He wakes at 4:30 to nurse, and finally falls back to sleep at 5:30. Resigned, I get out of bed, knowing that I can either sleep a little longer or get a shower and a few minutes to myself before the chaos of the day begins. It's unlikely I'll get a shower if I don't take make the most of the opportunity. I make some coffee and read a little in my Bible, and in my book about mothering, while Abel sleeps next to me on the couch. Ellery wakes at 7, and the day officially begins. Between the two of them, I hardly have a moment to sit down. When I get Ellery in her chair for lunch, Abel is finally sleeping and there are toys and books and laundry covering the living room floor. The living room that was spotless in the still-dark hours this morning when I read my Bible and drank my coffee in the quiet.
It's rainy and gray, and I feel like I haven't accomplished anything. Yesterday seemed so productive, and I felt like I was able to give enough attention to Ellery and Abel. Today I feel like I'm failing both of them. The day isn't even half over and I feel defeated.
I lay her down for her nap, grateful that I can perhaps have a few minutes to eat lunch while they both sleep. But as I shut the door to her bedroom, I hear Abel stirring. Time to nurse again. Finally he sleeps again and I eat lunch, only to be interrupted by a crying girl. She still hasn't fallen asleep.
So I put down my salad and ignore those hunger pains in my stomach, and go get Ellery. The nurse in the hospital warned me that my oldest might regress and act like a baby again now that she isn't the baby anymore. But she hasn't started crawling again or resorted to baby talk. She's as smart and active as ever. No, the way she has regressed has been in sleep.
Sleep, easily the biggest challenge we've had with this girl. From the moment she was born, she hated sleep. It wasn't until now, having Abel, that I realize just how much Ellery struggled with sleep. Abel fell asleep during tummy time and I was shocked. He doesn't spend half an hour crying before falling asleep every single time. It isn't a battle to get him to go to sleep. And in talking to friends, I hear that Abel is fairly normal in this newborn sleep game. I knew Ellery had a hard time with sleep, but I didn't realize just how much of a difference it makes to have a baby that actually sleeps.
So during a life transition, she regresses to her biggest challenge. And yes, I'm pretty sure that's true of me, too. A big change, one that I didn't ask for or hope for, always seems to bring forth those parts of me that I struggle with the most.
Ellery is standing in her crib and says, "Rock baby?" Normally I'd say no, but today I just want her to nap. She has skipped her nap far too often in the past few weeks, and tonight she'll be up later than normal, so I need her to nap. I'm in that desperate, whatever-it-takes mode.
And so I pick her up and take her to the glider and we rock. And within minutes, my sweet, precious baby girl is sleeping. Her body feels so long across my lap, now that I have a newer baby to compare it to. I study her face, so innocent and cherub-like while she rests. And I think my heart will burst with how much I love her. She's growing so fast, and every time I look at Abel I think that it must have been just a few months ago that Ellery was his size.
And while I rock with her, I read on my Kindle a book that talks about giving thanks to God even when we don't want to, even on our bad days. Today feels like a bad day, but it really isn't. It's just a day that hasn't lined up in the easiest way for me, and it's normally a day that I'd call Sam to complain about. And then I lay her in her crib, and as I shut the door, I remember a poem I read on a friend's blog the other day. A poem about how we get so excited as parents for our babies' firsts, and we never know when we'll experience the lasts.
I cried when I read the poem, because it's so true. Right now I'm still in those precious years when my children are so little, and I know someday I'll miss these years. I'll miss Ellery's tiny baby voice, and the way her hand clasps my finger as we walk down stairs. I'll miss the way she says "Mommy." But probably more than anything, I'll miss the way it feels to have my babies fall asleep in my arms, as if I'm their ultimate comfort and place of safety here on earth.
And as I shut the door to her room, it hit me that God allowed at least one more time for me to rock her to sleep. I thought I'd already experienced the last time she fell asleep in my arms. Maybe this will happen again, or maybe this really was the last time. And if it is the last, I want to savor it and be thankful, rather than complain. No, she didn't fall asleep on her own the way I hoped she would. But there is still something to be incredibly thankful for - a sweet moment with my first baby, a memory I can recall and appreciate when she's too big to need her mommy to sleep.
Thank you, Lord.