As I start this post Luka is sleeping in his bed. I say start because I have no illusions that I’ll actually finish it in one sitting, but it’s significant that he’s in his bed. Significant because he hasn’t slept in his bed in nearly a week. His daytime naps he’s been wrapped close to my chest, my movements calming him and our hearts beating in sync. At night, he’s been snuggled in the crook of my arm, easy access to his milk and secure with his little body touching mine. But on a whim, I tried laying him down in his bed when he fell asleep this morning. And 45 minutes later, he is still there.
As I was nursing him to sleep, I realized that I couldn’t actually remember the last time Ruby nursed. It wasn’t yesterday. Was it the day before? Or was that the night she surprised me and went to sleep with just a cuddle from Daddy? And as much as I am ready for her to be completely weaned, I started feeling sad. Three years and it’s just over? (Although I’m not sure that she’s actually done, she is certainly getting close.)
That’s both the beauty and the sadness of following your child’s lead. There is no big party when they decide to sleep in their bed or when they decide it’s time to wean. You don’t know when the last time they fall asleep on your chest will be. It just happens. But you know when it does happen that they are ready. My babies don’t sleep through the night because they were left crying in a bed and learned that no one comes so they might as well give up and sleep. My babies sleep through the night because they are developmentally ready. They are secure, they are bonded, because they’ve learned early that every need they have will be met, whether it’s a need to nurse or to sleep in someone’s arms.
When Isla was almost two, I went to nurse her one night and she told me no, she wanted milk in a cup. I offered the next few days, but she always chose the cup. And that was that. Ruby’s weaning process has been much more gradual. We’re down to once a day, but last week she took a bite of ice cream instead, and since then it’s been only every other day or two that she’s asked to nurse.
It’s like a baby learning to walk. First they pull up, maybe start cruising around the furniture. Then a step or two. Maybe they fall down. It’s scary so they are back to being carried in mama’s arms for a few days until they are ready to try again. Then one step turns into three and four and soon they are running across the room.
It’s been an hour and nine minutes and Luka is still asleep. In his bed. But I’m not about to ring a bell and shout it from the rooftops. Because this afternoon he will probably need to be held to sleep. And tonight he may not sleep anywhere except my bed. But his little wings are starting to spread. And some day, just like his sisters did, he’ll hear a story, sing a song, get kisses and hugs and sleep all night long in his own bed. Maybe it will be soon, maybe not for another year. But one day he won’t need me in the same way, so I’m gonna treasure it as long as I can. Even when it means my back is aching from the awkward sleeping position or he’s been nursing for 90 minutes straight and I feel like he’s sucking the life out of me.
Because someday I will miss this.