My daughter will be five months old in less than a week, and she still gets up three times a night to eat. Sometimes she goes right back to sleep afterwards, and sometimes it takes her over an hour. Some days she wakes up raring to go at 7:00 am, and some days it’s 5:00 am. Sometimes she takes a two and a half hour nap, and one of her naps Saturday lasted a whole twelve minutes. Whenever someone asks my husband or I if something she does is “normal” for her, we laugh. The unexpected and the inconsistent is the expected and consistent with her.
What makes this even harder is that I am a planner. I like lists, schedules, routines. I thrive on them. I would love to have my girl on a schedule; in fact, I fantasize about it. But while she seems to have inherited my determined stubbornness and my inability to sit still, my love of schedules not so much.
While she hasn’t slept in my arms for nap time in over a month (pause for brief and badly executed victory dance here), over the weekend she fell asleep while nursing. It was shortly after the twelve minute nap. I put her on my shoulder to burp her, which usually wakes her up. Nope. Out cold. Knowing she needed the rest, I made the decision to keep holding her.
At first, all I could think about was how much my back already hurt, how my phone only had 4% battery, how the lunch my husband had just walked in the door with was waiting downstairs and I had skipped breakfast, and how I needed to get to the laundry before her morning blowout took the life of another innocent onesie. You know, stuff regimented planners think about.
But then, she shifted. She picked her head up, opened her eyes, looked right at me, smiled a sleepy, drooly smile, and nuzzled close to my neck. It’s amazing how at moments your heart can feel so full you think it might explode. This was one of those moments. It hit me then that this might be the last time I get to hold her while she sleeps. Forget to-do lists. I decided to do what everyone keeps telling me to do: just enjoy.
What is it that they put in babies that makes their smell so intoxicating? It defies all logic. Her entire self is usually covered in a mixture of curdled milk, drool, and urine, and yet she smells divine. It won’t be too long before she won’t let me hold her long enough to breathe her in. So I leaned in close and I drank in long, deep breaths of that sweet baby smell.
I listened to the purring sounds she makes when she transitions between sleep cycles and the soft exhalations after she gets in a comfortable position. All too soon she will be talking back and telling me “No,” so I closed my eyes and listened to every tiny sound.
I could feel the peach fuzz growing on her head tickle the side of my neck. I could feel the warmth from her body heat. I could feel her little heart beating. I rubbed my hands across that perfectly smooth skin, knowing that before long those knees will be perpetually scraped, those hands will always be dirty, and those chunky rolls on her thighs that I adore will cease to exist.
I watched her chest rise and fall with every breath. I took in the look of peaceful content on her tiny face. I smiled as her eyelids fluttered and she made sucking motions. I laughed at the tiny hand that was still tightly gripping my tank top. In no time at all, I will watch her crawl and walk and run, so I cherished this moment of stillness.
No, I didn’t eat my baby (although those chubby cheeks can be so tempting). But I tasted life. I tasted the moments that make motherhood so worth it. I enjoyed every bit of my baby. I enjoyed a time I know will not last. At this stage, it’s hard to believe I will ever wish that I could just hold her for nap. But I know that one day that will come. So I snuggled a little tighter, a little longer, and I didn’t think about the pain shooting down my arm at all. Well, at least not for the first four minutes.