Even before Little Man was born, J and I worried about his sleeping.
A month or so before he arrived, we bought The No Cry Sleep solution and read it over and over in the weeks before his birth so we could be ready to gently guide him into sleep. We memorized the routines they suggested. We learned how many hours a newborn needs to sleep each day. We talked about the different methods and decided not to let him "cry it out." Then he arrived, and we soon realized that all our preparations were for naught.
After a day in the hospital for a fairly severe case of jaundice, his sleep schedule was completely turned on its head. We have video of this first month that shows the green digital clock on our stove reading 11:30 and our little alien-eyed bundle wide awake and blinking his interest in the world around him. We would take turns staying up with him until he finally decided at 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning that he was ready to turn in for a few hours. We sat and held him during those early morning hours because he didn't want to be put down, and we didn't believe he needed to be put down.
I had no interest in letting my child cry for me. I never believed that I could spoil him so early by holding him too much or comforting him when he needed comfort. The truth was and still is that I wouldn't trade a single hour of the sleep I might have otherwise had for those hours that I had him in my arms. Now, he runs and plays; mama's arms are too constraining for such a inquisitive little soul.
Eventually he came around and realized that it is really better to be awake during the day. I went against most advice when I nursed him to sleep every night. Every single night. That was our time together, when he was warm and snuggly, smelling fresh after his nightly bath rather than like old milk from a day's worth of yerping. In his darkened room, I would rock in my grandmother's chair and sing him two songs every night-- "The Way You Look Tonight" and "Lullaby and Goodnight"--with the lyrics changed to make them his own. He'd drift off in my arms, and I would lay him down for the night.
Then one day we didn't nurse any more. We never had that "one last time" session. The time was right, and he weaned. I worried that he wouldn't let me rock him and sing to him any more, but he seemed to crave than warmth more than the milk I had provided. For the last four months he has climbed into my lap when the lights go out and looked up at me as I sing (poor kid). But lately, he doesn't have time for that. He sits in my lap and wriggles after only a few bars of the first song. What he wants is to be put to bed.
So instead of our longer ritual I now hum a few bars and place him in his crib. He grabs his stuffed frog, turns on his side, and closes his eyes. This is what we wanted from the beginning--a child who was able to fall asleep calmly, happily, on his own. Yet the loss of that time before he sleeps when his hair is still damp and his skin still fresh is almost more difficult than not nursing any more.
This is a small thing compared to what is to come. I realize that there will be more and more times when I have to step back and let him be--this is all part of motherhood. That gradual letting go of the baby you wanted so badly and the gradual acceptance of the boy and then the man you want him to become.
But still, there are things I am not willing to part with--things that I hope he will remember and maybe do for his own children. So every night, I kiss him gently on his cheek and whisper as I shut his door,
"Angels guard your sleep and make your dreams sweet."