Today, Nahlo, for the first time, said “I love you” before coming up to me and giving me a huge hug and a kiss on the shoulder. He loves balls and being outside. In fact, he doesn’t love being inside. Inside, things can get rather intense but as soon as we are out in the open wide space of nature, he is blissfully easy.
He surprised me this week. I organised a workshop for our Yoga Teacher Trainees and thought I’d go in for the intro to it, where everyone introduces themselves, and then slide out the door. I packed tiny cubes of watermelon incase he wouldn’t sit still, because this always works – with the belief that ten minutes in, he would be over it and want to leave.
As we sat in circle he sat quietly in my lap and watched as people introduced themselves and shared their intention. He slid down into the ultimate relaxed posture (think man on couch, legs spread, beer in hand, tv on, kinda slouched) and chilled out for around 45 minutes before we were led through a meditation. I opened my eyes, looked down at his little face, he has drifted off to sleep. Unbelievable.
This is a child who does not need a lot of sleep. I’m one of those mums who plans her days in a way that most of the time, he gets his naps in the car. Partly, so I can do things, hang out with other people, and generally not be confined to a routine, which ties us down within four walls.
To be honest, in the first year I struggled. So much so, that Brendan stepped in and started to take charge on the night shift. He would put him to sleep in the cot before pulling him into bed with him and tend to him if he woke, until midnight-ish, when he would bring him in to me. Slowly, but surely, midnight turned into 1am, which turned into 2am, which turned into 3am, which now sits at around 4am.
This means my bedtime went from 7pm, to 8pm and now, currently sits at around 9pm. Any later and I start to freak out a little. Nahlo’s bedtime has done about the same – starting at 7pm and now is about 8-8:30pm.
A lot of other mums I talk to stay up after babe has gone to sleep to have some time to themselves. Me? I’m straight under the covers with a book. As someone who used to sleep at least 8 hours a night, plus have a day time nap, which would often go for over an hour, my sleep is top priority. I’m shit without it – so we learned. I’ve always been one to go down with the sun and wake up just before it, and I’m happy to be sliding back into that rhythm.
With Nahlo joining me around 4am, I give him a feed and he goes back to sleep, and I roll out of bed and sit. Nothing fancy. No zafu and zabuton. No cushion. I literally slide off the mattress I sleep on, on the floor and use the edge of it to perch my hips, wrap the sheet around me and off I go, to the sounds of Nahlo breathing. I then usually crawl into the spare room opposite us, in the dark, and roll around with the bolster in a very slow and sloth-like manner. I pop the kettle on, make a tea, drink it and then open my laptop to work. By 6am (or more recently, 6:30am) Nahlo stirs, calls for me and I go and greet him with cuddles and kisses and put my mum hat on. Actually, this morning, he ran out of the room all excited about being alive – or something like that.
I’ve recently stopped the morning feed upon him waking up. For no other reason than it just felt right. I spent 18 months with that being my most favorite time. Waking, Nahlo crawling on top of me, all sleepy eyed, before latching and drifting in and out of the deepest peace. This filled my cup more than I can explain. Heaven.
Feeding Vs Weaning
I always thought I would demand feed up until my children were 3, or 4 if they wished. I also promised myself that I would stop doing it if I ever felt resentment or just a general feeling of being over it, knowing full well that he would feel whatever I was feeling. The last thing I want him to feel is him being on the boob, and me not really being that into it.
Nahlo had been asking a lot for the boob, just to jump on it, then straight off it again, not even feeding. He wasn’t hungry, he wasn’t thirsty, and a couple of times this has agitated me. I decided to start, for the first time, saying no. I didn’t want to cut it old cold turkey because when he was on there for a feed I still enjoyed it, but every couple of hours, and sometimes more, wasn’t working for me anymore.
He would grizzle a bit when I wouldn’t give in but I stayed strong, deciding that I would cut back all feeds, except upon waking, lunch, before sleep and one night time. Some days, he persists – pulling at my clothes and grizzling to me like his life depends on it, and I am gentle when I explain the situation. He is usually pretty good! I’m always surprised at how much he understands. Some days he just needs a good cry, and me saying no is the trigger. So, I actively listen lovingly and give him plenty of cuddles. Then, he is happy.
More recently, I have stopped the feed just before sleep and also the early morning one. The night time one was easy. We have shifted it to after dinner, but we usually go to the beach, or have a play between then and bed, so there is no association between feeding and sleeping.
The morning one was more challenging for me at first! I’d have to be ready to get up and get breaky on, instead of lying around with him on the boob. On the flip side, he now seems to be sleeping in longer. Only by half hour, and sometimes 45 minutes, but still. It has also opened up more time and space for me to practice in those blissfully serene hours.
So, currently we are at 2-3 feeds a day and I am happy with this, as is he. Those times are full of presence and love. Zero wanting to be anywhere else.
Brendan is seriously the hero here. When he stepped in, it was tough for all of us, but also relieving to see how gentle and loving Brendan was with him while he was upset. He would explain to him that mumma needed to sleep and that daddy loved him and was going to sleep with him now, so mumma could rest. Nahlo would cry for me but I just couldn’t go back to giving him the boob every hour through the night, and after holding him while he cried for a lot of nights running, I couldn’t handle it anymore. I was so tired, depleted and Nahlo is persistent when he wants something. (No idea where he gets that from)
It was hard for me to hear him upset and to know that if I gave him the boob, he would feel better but it was a dead end road. The pattern needed to change and Bren was willing to do the sleepless nights to help make it happen. Little by little, Nahlo slept for longer and longer and way more soundly. He was getting much better sleep, as was I and soon, dad too.
