At 16 months, my daughter has just recently started sleeping through the night. That's by the definition that considers a six-ish hour stretch "through the night." She goes down at 7, stirs around 10 to dream nurse, and stirs again around 4 or 5 to dream nurse. And that's not every night--sometimes she's teething or has a bad dream or needs to nurse every hour for whatever reason. She doesn't tell me; she just drinks herself back to sleep often without ever actually opening her eyes.
She's a toddler now by most standards, which means she never mastered sleeping through the night as a baby. And you know what? She was still a GOOD baby.
Edie cried almost constantly for the first six plus months of her life. She screamed like she was being tortured any time we got in the car. The few times we attempted it, she turned a less than two hour drive to Tulsa into almost five hours. Daniel did all of the grocery shopping because I felt like I needed to be there to nurse her (which she also did nonstop, between the screaming and crying) and hated putting her in her carseat because she obviously hated it. And you know what? She was still a GOOD baby.
Up until her first birthday, she only napped in my arms or in my wrap out on a long walk. The laundry and dishes piled up. I had nothing to show for myself at the end of the day and I never left her with anyone so I could get things done because, again, I wanted to be there when she needed to nurse. And she was still a GOOD baby.
This is what I wanted to say every time a well-meaning family member or friend asked, "How is she sleeping?" or informed me, "Babies usually love the car." Because as I answered, "No," I watched them look at my sweet baby and then back at me with pity in their eyes. Poor mama, she has a bad baby.
I'm not sure when our culture shifted into this weird realm of expectations for appropriate baby behavior. When did we start asking babies not to act like babies?
Baby Edie did an excellent job telling me when she was hungry--she cried. And she did so often because she was struggling to nurse. She needed me to sleep because she had just been inside my body for nine months and I was all she knew. She hated the car because her seat kept her in an uncomfortable position and she was probably hungry much of the time. And she told me all of these things by crying because that's how babies are able to communicate.
For some reason mothers today are convinced their babies are trying to torture them by waking frequently or wanting to be held often--that we just carried them for nine months and pushed them into the world and then they aren't supposed to need us anymore. That meeting their needs makes us weak and turns them into bad children. This belief is SO backwards to me, but I can identify with the need to go by the book because as a new mother, I am afraid to fail my child. But what about our instincts?
When was the phrase "motherly instincts" coined, and when were we told to throw it away? I spent a summer in India after my freshman year of college and I vividly remember every young mother I met in the villages--they were very easy to spot because their babies were wrapped to their backs or their chests and were often latched to their breasts. Totally out in the open, because that was the norm--you fed your baby when she was hungry. And I don't remember anyone pitying these mamas for having clingy babies.
Because they weren't bad. They were just being babies.
And Edie girl, you were a GOOD, GOOD baby.