Now that it's been happening for a week, I feel cautiously optimistic in telling you that Vicki Jo has started sleeping ten or eleven hours every night without waking. My feelings about this surprising development have kind of startled me.
It all started when Jeff had a four-week training in Kansas City to become a manager for his restaurant (the astute among you will note that "the pastor and the bartender" is now inaccurate, but "the pastor and the manager" just doesn't have the same ring, huh?). I was left in charge of baby, dog and self with him only coming home every four or five days for a night or two. As always, I was trying to keep as close as possible to a 7:00 bedtime for the young one, with frequent interruptions because she was coming along with me for everything at church in the evenings. Usually we would make our way through this routine, I would lay her down in her little cradle that Jeff's granddaddy made for him (in our bedroom), and she would sleep anywhere from a couple hours all the way to midnight or so. Whenever she woke up and cried out, I would come and bring her to bed with me. Jeff would join us later, as he's a night owl.
Over time, I began to realize that I was awakening her night after night when I came in to the bedroom and picked her up to take to bed with me. I resolved one night to see how long we could go before she woke me up by crying. My eyes drooped shut on the living room couch, and next time I opened them, it was four in the morning! She had gone nine hours! Astonishing.
The next night, I let her try again. This time she didn't wake up at all. I woke her up at six when I went in to start getting ready for the day. And this has continued to happen every night since then. She has had a couple bad dreams thrown in there, but I can manage to soothe her and get her back to sleep. She is no longer waking from hunger.
I thought that I would be ecstatic about this development. Finally, Vicki Jo has gained the ability and independence to be without me for a long stretch of time at night. I have evenings free to watch tv, read blogs, or do whatever it is adults do after seven pm. I thought there would be a sweet feeling of freedom. Instead, I felt kind of . . . useless. And a little bit lonely. I had gotten so accustomed to the baby sleeping near me that I found that I missed all the time that we had shared. And yet, when I went to wake the baby up and bring her to bed with me, I knew that she didn't sleep well. Being so close all night was starting to stand in her way.
It was my first real taste of "my baby is growing up" sadness, and it hit me surprisingly hard. As she nears a full twelve month trip around the sun, I am reminded of how tiny and helpless she was when we brought her home. I just couldn't bear the thought of being separated from her for even a moment. One year later, and she can spend half a day's time on her own, soothing herself and perhaps even enjoying a little alone time.
I do see that my few hours with her are precious. When I work all day and she sleeps all night, we only see each other for a little bit in the morning and the evening. I see how much I had relied on that time spent together at night to bring us closer together. It almost makes me reconsider my decision to go back to work, and now that her dad got that promotion . . .