It's times like these that I question my parenting abilities.
My daughter is 9 months old and not sleeping well at all. I'm told she's likely teething or getting ready to crawl. Every night she wakes up at 2 a.m. and none of the usual methods soothe her back to sleep. The only thing that seems to work, is to drag her into our bed and let her sleep between us.
I never thought I would co-sleep and yet, nine months in, here we are. I have nothing against co-sleeping in theory, it's simply that I like having the space to toss and turn.
After weeks of bad sleep, I am exhausted and irritable. I don't feel like a good mother when I can't soothe my own baby. I turn to Google late at night, asking it why, why is this happening? I read too much. I read about how we may be creating new, long-term habits when we bring the baby into our bed every night.
Oh no, I think, we've messed up. She'll never go back to sleeping in her crib. She'll never sleep well again, and consequently, neither will we.
But looking back at all the other times I've worried—through colic, sleep regressions, growth spurts, reactions to vaccines, jet lag—it's always been temporary, always just a phase. I'll bet a large sum of money that this current situation is also just a phase, one that may end tomorrow, for all we know, and she'll return happily to her crib.
Then why do I worry so much, every time, to the point where I am questioning whether or not I am a good parent? It seems ridiculous now that I've put it down on paper.
When you're in the thick of it, the middle of the rough patch and things are difficult and frustrating and exhausting, it feels like slowly walking through a pitch black room searching for a light switch. Both your energy and patience running thin but all you can do is keep moving, blindly, in what feels like the right direction.
And then, just when you think you might never find it, a window appears, letting the sun stream in.
That's what the hardest part of parenting feels like, to me. The part where you have no control over when things will get better, and you just have to hold on, believing that this, too, will pass. Committing, with all the fibers in your body, to standing by your child, through whatever gets thrown at you.
That takes courage.
There have been moments when it was so hard that I've wanted to run away. I know I'm not alone. I'm sure every parent has been there.
And I'm certain that the rough patches get rougher, that the problems get more complicated, and the heartbreak more painful as our children grow older and figure out who they are and where they belong. Teething must feel like a dream compared to teen angst.
But through it all, amazingly, we never question our commitment to our children. We never turn our backs, and we don't budge, even a little. We can cry out in frustration, we can walk away and take deep breaths, but we always come back, no matter what.
When I think about that, I feel immensely proud of all the parents out there. Especially the ones currently wading through the muck. Never wavering.
Our children make it easier by being the most remarkable little humans we've ever known, but it doesn't make parenting less hard.
Tonight, I'm going to bed early. Need to get in some hours of rest before the 2 a.m. wake-up call. It's just a phase, it's only temporary, and I'm a good parent.
That's what I'm going to tell myself, and you should, too, mama.