New Mom Journal: Sweet Dreams of Sleep

Why isn’t it this easy to get a baby to sleep?It’s humbling, this business of being a mom…channeling all of your creative and intellectual abilities into getting a 7-week-old human to close her eyes, fall asleep, and stay asleep (the “staying asleep” is the kicker…). I feel like all my years of yoga practice brought me to this moment, and all my improv training — helping me be flexible, centered, strong. And, frankly, I regret the years I chose not to hit the gym, because man, is this a workout, this new mom business — the lifting and squatting, hoisting… if only I had arms of steel, and the core strength of a yogi goddess. Instead, I have a throbbing back.

…And, yes, a throbbing heart (cue the sappy music). But it’s true. And this is the mystery of parenthood that I never could unwrap before I was in it up to my knees: For every complaint, there is an equal amount of joy, or gratitude. Maybe it’s just biology’s way of keeping me in the game — after all, at this point, at least, parenthood takes a lot more from me than it gives… so if all I had was complaints, well… morale, shall we say, would be low. So Mother Nature makes sure my baby is adorable, and that she smiles at me, and then every time I think, “Getting up in the middle of the night sucks,” I also think, “… but I’m so in love.”

— But no, that’s not the right way to look at parenting: as a balancing of the scales. It’s not about give and take…it’s just about give. That’s it. We gave our daughter the gift of life, and every day we give her the gift of our love, our time, our attention (is there a greater gift than attention?). We do this knowing she may not love us back — it’s not about whether she loves us back. She didn’t opt into this situation — we did. And so we give.

And the key, then, is to give to ourselves, as well, so that we have enough to give to her. And that means setting boundaries, as my thoughts turn to the subject of sleep training, and the holy grail of getting my baby to sleep through the night.

In my restorative yoga training, we learned that boundaries help people relax. I believe this deeply. From day one as a new parent, you’re encouraged to swaddle your infant; this helps recreate the feeling of being held in the womb. Well, a routine, a schedule, is a form of swaddling — of holding. Don’t get me wrong: I’m no slave to schedules, generally speaking. In fact, I prefer to be improvisational with my time whenever possible. But as we integrate Alison into our family, it’s becoming more and more clear to me that structure will create the balance we need between taking care of her needs, and taking care of ourselves… so that we can take care of her, better.

I’m writing this after spending the better part of an afternoon getting her to fall asleep. As I write, I’m vigilant: will she stir? Or is she asleep for real? So far, so good… but I know that at any moment, the lights on the monitor could flash, and I could be swept right back into the workout. Which is why I know I need to begin rebuilding the parts of my life outside of her, so I can give her the best I have to give.

Photo by Flickr user Richard Stowey

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