I've been in a walking stupor for the last few days. I am simply not getting enough sleep. I start each night with prayers and high hopes and end it each morning deeper in the pit of sleep deprivation. It is no wonder that denying prisoners sleep is used as a method of torture because it is tortuous. I can handle a night here or there of not enough sleep, usually due to staying up too late with Nathan with a movie and late night conversation, but several nights in a row is unmanageable.
Here is where I point fingers and complain... I am currently getting less sleep nursing my almost three year old through the night than I did when she was an infant. Yes that's right... start the gasps... Echo is 30 months old, sleeps in our bed, and has been nursing eight to nine times per night (basically the entire night). I know this is culturally unusual. I know I would get more sleep, at least at this point, if she were in her own bed. I know it is "all my fault". I know that there are some of you reading this right now that are filling up with incredulity and anger.
I also know that I will head to bed in a little bit and make all the same decisions again.
I'm not sure what my plan is. I only know that I am unwilling to turn nursing, which has been the ultimate form of unconditional nurturing love in Echo's life for three years, into something contentious, and negative. I just can't do it. I want to be an unwavering pillar of strength, consistent, and loving. I do not want to suddenly (at least in her eyes) sprout spikes and leap out of the darkness, angry and self-righteous. She isn't doing anything wrong, merely following her own interests and desires. It is only because I have changed my interest that her behavior feels inappropriate or unwanted.
I know my body can handle this. I have not forgotten the amazing capability of the human body, something I marveled at during pregnancy. I felt I could climb mountains after giving birth. My own power, strength, and stamina is real. It would be easy to simply declare that my body can no longer handle the strain of nursing any longer, but it would be a lie.
Still, I am not finding it easy. In the morning my nipples are raw, my back is tight, and my hips are sore. I am also nearly delirious, crying at the drop of a hat, and recasting every single aspect of my life in a negative light. I am mad at Nathan (for any reason I can conger) and completely bereft of any emotional stamina.
Still I am unwilling to aggressively withdraw my nursing love.
I am not stubbornly staying the course either. I talk to Echo about stopping nursing, or at the very least nursing less. I have told her outright that I do not want to nurse at night. She agrees to this, saying she is willing to just snuggle through the night and nurse again in daylight, but somehow she doesn't remember, or care, about this deal at 4a.m.
I also arm myself with a banana, a big bottle of water, and a large glass of milk, and offer these to her each time she nuzzles up to nurse. She happily and groggily accepts these new nighttime delights, settles back in, almost nods off, and then turns to me to nurse herself all the way to sleep. Again and again.
You could say it's not working. Maybe it isn't. But it also kind of is too. I am being my true, most loving (of myself) self by being the kind of mother I want to be. This is my version of lifting the heavy automobile off of the baby in order to save it's life. No, Echo isn't actually in danger, she certainly would live if I decided to never nurse her again. But I am accomplishing an amazing physical feat every night that I nurse her longer than is comfortable. I am not resting, but I can rest assured that our relationship is not threatened by a sudden, jerky change of mind on my part. And in the end, that is what is important to me.
I can sleep later, when she is twenty and living in a grimy apartment off campus (at least a little more!). I can catch up then when getting more sleep doesn't mean breaking her heart and causing her to wonder who her mother really is.