sleep. Just not today. So today this blog is for the moms out there who have had a different path with their child. One that books can’t explain or even if they can it doesn’t help your situation. I sometimes get talked to like, “oh, but he was a preemie. Your path has been different. I’m sorry.” The thing is, none of us want sympathy. Whatever different path your child took had to be a triumph. Had to be a journey you were ready to fight and your child was ready to fight otherwise I believe it would not have happened to you. And even if you think you were not strong enough for it, Pooh Bear is here to tell you you are stronger than you believe. It’s the strength that catches up with us.
It’s the one millionth time we’ve said “I’m ok, I don’t need help. I got this,” that has actually brought out our weakness eventually. We moms who took a different path, and didn’t lay out beautiful chalkboards every month our baby got older to snap an adorable photo and share with the world how cute they are and how put together we are as moms, are often too strong for our own good. We love our children. And not to compare love, but we probably love our child who took a different path more than moms who love their typical path child because for a brief moment we may have feared our love is the only easy thing they have in this world. Life is hard for them or it will be harder for them than the typical child, but our love is going to be so strong it will not matter. Our child will know they are loved and that will be what gets them over the unforeseen and sometimes inevitable humps in life. After all, the Beatles were right. Love IS all you need. And sleep. They forgot the sleep part.
But honestly people. If you are a mom or parent or grandparent of a child who took a different path, and you just need to shout your love and your challenges and fears to the world, I want you to have a safe place to do it. Because you will not get an “I’m so sorry” from mothers who have experienced similar experiences. You will get a resounding “we understand” and your child is beautiful! And perfect! And all the wonderful things you know your child is. But you will also get an understanding of just how tired you are. Just how much we know you do not want to complain about it because just one venting session could be taken the wrong way if said to a mom who doesn’t know what you’ve been through or are going through. So although most people reading this post will be my close friends and family, and I thank you for your support, but I hope just one parent out there who needs to hear this because they’ve experienced a different path will breathe easier knowing they are not alone. Knowing just because you vent one or many times, does not mean you’d wish your child or your life to be any other way. It simply means you are just so tired. So so tired you could decide to never leave the parking lot of your child’s school and just sleep in it all day until it’s time for pick up. And that would be ok. And so so wonderful.
-Kathryn Kraft, MPT