Friday, March 30, 2012

He Fell Asleep With Me.

For many months after Seth and Lizzie came home, while Matthew slept, the younger kids and I had a habit of 'cuddling' first thing in the morning after they'd woken up...early in the morning when they'd wake up at 5:30am or so.  But you may notice that I am wrapping the word 'cuddling' in single quotation marks.  The truth is that those early-day times were neither restful nor cuddly times for me.  Though Lizzie was a master cuddler from day one (and still is), Seth was full of anxiety and restlessness and his anxiety bled over into me.  He wanted to be there with me for hours on end, but he could never just settle in and actually cuddle.  He moved around endlessly, never still for more than about five seconds - trying to get ever closer to me, and jabbing elbows and knees and nose and chin into various parts of me while he maneuvered himself around my body.

He was simply unable to relax in the moment; there was an air of frantic and intense need enveloping his presence.  He had to have every part of his body touching mine, and his muscles would remain tense in order to hold himself in awkward positions that enabled him to feel secure; then, seconds after he seemed to find a position that worked for him, he would begin to squirm and wriggle again.  It was ceaseless and exhausting for me, and it always felt like he was trying to climb into me - under my skin or something.  While he maneuvered, he would pepper me with questions, more and more of them as his language skills picked up.  He would bend his face over my sleepy one and, so close that I couldn't even focus on his eyes, so close that I inhaled his morning breath, he would stare at me while plying me with questions: "what you doing now?" "where we go today?" "why this (blanket) white?" "why you move arm?" "why you get me in Ethiopia?" "why you look at me?" "why you open mouth?" "why I born in Eetopia?" "what you want?" "why your eyes closed?" "where Wolayta?" "why you answer slow?" "why your eyes open?" "why your eyes closed?" "why I not born in tummy?" "where your feet?" "why your hand closed?" "why your hand open?" "why you make noise?" "why we lie in your bed?"

For months, I tried to make this early part of the day work - for up to two hours at a time until Matthew woke up.  The problem was that by the time Matthew was up at about 7:30am, I was already worn out: physically, emotionally, mentally.  I began to dread these wrestling and inquisition-like sessions and began, too, to resent Seth's desperation about it all.  So I began to shorten the sessions.  I gradually reduced them to an hour, and eventually down to about 20-25 minutes.  When I was done, I would sit up in bed for a few minutes, to allow him time to adjust, and then get up.  For weeks, probably a month or more, his adjustment to my sitting up involved a full-blown, on-the-floor tantrum that would last anywhere from 30-90 minutes; and heaven-forbid Matthew come into the room at any point in this process because if Matthew wanted to cuddle with me for a few minutes, Seth's rage seemed to have no boundaries...or end.  I dreaded mornings.

Then, two or three months ago, when Seth and Lizzie began sleeping a little later (until 6:00/6:30), and when I knew they were more settled into their new lives with us, I began gently working with them to stay in their beds until I came to get them at 7:00.  I taught them to go to the bathroom when they woke up, and then to go back to their beds, or for Seth to crawl into Lizzie's bed with her because she has her own room.

That routine works pretty well now, primarily because it allows me a little more rest - I still wake up when the first kid gets up to go to the bathroom, but at least I can stay in bed a little longer and sometimes even read a book or plan my day or have a shower.  The new routine means that we don't have early morning cuddles in bed very often, but I've replaced those times with a cuddle downstairs in the library when everyone's up.  It's been getting easier.

Last week Wednesday, by some miracle that has happened only two or three times before, all three kids were still sleeping when I woke up at 7:00!  Glorious.  About ten minutes later I saw Seth came out of his bedroom; he used the bathroom and then poked his head into Geoff's/my room to see if it was 7:00 yet.

I waved him in and he quickly clambered into bed with me.  We hadn't done this for quite a while by this point, and I was a little anxious right away that our cuddling would quickly transition into the big wrestling match thing.

But to my shock, it wasn't like that this time.  Seth pulled my arms around himself, snuggled himself in as closely as he could, tucked his head under my chin, and just melted right in, in the best of all cuddling maneuvers. And he didn't move!!  It was fantastic. I couldn't believe it!  Then, to my further shock, after a few minutes of relaxed cuddling and whispering (with no squirming), I noticed Seth's breathing even out and his various limb twitching.  He'd fallen asleep!  He never does that.  Never.  Once he's awake, he's fully awake until he drops at bedtime.  But that morning, for about 20-25 minutes, he slept in my arms, utterly and completely calm and loose-limbed.  Seriously, there was not a tense bone in his body...I could almost feel his body radiating a message that said that he was feeling safe and relaxed.  I didn't move a muscle for those twenty+ minutes and, quite frankly, I relished every single moment.

When he woke up, it was without the old sense of something frantic that he used to bring to our 'cuddle' times.  He was calm.  His eyes opened, he looked up at me with the same look of shock that I was experiencing, and said:  "Mommy, we cuddle and I fall asleep in your bed!"

Just a few minutes later, Matthew and Lizzie woke up and piled into the bed with Seth and me; but nothing could touch the amazement I felt that morning as I pondered the clear and tangible sense of change in Seth from just a few short months ago.  It felt normal, like a parent cuddling her kid, like a kid relaxing and falling asleep in the safety of his parent's arms.  I wish someone had told me eight, six, four, even two months ago that there would be so much to look forward to.  It was a light-near-the-end-of-the-tunnel kind of moment for me.  It's little things like these that now enable me to look to the future and feel a little more certain, more confident, that things are only going to continue to get better.


  1. Yay! What a milestone for you two!

  2. When our daughter said "I love you" without being told it first, that was an incredible feeling - only took about 1 1/2 years, but we got there. :)

  3. WHAT A MOMENT!!! How amazing to see that his body can now properly relax with yours. I'm so hugely happy for you - how wonderful to have reached this incredibly important milestone. For you, for him, for the two of you together.

  4. So glad to read this...what a huge step forward.
    Best thoughts,