Betsy has had trouble staying asleep lately. I nurse her to sleep or sometimes wear her in a wrap before transferring her to our bed, then scurry out for some kid-free time with Nate and Netflix. The past few nights, we've watched on the monitor as she wakes up, sits up, claps for herself (of course) and then either cries for us to come get her or busies herself in pursuit of the ever-elusive iPhone cord. Doing bedtime *again* - thirty minutes after I declare her "definitely asleep for the night" - is really, really rough.
We've noticed that Betsy is trying to put herself to sleep - and put herself back to sleep, as well. This is huge for a kid who usually needs to be nursed, rocked, walked, worn and lullabied for every nap and bedtime. We want sleep to be something that she welcomes - not something scary or anxiety producing. While it's exciting to see that investment start to pay off, it is hard to be in the thick of it. I keep reminding myself that "never" is a really unhelpful word when it comes to parenting (like, "if we don't force Betsy to sleep in her crib, she will never sleep through the night") and that I don't know any college freshman whose moms wear them in a woven wrap to take a nap.
So last night, six minutes into an episode of The Office ( our latest netflix obsession. Man, that show was so good) - Betsy sits up and starts waving at the video camera. Deep breath, big sip of water, and back to our bedroom for Round Two. I hoped that she might quickly nurse herself back to sleep but that just wasn't what she needed. She is making huge motor developments right now and babies often wake up to practice their new moves -- so we did. Stand up, sit down, stand up, sit down, stand up, sit down, with one hand on her back and both eyes struggling to stay awake. I can only speak in soothing tones for so long before I start to make myself sleepy.
Ever so slowly, she started to wind down. Her coordination wanes as she gets tired -- she would sit down and stay down, and occasionally rest her head on the bed. Ever the imitator, Betsy began the process of settling in to sleep - tossing and turning, rolling on and off her pillow, closing her eyes and then squeaking to cheer for herself.
It is so hard for me to sit and watch this, and so, so important. I want her to sleep like the baby I imagined I would have - tightly swaddled and out for the night, early to bed and late to rise. Teaching Betsy to sleep has been a lesson in getting to know my own child. She likes long pajamas even in the summer but hates having a blanket cover her feet, just like her dad. She snuggles for a moment and then crawls across the bed to get some space - rolling back to me whenever she needs to feel safe and secure. On the days when I'm completely touched out, it is so good to remember why she holds onto me so tightly.
Teaching Betsy to sleep is also an exercise in patience, and in grace. I certainly don't fall asleep the same way every night -- it's strange, then, that I would expect that of my eight month old. As someone who often struggles to fall asleep and whose husband often encourages her to "just relax," I know that's easier said than done. The more furiously I grumble "Betsy, go to sleep!" the less likely it is to happen anytime soon. Having patience with her, and grace for my sleepy, grumbling self is the only way through.
Always always, no matter how tired I am - I fall completely in love again as I watch her sleep. My big girl, who is growing and changing so fast, tackling an ever-expanding world while holding tight to my finger, just in case she needs me.