This is how we slept for half the night last night. And by we, I mean definitely not me. My usual rockstar of a sleeper baby boy has been having some troubling nights for the past week or so and the worst of it has been the past two nights. Restless, constant whining in a light sleep, outbursts and screaming out of nowhere and an overall physical discomfort all over that, perhaps only I can sense as well, because I’m his Mama. I am sleep deprived but what brings me greater pain is to see my son in discomfort and experience what I assume are growing pains, teething or a developmental leap, or most likely all three. Sometimes as a new parent, I get frustrated when I can’t understand why my baby is crying, or complaining or why none of his eight zillion toys can lighten his mood for more than five minutes (if that) I think as adults, we forget how painful it is to grow, and that is not just speaking physically.
I recall experiencing the most excruciating (as I remember it) growing pains in my legs in elementary school. My mom used to massage my legs at night during these periods and that would help with the discomfort, but I would still wake up and feel the pain of my bones and muscles extending and growing and not have any power to make it go away. As a young girl, I was extremely shy and very introverted and social interactions made me extremely anxious. I had my best friend(s) but anything more than that and I felt lost in a crowd. Learning to build confidence and make friends despite insecurities was painful and often disheartening. Growing to be a social human being was not easy and learning about the world and the insecurities that came with these discoveries, was even more difficult. These changes, growth spurts and seasons of self-realization all happened within a span of over a decade….and the emotional and mental growth still continues today, and while it is not as “painful” per se, often it is still uncomfortable. There is this new term “adulting” that I see floating around, and it’s a testament to how hard it is to grow and keep on growing, and evidently, the social responsibility of acting your age.
When I think of it, my baby is only 7.5 months old, and he hasn’t even been in this world for as long as he was in my womb. Babies come out crying and cry quite a bit because let’s face it, the world is a pretty cry-worthy place to be, though it’s not entirely socially acceptable for adults to cry all the time, even though they might want to….[have you ever gotten a heating/electricity bill in the dead of winter in Canada when you are still in University and very very poor? That is totally cry-worthy.] But babies on the other hand, get a free ticket to cry because they are babies. Oh no, wait – actually they don’t! Every day I see articles and read forums where parents are in dismay why their baby is crying so much, not sleeping through the night and crying for no reason and being moody, and wanting to be held or else, guess what – they will cry. How do we make them STOP CRYING?! <— Still trying to figure this one out.
Two words. Growing pains.
My baby boy has gone up in weight over 10 lbs since he was born. He has also grown over 10 inches. He started off with his eyes closed pretty much 23.5 hours of the day and now he can’t stop looking at everything. Changing his diaper went from being terrified of breaking this little bird’s tiny leg, to holding him from one leg as he contorts in every direction while trying to roll away. He has grown so much in 7.5 months, both physically and developmentally, and grown more in both respects than I have in probably a decade. And while the world is an amazing place to be in and explore and learning are probably the coolest things ever…making sense of everything is probably harder than we can ever imagine for such a tiny human. And often, it can be overwhelming, and as babies we hardly know what their temperament is quite yet. I can’t imagine how potentially uncomfortable it must be to grow 10 inches in 7 months, but if it’s anything like my leg pains as a 9 year old, I feel so sorry for this tiny little guy. I don’t know what it’s like to teethe, but I remember how much it hurt my mouth, gums and teeth to get my braces tightened every month and yes, at 10 years old I did cry sometimes. I don’t remember the last time I laid on my belly for hours in a day trying to figure out to get to my toy three feet away and getting frustrated because I KNOW I can do it – I just don’t know how. And all those people, voices, sounds, light, arms that held me today at church or at that party or daycare…my brain hurts from just thinking of all the social interaction some babies are expected to get through unscathed. As adults we can communicate our discomforts and do something to alleviate the pain. We can wind down after a long day and relax our brains. Babies, cannot do either. It’s my job as John Fredrick’s Mama to take care of everything. It’s a daunting responsibility but one that I take very seriously. I watch how I react to his moods, to his likes and dislikes, and I pray how I can have more patience, love and grace as a mother. It’s a job that goes beyond full time work hours and right through the night. It’s uncomfortable, frustrating and not entirely intuitive, but learning is growing and that goes for parents as well.
Last night, John F flip-flopped in his sleep, crying constantly, refusing to nurse and then latching and ripping off over and over again, sweating and kicking and screaming…my heart ached. What happened to my baby boy today? Is something giving him nightmares or confusing him? Did he bounce too much or too little that his legs are hurting him? Are his arms sore from pushing himself up on his belly? Are teeth coming in? Trying to understand how to comfort my baby in this big world is overwhelming. He is normally a very peaceful and snuggly sleeper and it pains me to know he is uncomfortable. So I took a moment and said a prayer on what I can do as his Mama to help him through this, even thought I cannot possibly understand his pain. 7.5 months in the world; 39.5 weeks in the womb…in my opinion, he is still transitioning into this world, and it’s my job to make that transition the best that it can be. So I pull him close as he fights and rejects my embrace, and I lay him down tummy to tummy, the position we slept in for months before his birth and months after until he got too “big.” Laying in this position, I literally felt eight months pregnant again with the weight of a nearly 20 lb baby on my belly, I could hardly breathe and nearly lost the feeling in both my hands again. But there, on my chest and close to my heart, following the rhythm of my breath and sharing each others’ warmth, my baby boy found peace and deep slumber. He cuddled into my chest and breathed deeply and his body no longer squirmed in pain and his mind rested easy. He slept for hours and I slept terribly but felt my heart warm and swell up with such love. This must be a parenting “win” I thought, and I definitely feel like a winner when my baby boy snuggles so close.
Growing pains – he definitely is feeling something as a result of growing. Physical, teething, mental, developmental, it’s all the same and overwhelming for my baby and I can hardly understand it. What I can understand however, is love. The comfort of being held, the security of knowing that someone is holding you through this pain, through this confusing but exciting time, through all these things being learned. My mom massaging my legs helped me through the pain, and I will forever hold on to that memory. And today, while I am exhausted and aching all over, I rest in knowing that I helped my son find rest last night. I accepted his cries, even though they interrupted and “frustrated” my sleep, it is my job to listen, understand and comfort those cries. I have to learn how to manage my expectations of sleep, my comfort zone, my schedule (ha!) and especially my expectation of what I expect my baby to act like on a day to day basis. Because growing at the rate he is, is completely unfathomable…such a tiny human going through all those changes in such a short period of time, I have to try and not to forget how hard growing is. Because at 30, it still is. And while I can hold my sweet baby boy and comfort his pain, I know the Heavenly Father holds me in the very same way, even better. When I cry, God knows my pain, and when I am confused and acting out during the day or weeping at night, He still reaches His arms out, with love that we can only begin to understand and learn about through his Word.
Gonna share this grainy, too dark, unfiltered and incredibly unprofessional but one of my favourite pictures now, again, because it’s a proud moment as a Mama. While I was trying to figure out how to make him feel better, literally the easiest and closest solution was right there, in my arms and next to my heart.
“Let the beloved of the LORD rest secure in him, for he shields him all day long, and the one the LORD loves rests between his shoulders.” ~ Deuteronomy 33:12