Every night at around 7pm, I have about 20-30 minutes of quiet. In the dark. My 10-month-old has a mattress on the floor in her room and I lay beside her in the stillness. Since we don’t do the whole cry-it-out thing, I typically stay with her until she falls asleep.
After bath at 6:45, I put on her monkey pajamas and smooth on some lotion and read her two stories – That’s Not My Bear and Goodnight Moon. Usually, her older sister joins us for the book-reading. Then, Big Sister gives me and the baby a kiss on the forehead, says, “Good night. I love you. I’ll see you in the morning.” She flips out the light and closes the door on her way out…and I hear her say, “Daddy, can you read me a book now?” And he does.
Across the hall, we hear the rhythmic murmurs of his voice as he reads.
My baby settles down beside me, whimpering a little. She hears the familiar click of my nursing bra strap and I can hear her sigh contentedly as she latches on. If she’s not quite sleepy after she’s done nursing, she sometimes crawls around the room in the dark, silently exploring…and I let her. Eventually, she crawls right back beside me…and then she reaches her hand up to stroke my face or my arm. With time, I feel her breath and her little body become heavy beside me…and I know that she is dreaming. Sometimes, I get up quickly when I realize she is asleep. Other nights, I sit there for a few minutes longer, squinting in the darkness to make out her features. She is beautiful. So beautiful it makes my heart ache just a bit.
Some people might think it’s crazy that I give up 20-30 minutes of MY night every night to lay beside my baby like that. But I view it as a gift. It’s a time of silence, reflection, prayer, and thoughtfulness. I come up with the best ideas in those moments of quiet. And, besides, I’m not entirely sure that I can think of anything more precious than having a baby fall asleep beside you, with her hand resting on your face.
Tonight, I thought about Haiti. About Ethiopia. And Somalia and El Salvador. About how there are mothers everywhere out there doing the exact same thing that I am right now – nursing, comforting, praying, thinking, clicking their tongues and saying “Shhhh…Mama’s here” in the darkness.
But their thoughts are different than mine. They think about if they will have any food to give their child tomorrow, if their child will survive the year (the week…the night…). And it shouldn’t be that way. Not with all of this wealth and lavishness here. No mother should have to think those thoughts…and no child should have to go to bed hungry.
As I lay in the darkness, I think of these things and I wonder what I can do. So I begin by praying. And then I kiss my baby gently on her forehead and get up.
You may recall that I have pledged 20% of the proceeds of my book – Bloggertunity: A Mom’s Guide to Blogging – to World Vision, a nonprofit humanitarian agency that is dedicated to building a better world for children. A few weeks ago, I gave my 2009 book sales contribution…to the New Mother and Baby fund. Thank you to everyone that bought my book for being a part of that gift.
* Image of mother + child from Compassion International, another amazing organization that helps kids every day.