I sat in my parent's living room as my kids toddled around a place they hadn’t visited since Christmas. My husband was away for a month-long military training many, many states away and I had traveled to Pittsburgh from New York City so that I could have little bit of reprieve. I was exhausted from traveling, taking what felt like the first deep breath in weeks. My daughter, who was almost one, was getting fussy. This led us to The Conversation about rocking my baby to sleep. You already know how this goes.
“Do you think she’s ready to go to sleep?” My mom asks.
“Yes.” I casually reply. “But I want to let her run around a little bit longer, to burn off some energy after traveling all day.”
“OK. How are you putting her to sleep these days?”
“I rock her.” I respond, with a deep breath.
“I did that with your younger sister and it was the worst mistake I ever made. She ended up being the most horrible sleeper out of all four of you kids." My mom punctuates her rant with a stricken face, "I made sure never to make that same mistake again.”
Little hot patches spread over my skin; I completely understood. She was speaking the wise words that every seasoned parent, sleep expert, and pediatrician under the sun tells parents like me. We were already having troubles with my daughter sleeping — she was winding up in our bed every single night out of pure survival, but the fact that I knew she was my last baby held me back from doing what I knew was probably right.
Truth be told, I relished those sweet moments where I rocked our little one to sleep. While I didn’t have room for a rocking chair in our tiny NYC apartment, I would sit on the edge of our bed when I was putting her down for every nap and every night's sleep, lay her against my chest, and rock her heart to heart. I would pat her little bum when she would start to stir and it not only became our routine, but a special time each day that I looked forward to.
Being a busy work-from-home mom, this was the only true "us time," when I turned off all devices, quieted my mind and had time to connect with my daughter. I wasn’t able to give these moments up just yet.
She’s my last baby and I will rock her to sleep. I don’t care what anyone says, I thought.
It wasn’t just my mom who felt we were going AWOL in our sleep methods, but our friends and pediatrician. As a collective, they saw how tired I was being up with the baby all night. No matter how much we tried to let her cry a little bit during the middle of the night — and we tried a white-noise machine, a pacifier, all the tricks — she would wake up multiple times during the night. In the end, we would just put her in between my husband and I, and she would finally sleep. Yes, I know that bed-sharing isn't recommended.
My baby, the last one, grew up so quickly before my eyes and I was holding onto the one small thing that I could: rocking her so gently to sleep in my arms.
And she definitely wasn’t sleeping soundly. Nope. She would still kick and whimper in her sleep, and we were very quickly realizing how small our bed really was. My husband was a zombie moving throughout his day at work and I was the same at home. Our little one, though, got a morning and afternoon nap to perk her up to take on the day with super baby energy powers.
A few days into my trip, I started to really second guess myself. My daughter wasn’t sleeping well at my parents house either, sending so many questions swirling through my mind: Was I being selfish? Was the need to sit and rock my last baby more for me than something that she really needed?
As we looked at her trying to blow out the candles, I felt like the wind was almost knocked out of me.
As we stared down my daughter's first birthday, rites of passage kept whipping by us. I bought my last tub of formula and a bunch of transitional sippy cups. We ordered a Moana birthday cake with one candle and thoughts of potty training were in the backs of our minds.
But I was still putting her to sleep the same way as I did when I first brought her home from the hospital.
The thought of letting go of something so dear was the hardest thing in the world to me. She is my baby — my last baby — and I will never have these moments again. Her first year of life whizzed by and I feel like I barely took a breathe before we were getting ready to sing “happy birthday.” My baby, the last one, grew up so quickly before my eyes and I was holding onto the one small thing that I could: rocking her gently to sleep in my arms.
As we looked at her trying to blow out the candles, I felt like the wind was almost knocked out of me. In that moment, I realized that I needed more time. I wasn’t ready to yet give up cradling my baby to sleep, no matter how much sense it really made. I knew deep down that I wasn’t spoiling her, she would never look back and think that I rocked her too much. Wishing that you had more time with your baby cuddled up in your arms is probably a feeling that every mom faces. So what if people think that it is too much?