These days, it’s not often he will wake more than once or twice a night and he sleeps better when he is with Brendan! As a major plus, the way the two of them have bonded is incredible. I believe that Brendan holding Nahlo and being so gentle and loving with him, especially when he was upset, built an incredible trust between them – like, Nahlo being able to tell him anything and knows he won’t be judged or shamed or shut out when he is upset. These days, if we are both available and Nahlo needs to have a tantrum, we both sit down with him and actively listen lovingly. Obviously, if there is just one of us around, we do the same. To be there for him, when he is feeling emotional, is top priority.
I have started occasionally putting Nahlo to sleep again. It had been many months since I had done it. For most of Nahlo’s life, Bren has been the one to put him down at night, and it is the single best thing I did. Not only am I off mumma duties but I can get into bed earlier. Plus, the bonding part for the boys of course.
High fives, hugs and kisses
Yesterday, we were at the beach. Nahlo was chasing birds before he ran up to three girls to high five them. We walked through our regular shopping centre where we get some groceries, and he high fived those who were willing along the way. When I’m holding him, he will often kiss me rhythmically on the shoulder over and over again and recently, he has started grabbing my face so he can give me a pash. The affection incredible. Move over cute little parasite – this little human gives back in spades. He cuddles his little buddies, hold their hands and every single night, he finds the faces of his little toys to kiss and hug them before going to bed.
The village it takes to raise a child
I remember the first time someone told me that it takes a village. I was pregnant. I nodded and inwardly thought smugly “I’m not going to need that.” I know from the outside, I seem social, but the major part of me is a loner. I like my own company and I need loads of space and silence. It was pretty early on that I realised I needed to be around other mums. I reached out time and time again to a few mummas who I now consider some of my closest friends. Funnily enough, we all have boys around the same age. We all have very similar parenting views and I have no idea where I would be without them. In fact, the hussler and planner that I am – is currently creating a world where I have someone to call on if I need. Gratefully, I found out that we all kind of felt like we were sinking and were desperate to get some space and get back to see our yoga teachers.
This is so important. The village is vital to feel whole and connected. When you don’t have family around who can be really involved and help take the load, you need to find others who can. After a period of feeling like I was quite literally drowning, I can feel the load lightening and I can see the space opening up. I can also see Nahlo thriving with other mummas and children who he has been given plenty of time to become comfortable around.
Mysore – here I come. It’s been years! Oh, except once, when Brendan took the time off and I literally fell apart on my mat, and wasn’t able to return due to lack of a Nahlo-sitter.
Oh, how this changes. I have had to let go of that regular 1-2 hour mat practice I could once do with so much freedom. Now, it comes in bits and pieces. We go to the beach every day and I sit in the sand and play with Nahlo while coming back to the breath and moving about while I can. Recently, he has been giving me a bit more freedom and joins in more and more. Three legged dog has become the fav, after many, many months of mastering Downward Dog and Headstand prep.
I go to bed mega early and wake up before the birds to sit for a minimum of 20 minutes – often around 40. If Nahlo is yet to stir, I crawl into the next room and lie on a bolster, while gentle and slowing shifting positions to loosen my body up and relax my mind. I will often get the time in to have a tea and even sometimes, get some work done on my computer – all by 6am. Queenslanders – that’s 5am your time!
It hasn’t always been like that. In earlier days, I would go for many days without moving my body in a way that would nourish it. I was simply in survival, trying to keep my head above water, be a good mum, be a good homemaker, make nourishing food for everyone and run a business. It was fucking hard! It is still fucking hard!
Wearing different hats
Motherhood is hard man. Did I say that already? For me, anyway. Some people slide into it gracefully. It’s all they ever wanted. I’m not one of those people. Of course, I am so incredibly grateful I have Nahlo, I wanted him with every single cell of my body – in no way am I saying anything other. The truth is though, I never felt the desire to be a stay at home mum. Yes, I felt the desire to have a baby, but I always knew how important it was for me to continue to wear my Darci hat, for lack of a better word.
Lets define ‘Darci’.
She loves her work and does not want to give it up. She has an innate need to do things, which involve taking her mum hat off and tossing it aside to collect after she has done some things purely for her. Things like working on her business. Things like writing. Things like planning community events and things like teaching yoga. She thrives on opening her laptop and planning out her month and seeing where she can push the envelope.
When Darci wears her Darci hat, for 10-20 hours a week, she is a rad mother who is able to be present and thoroughly enjoys being a mum. When she doesn’t get to wear her Darci hat, she is a fucking mess.
We are all different. I know many mums who are happy just being mum. Sometimes I wish I had a bit more of that. Sometimes Brendan does too. But we knew long before we conceived that that would never be the case. We thought it might change, because, really, you never know, but it didn’t.
I was trying to figure out where the Yoga-ing Darci sits, but she sits amongst it all. She is in everything ‘mumma’ Darci and ‘Darci’ Darci do. It’s not always graceful, because motherhood, in these early years is anything but graceful, especially with your first child (I cannot comment on second child). Grace certainly slides. Don’t believe what you see on Instagram.
While we are here, and everyone is asking – will we have a second child? Brendan would at the drop of the hat. Me? Not anytime soon. I am just starting to settle into this parenting gig. (before I quietly lose my marbles again…and again) I will think about it when Nahlo can get me a glass of water. I had someone recently ask me if I was worried about age. Not a bit. I’m going to trust the process. And for those who are wondering, I’m almost 38.
Motherhood is turbulent. It’s beyond beautifully full-filling. Its a rocky exploration between effort and surrender. Its emotional and has stretched my capacity to love and self love beyond belief. In the midst of chaos, I drop into gratitude easily. Because I practice. I practice kindness and the art of allowing. I apologise a lot. I cry a load – easier than I ever have before. Transparency and vulnerability are at an all time high. Sometimes, this makes me feel shame, but I remember that is the illusion of my patterns. Patterns which are eternally shifting and merging with love.