It's just passed 5:00am, inches from morning as is indicated by the brightening azure backdrop of sky out the window and the silhouetted trees that were invisible in the darkness only minutes ago. A bird began chirping at 4:30am somewhere close to my bedroom window, close to my head, and continues to carry on his one-bird solo of a few repeated notes.
Jesse was just out here, he emerged from the bedroom and collided with the sudden light of the hallway as if it were a screen door, rubbed his little-boy eyes and said "Why are we both awake?"
"Seems to be a party," I said as I gently scraped the last bite of yogurt from inside a coffee mug so as not to shatter the middle-of-the-night quiet--seeming as vulnerable to scratch as an old vinyl record--with spoon-to-cup screeching.
The 4:00am hour has often been a time of inexplicable restlessness for the both of us. Mostly unspoken, I lie in bed at that hour and notice his breathing to be the shallow, conscious respiration of the un-sleeping, followed by soft turns from one side-body to the other.
This particular morning, Opal woke at 3:30am, which is a very common time for her to stir, her subdued baby-babble coming from the monitor like blips from a short wave radio. She was clearly not upset, just momentarily awake. I usually go into her room whenever she wakes up, even though her wake-ups are rarely cries, to check on her and nurse her back to sleep. It seems once she sees me in the shadows of her little room, she is unable to fall back to sleep without the sedating effects of nursing. But left to her own devices, un-checked-on, she is often awake for only moments and quite capable of self-soothing.
Before I go to bed, I cannot help but to inspect her room for temperature and see that her little naked legs are not exposed to the dry air. And this inability to resist peeking in almost always wakes her, in spite of my painstaking efforts of tiptoeing and holding my breath (curse the click of the doorknob and the creak of the closet door!). So, for many nights now, I have nursed her back to sleep right before I go to bed, 10:30pm or so. At that point she's been sleeping for a good 4 hours already.
Lately I've had the feeling that she is more than capable of lasting the remaining 7 or 8 hours of nighttime without food as well as putting herself back to sleep in the interim.
Last night was the first night to put My Simple Plan into action. When she woke, I planned to give her ten minutes to fall back to sleep on her own. If she struggled or was awake for a longer stint, I'd assume she needed me and would go right in.
So when she yawned and cooed and smacked her lips at 3:30am, I was ready and listened with extreme ear-to-the-monitor focus. As suspected, she was back to sleep, soundly, in five minutes.
I, on the other hand, am a different story.
I think I've gotten accustomed to the completeness of nursing her when she wakes: going to her within moments of hearing her light agitation, feeding her, lying her back in her crib into the welcoming arms of her squadron of stuffed animals and climbing back into my own bed carrying the comfort of knowing my child is soothed and sleeping with a full belly. A basic series of A, B, C and D actions with no waiting to see.
Without those predictable steps, my sleepy little brain fills up with Did she stir because she is hungry? Even though she is sleeping, is her little belly growling with hunger from deep within her subconscious? (And the most sleep-repellent of possibilities) When will she wake up again to announce that she does, in fact, need me?
This brand of wait-to-see insomnia was also the case for the first few nights she slept in her crib. It was equal parts wanting to rest and also having no desire to sleep for fear of missing an earnest call for help. Similarly then, she slept better in her crib then she had before.
So here I am with ears on wide-open alert for a potentially hungry baby, breasts suddenly like uncut baguettes, waiting, ready.
It's been two hours now since that initial wake-up call and since then she hasn't made a twitter. I exhausted my arsenal of get-back-to-sleep techniques (concentrate on deeper breathing, feel my body one bit at a time from toes to head, focus on each of my individual senses) to no avail and wound up out here to witness the sunrise from my couch with a good book and a cat curled up like a cinnamon roll at my feet.
Jesse went back to bed long ago.
Later in the morning, now. 10:15 am:
I am delighted to report that Opal did not wake again until 6:30am, eight solid hours after her previous feeding!
When she finally announced herself, it was with barely a sneeze and the yummy groan of a morning stretch. As her eyes adjusted to the etched out shadow of mommy hovering over her, she smiled gently and without any sense of urgency, looking well-rested. She rolled over to give her furry bunny, her counterpart for the evening, a squeeze before reaching for me. I had not gone back to sleep by that point and when I picked her up, I held her close, supporting her neck the way I did when she was the tiniest being and I sniffed the tuft of hair behind her ear, feeling the whole of my body relax with the weighty, anchored feeling of having returned to something so longed for.
It's clear that these kind of transitions are so often more difficult for me than for her.
I also thought of something Jesse has been attempting to pin down for months now, place a finger on the pulse of one of the many fleeting, trembling truths of parenting.
It goes something like this:
Day by day we are falling more in love with our child, more attached to her, while day by day, if only incrementally, she is asking to be more and more independent and free from us.