Confession: I rock my baby to sleep. Every night. And I rocked her brother to sleep, too.
I know what the books and all the experts say. "Put your baby in her crib while she's drowsy, but still awake. This way she learns to fall asleep without you."
Well poppycock, I say. Because I'll tell you this - those moments when I'm holding her while she's fast asleep are my most redeeming part of motherhood.
We get to just be, she and I. I'm not needed for anything. There are no tears, no whining. No battle over trying to force feed her solids (baby food of all varieties is NOT going over well). I don't have to entertain her or play peek-a-boo for the millionth time, and she doesn't have to compete with her big brother for my attention. It's just me and the weight of her body, the smell of her skin and the softness of her breathing.
It's my reset button, especially on the hard days. The days when poop, spit-up and pee have hit every non-moving surface - and all the ones that didn't move quickly enough, too. The days when nothing I do seems quite right, and she fusses constantly. The days when the days and nights before have been bad too, and I'm running on fumes. The days when I'm just keeping my eye on the finish line and waiting for it to be blessedly over.
But holding her close and rocking gently as she dreams erases all that. When it's a bad day, it's her at her best, and I finally get an opportunity - sometimes for the first time that day - to be at mine. I cradle her the way she likes and press a kiss to her smooth forehead, breathing in that perfect baby smell. Sometimes I take a few minutes to pray over her; that God will always keep her safe and that she'll always know she's loved. Sometimes I pray for me, too - asking for patience and gentleness as I look to starting anew tomorrow. This time each night is my reminder of why I ever wanted to be a mom in the first place.
And, as she grows and takes up more space in my arms, I need these few quiet moments to cherish her smallness. Usually, it's the only part of the day when I will agree with all the little old ladies who tell me how quickly this phase passes, and how much I'll long for it when it's gone.
So, sorry, baby experts. I'll vaccinate on schedule and follow your carseat safety guidelines to a T. I'll even try my hand at making my own baby food. But I have already had one sweet baby morph into a gangly whirlwind of a four year-old right before my very eyes to remind me the smallness doesn't last. So I will hold my baby close, even once her tummy is full. I'll watch her eyes droop close and listen for the change in breathing and feel the relaxing of her muscles as she slips off to sleep. And then I'll relax, too. I'll enjoy a few minutes of being a mama, without the hard parts. Someday, she'll learn to fall asleep without me. But while I'm here and she still fits so perfectly against me, we rock.