How is Thanksgiving next week?! I was sitting at my parent’s with our friends and family after my mom’s funeral in July, I blinked and now it’s November. Time is irrelevant in the state of avoidance I’ve been occupying. Here in reality it’s all important. It’s where our memories are stored and our futures are written, a measure of our moments.
I logged on a few days ago and there was a memory of a post I made thanking my mom for watching Emily when she was about a year old and we were having sleep issues. We had been co sleeping since the night I brought her home from NICU. Putting her to bed had become a nightly battle, tho. I (naively) asked for advice on a mommy Facebook page. Convinced I was placing her in grave danger, a gaggle of new moms staged an intervention prevailing upon me to end my reckless co-sleeping habit and begin sleep training Emily.
Nearly the entirety of Emily’s short life had been spent in my arms. I swear I didn’t put that baby down until she insisted on walking. She slept on my chest and I either wore her or carried her all day every day. Sleep training would be challenging.
As an impressionable new mother Wanting to do everything right, I gave it try.
I would rock her every night for as long as it took her to fall asleep. And each night I would gently carry her to her crib, delicately set her down …and then run on my tip toes to watch her on the baby monitor from my room. Night after night the scene on the monitor was the same; 2 or 3 minutes of Emily peacefully sleeping before she’d begin to fidget. She would roll to one side, furrow her little brow and roll to the other side, reaching her arms out and grasping her hands in search of something to soothe herself. I wld watch, resisting the urge to run in & get her. She tossed & turned, flailed & fussed Until finally, becoming so distressed by her need for comfort going unmet she’d wake up crying, confused & furious, wanting her mother.
It’s at this point in sleep training that parents are instructed to let the baby cry for 3 to 5 minutes before going in to calm them, then leaving again. Seeing Emily reach & search for me was hard, watching her cry knowing she needed me, was more painful every second that ticked by. Three minutes was an eternity, she’d have worked herself into a red faced screaming hysteria by then. It was torture, I felt like I had abandoned her. I couldn’t imagine what she was feeling, having drifted to sleep safely cuddled in her mother’s arms only to wake up alone, uncertain and unable to reach me. It was that thought that sent me running to her room, lifting her into my arms and promising her mommy would never leave her like that again.
The immediate weeks and months after the death of someone beloved, the warmth love and support of the person you’ve lost lingers. You can easily recall your last exchanges, effortlessly bring to mind their face & expressions in perfect detail, still smell their perfume on their clothes and feel their presence in your life, the separation doesn’t feel so acute.
You find something solid to hold onto like family, friends or faith and without even realizing it you’re covered with a soft blanket of memories, nostalgia . No pain exists here in this dreamlike state, but a persistent, undefined ache and an awareness that something is missing haunt every moment. Slowly at first, a search ensues. The dream begins to fade as you toss and turn and reach out for that source of comfort you’ve lost.
I’ve been in denial for the last 4 months, sleep walking through life. Until, reality came barging in making demands.
3 weeks ago now I got some news that left me wanting to talk to my mom so badly I began frantically reaching out, searching for the safety of her arms….And was forced to face the reality that she is forever unreachable.
It was then that I became so distressed by my need for comfort going unmet that I “woke up” crying, confused & furious, needing my mother.
And thus a new stage of grief begins, painfully aware of this new reality, but blessedly learning to exist in it.
Grammar, Emily and Mommy on the lake, 2014
Mom pregnant with me, church trip in Colorado 1979
Mimi comforting her baby for one of the last times June 2019