Two glasses of proper champagne and only bits of sleep last night and I’m attempting a settle; he’s 9 months old and the sleeping struggle is tangible. Chopin’s Nocturne No.2 in E-Flat Major has overthrown my monkey mind…I’m simply swaying in rhythm to it. Through the alcohol induced mist, the music is piercing a little tiny hole into the turbulent year I’ve endured with a second little boy in my arms, during both sleeping and waking hours.
He thrashes about. Overtired and uncomfortable and palpably searching for some remedy that will send him into the ether, the realm of sleep so desperately needed but that which continuously slips through first his and then my fingers, accompanied by a sense of longing dreamt about, and wonder too, at what could alter the plot of this story.
And then there in that space, I am not. I’m strolling through the local marketplace. I’m right in the very midst of my sleep deprivation, a time where the mind can’t be trusted to act accordingly, when through the dreamcatchers swaying daintily in the breeze I see it. A passageway I had not yet encountered, although many times I had passed this way. The ceiling seemed to narrow as I stepped cautiously inwards; the wall not graffitied colours but shimmering rock, flecks of some things glinting and other things gold and hard to make out…was this an illusion?
It was there at the smallest cave-like part of the passage that I came to a blackened pot, sitting neatly on a small fire somehow propped up and unlikely to tumble. An intoxicating smell was inviting my senses forward; it was coming from a dark blue liquid thick with humbly sparkling silver. I could swear the word “sleep” appeared in the curls of steam wafting from the pot, but was I even really there? The cauldron sat confidently, and so too did its owner. There was nobody with me, and then there was, and I blinked a few extra times as a force sat me down and I was there, wasn’t I? She stirred the contents with a large golden ladle as I watched, mesmerised and wanting nothing more then to feel it, to bathe in it and just to have it engulf me entirely.
I heard no voice, only the whisper of a question unanswered.
Why did you walk this way?
I had a thousand words and none at all, my mind fractured with memories of moments and sounds of un-stillness. The magical substance lured my eyes and the desire to immerse myself was growing stronger. I wanted so badly to take some of this magical potion home with me. Something was telling me that once I had it, everything would be okay. The months of sleep deprivation would be over, I would be sitting pretty; routine established and structure ruling over my life. In a sudden moment but with what seemed like a million minutes before it, this notion was gone. The pot was empty, the contents non existent.
I blinked twice then three times, and my eyes adjusted to the darkness of the nursery. Then, the fog that had engulfed me for so long dissipated alongside 9 months of heartache. In that moment both my body and my mind had a realisation that would change the way I was currently existing. As if I was coming up for air made of clarity, I understood.
I had been trying too hard.
I had been trying to fit a mould pressed upon me by thousands of words either read or uttered, in my quest to fulfil a role of perfection. My baby would not be the one to sleep on demand, at a specified time. He would not follow the same routine every single day. He would not be “a good baby.” He would need my help; the touch of his mother and the sway of her step; her beating heart close by, to settle him into a reverie filled slumber. And, so what.
In an instant I was ready to learn this new jig. For too long I had allowed the pressures of this modern day to try and construct my life. The saying “square peg in a round hole” never sounded more true; and I was the hand jamming that poor peg over and over and over again, not noticing that it was the wrong shape the entire time.
I have always been a sensitive mother. I have endless patience for my children, and like most of us, I want the very best for them. But in my mission to provide the blocks that support a smart and contented child, I had let slide the intuition that was so crucial to my own happiness. I had stopped listening to my gut in exchange for “advice,” and in doing so had completely blindsided myself.
Motherhood has become something different in the current era. From being a role that many women once intuitively fit into, to one that is now overwhelmed with information, mothers feel the weight of expectation coming at them from all sources. And the information is often contradictory, shaded by the preface that “something that works for one child may not work for another,” and “every child is different.”
The counsel advises, but only experience truly teaches, they say. However, by the time that “experience” has taught us anything at all, it’s too bloody late to use it. And then, if we decide to go for round three, the lessons we learnt the second time no longer apply. Oh, that’s what it means by “every child is different.”
Having children continues to be the most awesome experience in my life thus far. This doesn’t mean it’s easy, it doesn’t mean I love every moment and it certainly doesn’t mean I know what I’m doing. I don’t. I’m getting to know MY boys and what works for them, and I’ve finally realised who I should really be listening to…it sure as hell ain’t the internet.
So what if your baby falls asleep at the breast. I’m pretty sure he’s not going to be 25 and looking for nipples to suck himself to sleep…(or is he?)
So what if you rock and cuddle your baby to sleep…one day he will fall asleep in stillness, in his own bed, probably in his own house.
So what if your baby sleeps in short stints…this may be the only time in your life that you are excused from chores because of time restraints.
I could go on. Just remember, whether you’re a parent yourself or an advice-giver – that pegs come in all shapes and sizes – and even you are a different shape to your littlest and most precious peg. Everything will be okay, and even if it isn’t now, it will be eventually. Don’t stifle the voice within, trust it. You have got this.