It was 2 a.m. this morning when I first heard the cry. My son, who has always been my champion sleeper, was irate. He wasn’t just fussy, or gassy or uncomfortable. He was downright agitated and none of my soothing techniques were even scratching the surface of his tears. In his crib, he’d bang his tiny legs against the wall and scream to lie in my bed. In my bed, he’d kick and flail and yell that he wanted back in his crib. My husband and I, already fatigued from battling pollen allergies all month, were at our wit’s end.
I went back upstairs with him, pulled the shades down all the way to make sure absolutely no moonlight was pouring across his floor, and tried to rock him in his favorite green chair. This is the same spot we used to rock when he was a newborn. He’d wake up every few hours and nurse, and I’ve had some of my most sacred and special moments in that very spot. I thought for sure the swaying movement would calm him and I even played our favorite lullaby to lure him back to dreamland.
Not only did it not work, but it seemed to make the situation worse. Finally, I put him back in his crib, pulled a spare pillow and blanket from the upstairs linen closet and laid down on the carpet beside him, my hand reaching between the slats to grab his. I felt hot tears well up as he pulled his hand away from mine and started shaking the crib slats. It’s hard, this motherhood thing.
It’s hard when they’re babies because they can’t tell you what’s wrong. I tried food, milk, a story, a diaper change and even his favorite cartoon and nothing met his criteria. It’s hard, too, when they’re older. Then, they can tell you what’s wrong but it might not be as simple as just wanting to be held or needing a snack. It might be a lot harder and more confusing and more exhausting, actually.
So we cried together for what felt like forever. Me, reaching out to him and him sternly refusing my affection. We both cried out of frustration and confusion and sheer sleep deprivation. As parents, we know our kids better than anyone, but in that moment, I couldn’t have felt more out of place. I was desperately needed, yet unneeded all at the same time and that’s a difficult position to be in.
He resisted mightily at first and maintained his stance, but eventually he fell back down on the sheets and let his overly tired little head rest against the mattress. He reached back to me and held my hand while I told him all about the big, fun day I had planned in a few short hours. I went into detail about the otter we’d see at the museum and the light show at the planetarium. I felt his grip loosen and I knew he’d let go of whatever was bothering him. Soon after, his light snores commenced and it was my cue to slip back downstairs to my own bed.
The next morning, he awoke a little later than usual, as if granting me 20 more minutes of sleep would help me forget our really hard night. I heard him moving around above me and I tiptoed into his nursery. The shades had gotten loose and the early morning sun was peeking in and there he was, my sleepyhead son, sitting up sweet as can be in his Peanuts pajamas with disheveled blonde locks. I picked him up, took him into my covers and breathed him in.