By Dina L. Relles for Brain, Child: The Magazine for Thinking Mothers
It is dark and still. The single lamp casts a warm glow on the orange walls. His tiny hand wrapped in mine; his chest rhythmically rises and falls with each breath, nearly lulling me back to sleep. I’m curled up in the rocking chair, my tattered gray t-shirt raised slightly, his warm body cradled around my soft, bare belly. He nurses.
I could hear a lone car drive by on 8th street. Otherwise, it feels as if we are the only ones in the world.
For most of his first year, my son would wake at 4 a.m. and cry out. Weary with the weight of months of sleep deprivation, I nevertheless traipsed into his softly lit room each time with meaningful purpose. To feed, to comfort.
Nothing changed when I went back to work. I would still nurse him before dawn and place him back into his crib for more sleep. Then I would start my day, fitting in a couple billable hours before the world awoke.
How I loved those 4 a.m. feedings. I never wanted to let them go. I savored the time alone with my son and the peaceful possibility of those early mornings. Years later, it’s still when I like to wake, when I write—my sacred, silent start of day.
But when my son was nine months old, I went away on business—a two-day stint to Dayton, Ohio for expert depositions. My mother came in from New York to stay with the baby. I’ll never forget receiving her call to my hotel room to proudly report that my son had slept through the night.
What I heard was that he no longer needed me.
Indeed, even when I returned home, he had weaned himself of that 4 a.m. feeding. Most mothers would be thrilled.
Why couldn’t I let it go?