This morning I was out getting dirty with Punkin Head. I was transplanting a couple house plants while she pushed her wagon around the driveway and played in the dirt a bit. Punkin Head was 6 weeks old, this time last year. It seemed like all I did was breastfeed around the clock! I couldn't wait until Punkin slept through the night so I could have some downtime and get some much needed sleep. Now here we are a year later: Mother and daughter enjoying the sunshine together, both happy, healthy and well rested!
Punkin just started sleeping somewhat consistently through the night (as in, 6-9 hours straight) in the last three weeks or so. Prior to this point, if she only woke up twice a night to nurse I considered it a good night. (We made one attempt to let her "cry it out" several months ago and it made my heart hurt so much that her daddy and I agreed to never do anything like that again.) Being able to sleep for more than 2-3 hours at a time is what I've been waiting for and yet, I'm a little morose about it. Just when my husband and I seriously start talking about night weaning our girl, she pretty much goes and does it herself! I don't think I was ready! I mean, I was just in the "talking about it" phase. I really did not intend on taking serious action until we were closer to the 18 month mark. But like so many things when it comes to parenting, my baby didn't care if I was ready or not...Punkin Head was ready and that's all that matters.
In spite of my surprisingly lukewarm feelings about her night weaning, Punkin Head's daddy has embraced this new phase and not for the obvious reason of all of us getting more sleep. Now when Punkin Head wakes up in the middle of the night (which she still often does) he responds to her cries. Once he enters her nursery, I hear nothing; just the sound of contentment. Silence. Now he's the one who gets to see our girl standing in her crib, arms extended, ready for her late night hugs and cuddles. He is the one who rocks her and whispers lullabies, coaxing her back to sleep. And apparently, he is the one Punkin Head wants. The late night hugs and cuddles used to be my job, hence my melancholy.
I'm not complaining. I have a husband who is more than willing to get up with our baby in the middle of the night, when he has to get up at 5 o'clock in the morning and work outside our home 12+ hours a day. I also don't want to complain about the fact that after a full year, I am finally getting the sleep and rest I need which I know make me a better wife and mother. I am a very luck woman! That being said, after 12 months of being the one Punkin Head screamed for at all hours of the day and night, it's bittersweet to see her grow up in this way and recognize her daddy as the wonderful source of comfort that he is. She knows that his hugs, kisses and cuddles are just as good as mommy's; maybe even better. She has realized that his soft, low voice and overall calmness is just what a baby girl needs when she wakes up scared or has trouble going back to sleep. This is the quality time you can't schedule, and her daddy is reveling in it.
It may be my imagination, but since all this has transpired, it seems like Punkin Head's eyes light up a bit more and her smile is bigger now when her dad gets home after work. She literally squealed and ran to meet him when he walked through the door yesterday. Now Punkin Head gives me a wave and sends me on my way when I leave to run errands or get some time by myself. She has her daddy and all is well. Seeing all this happen makes me feel so much love for my husband, that it overshadows any bittersweet or melancholy feelings I may have about her night weaning.
The nights leading up to this point sometimes seemed long and never-ending, but this first year with Punkin Head has passed in a flash. My daughter and I have developed a deep and lasting bond over the past year of sleepless nights together. Our night weaning journey happened naturally without tears and anger; she reached this milestone in her own good time, which allows me to sleep soundly. So sadly, my night-shift is coming to an end and it's time for her daddy to have his turn. This mama is ready to begin the next chapter of motherhood with a more well-rested feeling than a year ago and maybe a few bittersweet tears.