If this is what a baby is like…

If I’d known from the start how healthy, good and normal it is for babies to wake at night, I wonder if I would have felt inferior to those mothers who boasted that theirs slept through.

If I’d known from the start how much babies need the security of their mothers’ bodies, would I have bothered with the Moses basket?

Would I have expended so much energy trying to put Talitha down? Would it have taken me weeks to sort out a sling? Would I have ground my teeth wondering what I was doing wrong?

If I had known that there are no goals in this relationship but only a journey, would I have wished away the weeks and months? Would I have partly longed for her independence, only to be surprised by it when it began?

I have a lot of books and articles running around my head at the moment: references to anthropological studies, findings about how we physiologically work, beautiful reflections on mothering.

The recurrent theme through all of this reading and thinking has been for me “acceptance”.

If we accepted what babies are like and what they need, would we form so many strategies to try to change them? Would we get so stressed about them behaving the way they are designed to be?

For instance, I have been in and out of giving myself headaches over Talitha’s naps. She’s had months of half-hour stints. she went through a phase of 3-hour blocks.

She now very reliably goes down for a one and a half hour nap most days, four hours after she gets up in the morning. Not that I have much to do with this rhythm. We just found it, somehow.

And yet, I’ll still throw a hissy fit (mostly inside) if there are few days of her needing me to stay with her during her nap in order to sleep. Usually it’s a sign that’s she’s not well.

Why do I get so upset I wonder? We’ve nowhere to be urgently. Our plans are usually flexible. I’m at home, not at work. We can go with the flow. I could probably use the sleep, the time to pray, a chance to read something on my Kindle or write on my phone.

And, thankfully, she still naps. Thanks, thanks, thanks!

What it essentially comes down to is my expectation. “By now” she shouldn’t be needing me like this. This is not what I hear that others her age are doing, what I thought months ago that she’d be doing, what some “experts” say she should be doing.

But going to sleep on her own is something she will do in her own time.

This is what a baby is like, what a toddler is like, what a small child is like.

It is what my small child is like.

I’ll accept this.

I’ll curl around her, enjoy her smell and not wish away what little is left of her babyness.

I accept how small she is.

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19 comments
  • How true.

    It is something I remind myself of frequently even now Harry is approaching 3. If he wants a nap, he still wants one of us to be near him. On the whole, he goes to bed fine at night.

    I spent hours and hours trying to get him to sleep in his basket or cot in those first few months. Why do we expect them to be able to sleep independently after living inside us for nine months?

    Numerous people don’t agree with our decision (can I even call it that, it just happened) to allow him to come into our bed somewhere between 4-5am. I however figure that he is hardly likely to still want to do that when he is 16.
    Mummy Glitzer recently posted..Forgiveness

  • Great post and totally right. Yet I think it also so normal for mothers to worry, get frustrated, be influenced by those around and feel urgency in their lives. So it is, and so it will always be 🙂
    Purplemum recently posted..Review – Joe Browns

    • Yes, normal. I’m trying to remember who it was…some 19th century author who wrote about a mother who was being pushed around by everyone’s advice as if babies were a brand new subject.

  • So true! I was so expecting Iyla to sleep in her Moses basket, I just thought that was what babies did! I think next time I will be so much more aware of the fact that although some babies might do all of the those things, most don’t! Lovely post x
    Mum2BabyInsomniac recently posted..January 2013

  • Matilda is very much the same in that if she doesn’t want to fall asleep with us not there it means she’s ill or teething. Sometimes that is frustrating but mainly because you want that time to have some peace, to drink a cup of coffee or just have a break and recharge.

    You can try all you want to get them to nap when it suits you but they’ll always revert to the pattern that works for them.
    The Fool recently posted..Sourdough magic

    • Totally. It’s really important to have that time and it’s good if you can get it but sometimes you can’t and acceptance keeps you sane!

  • […] a fact she’s not the only one. In fact Adele from Circus Queen wrote a lovely post – If This Is What  A Baby Is Like – which touches on the same […]

  • I love this post so much. It is absolutely about acceptance and keeping that inner voice strong when others are putting “should be” or “whys” your way.
    I remember thinking this time so clearly that babies just want to be held and if we stopped trying to put them down ALL the time we would be so much happier.

  • Some babies sleep through, most don’t. Sleeping through has somehow become a badge of good parenting. It isn’t. We all love sleep, new mothers are desperate for sleep, but I hate how it’s become the measure of everything. I, like you discovered that my child slept best close me. Mostly, he didn’t sleep much. It wasn’t what I expected, I guess because everyone tells you the opposite. They grow so quick – breathe in those beautiful sleepy moments, savour them.
    Wonderful post Adele.

  • I could just cry at this for its poignancy. We have far, far too many preconceived ideas about babies and children in our society, and I can’t quite believe how much that’s made (and is often still making) me fight my son’s nature. He’s just over two – an utterly beautiful, normal, bonkers two. I waste so much energy worrying about whether he should do this or shouldn’t do that, but really, you’re right: he’s still very small too and I should just accept him for who he is. Thanks for the reminder.

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