When I was pregnant with James I did like so many others and read all the baby books I could find. I wanted to know what to do, how to be a good mom. It was all new and I needed all the tips I could get. Many things changed with James’ premature birth, but some of the basics remained the same.
Creating good sleep habits right away was important to me. I heard so many horror stories about bedtime from parents I worked with in ECI. I wasn’t going to make the mistakes they made, and end up with the sleep issues they now faced. We were going to do this right.
Of course when James finally came home from the NICU we held him all the time and rocked him to sleep. We waited so long to bring him home, I couldn’t do it any other way. We all needed that time together. Eventually we worked on changing his sleep routine. As much as I enjoyed rocking him to sleep, I didn’t want him to rely on it every night.
Well, a routine only stays a routine if it’s done consistently. When you trade off days at home (I was home 4 days a week, and my husband was home 3), you have to agree and do things the same way. Andy agreed, but he continued to rock James to sleep. He wasn’t ready to give up that precious time with him. And you can imagine which sleep routine James preferred.
This was a battle I wasn’t going to win, so we rocked. Nap time, bed time, anytime he woke in the night we always rocked him to sleep. And now I’m so glad we did. I loved that time with James. I loved how he smelled, especially after a bath. I loved singing to him and the little sounds he would make if I stopped. I loved how his whole body relaxed on my shoulder. I loved how I could tell he was asleep from the change in his breathing. I loved it especially because it made me feel like his mom. There are lots of caregiver things that have to be done. This wasn’t one of those things. This was a tender, loving, bonding time we needed. The NICU created so many scars in both of us. The simple act of rocking him to sleep was one way for them to heal.
Just to be fair, it wasn’t always easy. There were nights I was ready to pull my hair out when he was still awake after rocking for an hour, but those nights were few in comparison.
I still rock James to sleep every night. His pediatrician just smiled and shook his head when we discussed it a couple of weeks ago. He knows it’s a battle he won’t win. I will continue to rock James as long as he’ll let me. I’ll do it for all the times I watched him cry in the NICU and couldn’t pick him up, saw him in pain but wasn’t allowed to hold him, for all the times he was scared and alone. For all those heartbreaking times I couldn’t be his mom, I will be his mom now. I know the time will come when he won’t want to be rocked to sleep, but until then I will enjoy every healing moment.