My son and I went on a hike this morning with a family and baby group. I was so excited to go as my husband isn't much for hiking and I've been dying to get out in the woods since Jericho was born. The only downfall? The hike started at a conservation in Cambridge at 9:30am. We usually aren't out of bed in the morning until at least 10:00am usually closer to 10:30am. I rolled out of bed later than I should have, dragging myself around to get dressed and get the baby's things together. At the last possible second I got the babes ready and scrambled out the door with the help of my husband - who himself was still half asleep after a short night. Thankfully Jericho was content in the car and surprisingly even throughout the hike; sleeping most of the way. I breast fed him in his carrier while walking when he was hungry and felt really good about myself at the end when I'd walked around for an hour and carried him gently the whole way. What a fantastic start to the day; despite being tired from a short night and getting up early I felt refreshed.
Fast forward to noon - baby is overtired and refusing to nurse and go to bed for his nap despite showing all the cues that he's super tired. I breath. Pause. Breath. Pause. Hold my son close and tell him loving things in a gentle voice as he cries for a reason I haven't discovered yet. I try to nurse him, he pulls away and cries harder. I hold him close again, he continues to wail. I breath. Pause. Breath. Pause. This goes on for an hour and a half. Finally he falls asleep on his nursing pillow with my breast gently nestled inside his mouth. He looks peaceful and as if he's taken in all the love from the last hour and a half. I watch him for awhile, breathing in and out. In and out. After a little while I decide to move him to his crib so he can have a better nap and be more comfortable. As my breast slips from his mouth he wakes....and wails. I try to soothe him back into a sleepy slumber but he quickly becomes wide eyed. I feel a twinge of irritation as all of my efforts appear to have been in vain. I feel upset as I wanted to take a bath and relax before my husband leaves for work. I push those feelings aside and try to remain calm and gentle. Jericho cries. I breathe. Pause. Breath. I try all of the loving things I can think of but my intentions feel different now. Before I just wanted to comfort my tired baby and now I just want him to sleep so I can have an hour of selfish peace. I place Jericho in his swing. I tell my husband if he cries he needs to get him. I quickly sink into a hot bath knowing it'll be brief. I relax. I breathe. Pause. Breath. Pause.
My bath only lasted 10min before my husband came into the bathroom with the baby, looking distraught and claiming that he couldn't get him to settle because “he needs his mom”. But you know what? Those 10min were all I needed. I want to make sure my son always feels safe, protected and that he is comforted by my presence and at the breast. Sometimes that means I need 5 or even 10min to myself to regain my gentleness. I got out of the tub to find my husband pretending to eat my sweet baby as if he was the most delicious cookie in the world. My heart melted a little. My husband went to get ready for work and Jericho settled to sleep at the breast again drifting off peacefully to a lullaby land. I smiled. I breathed deeply. I paused and was happy.
The lesson: give yourself permission to struggle with gentleness.
Being as gentle parent has always been my goal but it's not easy. It comes naturally only until you've reached your maximum capacity for the crying - which is different each day depending on how tired you are - and then it's a downright struggle the rest of the way. But easy isn't what any Mom signs up for and being a gentle parent is so worth it both for Jericho and I. I never have to regret my actions, words or thoughts when I give myself permission to struggle with gentleness and then persevere to be gentle.
So Moms, give yourself permission. Keep breathing, pausing and struggling with perseverance to be a gentle Mom. Be the Mom who provides her child comfort even when they don't know what they want or when you can't figure it out and the crying is getting to you.
Keeping being awesome Moms. Reach out for support, community and encouragement & Ill be here struggling right along with you.