Why Can’t I Hold Him?

So. I’m sitting here, same as always, at 9:45pm holding my sleeping son. Every night about 9, he gets a bath, we sing “Goodnight Sweetheart” like in 3 Men and a Baby, give him a massage with lavender oil and I nurse him and rock him to sleep. Every night. Since he was two weeks old.

Since he is now 18 weeks, I’m starting sleep training. Thankfully, this little ritual has made nighttime relatively awesome for us. When he’s down, he’s down. But so many experts, friends, moms, grand moms…tell me over and over “don’t rock him or nurse him to sleep. You’ll regret it.”

But how? No. Seriously. How? He falls asleep faster when I’m holding him, sleeps longer when we CAN co-sleep with him during naps, or on the couch, and stays asleep longer stretches at night when I hold him for at least 45 minutes before laying him down. I get that he may have a hard time falling asleep without the snuggles, but I’m a 31 year old adult and I have a hard time falling asleep with out snuggles! I can, but if my husband is gone, sleep sucks. I still have my teddy bear from when I was a child for when Jeremy is gone. His name is Freddy. He’s not shoved in a box or closet…he’s sitting on my dresser. Wearing a scarf a friend made me.

Damian spent 42 weeks snuggled up inside me, he loves to be touched and held, and I was devastated co-sleeping didn’t work out because we have a Queen bed (way too small!). My favorite time of the day is our bedtime ritual. He loves the bath – LOOOOOOVES it – and he smiles when we start singing. It’s the only time he’s not fighting me when we walk into the bedroom, he’s not looking around while eating, and sometimes, he unlatches solely because he wants his soothie and buries his head into me and is out. He even gives this contented sigh.

When I’m holding him, his hand has a vice-like grip on my finger, his other hand rubs my arm and chest as if to say “I just want to touch you mama”, I can’t help but lift him up to put his cheek next to mine, and I just keep kissing him and rocking him. It’s the only time of day I don’t simultaneously want to play/eat/sleep/work/clean/put him down/talk to my husband. No. At bedtime everything is about him. All my thoughts are on him and loving him – and he knows it. When I’m holding him, all I want to do, more than anything in the world, is to just lay him on my bed and snuggle up next to him to go to sleep. When I finally put him in his bed, I actually feel this overwhelming sense of loss. In fact, today my husband slept with him during his nap time. When i put him down next to my husband, seeing his tiny body curl into his daddy, I simultaneously wanted to smile and take a picture, while my heart broke and I wanted to sob. I couldn’t lay down too. I had too much to do. 

Maybe it’s because my main love language is Quality Time, and my close second for loved ones is Touch. Maybe my addiction for this amazing time with my son is completely self serving, because I get both from him in these moments, and I get both so infrequently any more from anyone else. Not because they don’t try, but because being a mom takes a till on everything from sleep to emotions to marriage to hygiene.

Then again, maybe I just simply know there are only 2,879 more nights before his 8th birthday when he decides bedtime rituals are “for babies”; or only 2,003 days before my 6 year old stays at a friend’s house; or only 1,003 days before my 3 year old wants to go to sleep “like big boy”; or only about 225 days before my son is officially a toddler.

Maybe I just know these moments are fleeting, and goddammit I’m not going to be guilted into feeling like wanting to hold my child is a bad thing. Because he’s not the only one here that wants to just be held.