Rachel Marie is a sleeper – at least compared to her big sister. Tonight I nursed her and she drifted off while I was still trying to get Madeline to take a trip to the Land of Nod. (Rae is on meds for reflux now and they seem to be helping a bit, although they won’t stop her from being a spit-up queen.) Madeline started crying when I told her I was going to have to go sit outside her door in a minute, which, of course, woke the baby. I was so frustrated that I just placed Rae into the crib and turned on her mobile. She’s been sleeping in the co-sleeper in Dave and my bedroom, so I never expected for her to fall asleep there, all alone. I returned to Madeline who was sobbing by this point. "Mommy! Mommy!" she bellowed.
"I'll be right back, Madeline," I answered from the nursery in the loudest possible whisper.
Dave came to the rescue and sat in her room for a few minutes. She told him she was “vewry scared.”
“Of what?” he asked.
“Sharks,” she replied.
No, she hasn’t seen Jaws. She hasn’t even watched the scene in Finding Nemo with the Bruce, the recovering man/fish-eating-holic Great White (although she has seen sharks at the aquarium). We have no idea where she picked up on this well-known fear of many. We sat outside her door while she asked, “Mommy? Daddy?” over and over.
“We’re here,” we assured her. Meanwhile, I heard a few grunts from Rae. I went to check on her and was amazed by what I was witnessing. She was lazily watching at the mobile’s dangling animals whirled above her and her eyelids were growing heavy. Her legs had assumed their frog-like sleeping position and her belly was heaving with rapid breaths – the kind that come just before she falls into a deep sleep. She was falling asleep ALL ON HER OWN. There was no boob in her mouth, not even a paci. I wasn’t holding her hand or rocking her. She was just self-soothing herself into a peaceful slumber. That’s when I realized that Madeline has NEVER done that. Up until I weaned her at 22 months, she almost always needed to nurse to sleep or at least to settle down enough that dozing off was possible. Then it was holding my hand. Now it’s at least having me sit outside her door until she finally succumbs to sleep. I used to think it was something I did (or didn't do). Maybe always nursing on demand and refusing to Ferberize her or later, when she kept popping out of her big-girl bed like a manic Jack-in-the-Box on crack, and I ignored some of friends’ well-meaning advice about putting a gate in her doorway to create a boundary and then leaving her to fend for herself, etc. had precipitated this little insomniac. My instincts told me otherwise, that she was just wired that way and that I was doing what was right for her, but too often I don’t trust myself or my mommy sixth sense. But having Rachel Marie is showing me that I was right all along. (If there’s one snippet of mothering advice you should follow, it’s “Know thy child.") Madeline is a child who number one, doesn’t need as much sleep as the average tot and number two, is just not a good sleeper or self-soother. It’s nothing I’ve done or haven’t done. In fact, I’m glad I’ve parented her the way I have. Sure, it’s exhausting, but tender moments like when she gropes for me in the dark, pulls me to her and says, “Mommy, I love you so much. ‘Tanks’ for staying with me.” make it well, well worth it.
As for Rachel Marie, watching her drift off to sleep on her own was somewhat of a surreal moment for me. “Can you believe it?” I asked Dave. Then we hugged one another in gratitude for our second little miracle.
Watching Rachel Marie’s belly rise and fall also made me wonder how else these two precious girls will be different in other ways. Will Rae like to draw and color by the hour like her big sister? Will she be as cautious as Madeline, afraid to climb things or glide down sloping slides unless I’m right by her side, or will she be a daredevil? Only time will tell… But what a beautiful thing to watch them grow and to see their unique personalities, likes and dislikes, and other traits unfold.