My daughter has never been much of a napper. When we brought her home, she napped maybe for 30 minute stretches. If we got two naps out of her in a day, it was a good day.
We worked hard to get her onto a reliable schedule, and we worked hard at maintaining it. And with that, we slowly got her to nap a little more, to the point that she would nap for about an hour in the morning and close to an hour in the afternoon. If we are walking or driving anywhere, sleep is easy for her. But if we are at home, naps are not her best thing.
Her mid-morning nap is usually a good one. She’s ready for a bottle and a bit of a snooze by the time 10:30 rolls around. And she generally sleeps well, and wakes up happy.
But her afternoon nap is a horse of a different colour entirely. And I am beginning to dread it.
She will sometimes pass on the afternoon nap, and that’s okay by me. Because the afternoon nap, although most days she is tired and needs a rest, is beginning to break my heart.
She will sleep for 30 or 45 minutes in the afternoon. But when she wakes, it is with a cry.
Most days, she calms down directly. But a couple of times a week, she doesn’t.
I go into her room to get her, and she looks up at me with eyes filled with big tears. And she looks me right in the eyes. And it’s as though she has absolutely no idea who I am.
She’s upset and works herself up to the point of sobbing some days. And she’s frightened and disoriented.
I try to comfort her. I try to hold her close, and murmur comfort to her. She flails, and she fights, and she pushes away. She’s looking wildly around. And the entire time she is sobbing.
I try to do something, anything, to jolt her out of her hysteria. I call her name loudly. I bounce her up and down a little bit. Nothing works. I try to be playful and fun. She’s having none of it.
I try to do something normal. I take her to look at herself in the mirror. Or I try to change her diaper. She cries, and calls “mamamamamama…” but she doesn’t want me.
Eventually, some days, I just can’t take it anymore. I pick her up off the change table, and I hold her close, and I begin to cry. I cry because I am her mother, and I cannot comfort her. Nothing I can do can dry her tears, or ease her sobbing. My heart breaks every time. I feel useless. I fear she’s having nightmares about her life with me, that she’s longing for someone else. I fear that she’s not attached to me, that our time together in the daytime is, for her, just playtime with some woman who is keeping her company until her real mom comes along.
I know that’s all totally ridiculous stuff, that it’s definitely not the case with our daughter. I know that she is a content, well-bonded, happy baby, and that this is just the struggle she has of waking up from an afternoon nap. But when your child is upset, it’s hard to keep your mind from wandering to all sorts of places.
I hold her close and we both cry. And inside, I plead with her to please let me comfort her, to please know I am her mother, to understand that I love her more than anything in the world.
Eventually, she calms down. The sobs lessen, and she lets out a big, deep sigh and cuddles up to my chest, face in my neck, rubbing her eyes and awakening.
Within a few minutes, she’s back to her bubbly, funny self, and her cuddles and smiles for me are plentiful and effortless.
The entire drama takes less than five minutes. But sometimes, it feels like the hardest five minutes of my life.
My heart breaks a little bit every day. And although my time with her in the rest of the day mends it and helps it grow bigger and more full all the time, the pain of that five minutes makes me dread naptime in the afternoon.
I can’t wait for the day when she abandons the afternoon nap entirely.