Nine months gestation

6 06 2011

Nine months
inside the womb is the epitome of maternal comfort. In contrast, the first nine
months outside the womb is disorienting and sometimes scary. Dr. Sear’s, the
famed mother-supporting pediatrician, theorizes that the first nine months of a
baby’s life outside the womb is the final stage in gestation.
During this time, a baby needs the safety of her mother’s arms,
or to be close enough beside her to smell and reach out to her
all day and night.

Yet, our
culture is saturated with the thinking that beyond three months endless
hugging, cuddling and comfort will spoil the baby. The new mantra becomes: let
her cry; he needs to learn to be away from mommy; he needs to sleep by himself.

Unlike the visible
marks left on delicate skin from diaper rash, the “cry it out” routine leaves
an emotional rash that cannot be seen. Both mom and baby feel its burn. Both
suppress the pain from days, weeks and months of comfortless naps and nights.
Mothers are told that baby will never learn to put herself to sleep. Mothers
are warned that she’ll coddle her son into a mommas’s boy. But when a mother’s instinct
is supported and respected and when she receives enough care from spouse,
family and/or friends to prevent her from falling into a mode of desperation,
then she will make the best nurturing decision for her child.

I regret remembering
the feelings of desperation. I regret ever feeling desperate enough to try. I regret
the piercing, choking and sobbing cries that lasted for one hour and fifteen
minutes on one long miserable night back in December. Sidney was 14 weeks old.
I was tired, confused and desperate for sleep. I had been made to believe that
a sleeping schedule would come naturally, easily and that my child would suffer
without one.

Sidney was
not a bad sleeper from 6 to 12 weeks. She blessed me with a 4 or 5 hour stretch
of sleep every night. After the days of colic, I was ecstatic and thriving! But
then the 3 month growth spurt hit us hard at 13 weeks. We went from peaceful
nights back to more colicky-type nights. She nursed every hour on the hour the
first night and every 1.5 hours for the next two nights, then every two hours
thereafter. A week of this and I felt like a ghost made to walk the earth in unrest
forever.

This is how
the horrific night of crying came about. I try to wish it away, pretend I
didn’t succumb to the callous choice of “cry it out.” But I did, and my
experience solidified a resolve in me that allowing my child to cry, choke and
sob herself into submission is not the choice either of us is willing to make.
I would rather wear dark circles like a badge of early motherhood days than teach
my child I only respond to her needs for love and comfort during the day.

I am blessed
to have a husband who supports me faithfully in my parenting methods and a few
friends who model and support my belief in attachment parenting. They consoled
me in my frustration by reminding me of the nine month gestation period outside
the womb. I clung to this theory like lichen to a rock.

Now that
Sidney is nine months old, I am beginning to see the positive changes in her
sleep habits. It is not continual progress at this point but I cling onto the
hope that one day soon I may have the luxury of sleeping more than three hours
at a stretch and enjoying quiet nights with my husband once again.

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