While I was deep in the heart of sleep training my first baby, I loved him unconditionally.
I adored that baby of mine and would have moved heaven and earth for him. The reason I was sleep training was that I honestly and whole heartedly feared for his growth and development if I didn’t get him sleeping ‘better’. It was the hardest and most heart wrenching decision I have ever made and although ultimately, has become one of my deepest regrets, it was not a decision made out of lack of love or a limit on love.
Despite this, my completely helpless, innocent, trusting, ever so wakeful little firecracker, was for the first time, experiencing conditions to my love.
His need for love from birth was simple, even if the effort required to keep up with those needs was exhausting. Love for a baby is felt on an extremely physical level. They feel loved when they are held close, comforted and secure. They feel love when they see your face appear and you lift them up when they cry. They feel love when you make eye contact and smile and delight in them. They feel love when you scoop them up and soothe their worries with cuddles, rocking and boob.
Honouring each and every cry
These needs and the love that they feel when they are met, do not stop at nap time, they do not stop when the sun goes down.
The decision to sleep train suddenly placed conditions on each and everyone of these core needs for my baby.
I had to restrict my touch at nap time and bed time as much as I possibly could to allow my baby to learn to ‘self settle’.
I could cuddle my baby to calm him down once he was hysterical but then once he’d calmed, the cuddle had to end, no longer could he fall asleep in the calm, safe place of my arms.
I could no longer breastfeed my baby to sleep nor feed him on demand at night. We had acceptable times to go between feeds overnight to stamp out unnecessary ‘comfort sucking’ and using me as a ‘dummy/ pacifier’.
I could no longer simply hear my baby cry and assume he needed a cuddle. Now, I had to listen and try to decide if he was ‘just protesting’ or was he ‘emotional’? Did he need me to pick him up or would a bit of shhhhing or tapping his mattress be enough?
So many arbitrary conditions to my demonstrations of love that my baby knew, trusted and understood.
So many new barriers to my arms. So many new barriers between us.
My love was still wholehearted but it was no longer pure and unconditionally felt by my baby.
He was at sea with our loss of synchronicity.
We found our way back to each other, we regained our trust. We recovered our broken hearts but the scars still remain.
For me, those scars have been one of my ultimate life lessons.
Loving unconditionally within your own heart and mind is one thing but true love without conditions only lives when it is felt by the one that you love.
Babies are complex and unique but to love them is really quite simple- show them your love, every day and every way that you can.
Love does not need conditions, limits or rules.
Love is love. It’s yours to give and theirs to keep and will never be something you regret as long as you live.
Follow that baby mama, they are by far your best teacher.
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