One evening in December, our bedtime ritual started out like to does every night: brushing teeth, pjs, a book, a few songs, a prayer (sometimes we sing it!), and me laying with our two year old daughter while Brian lays with our five year old son.
Our son, he is out in like two minutes. Kindergarten does that to a boy! Our daughter, she loves to chat, sing, lay there, ask for more milk, cuddle. Most nights, I savor it. I linger with Little C. I whisper my prayers. I lay there in the quiet, holding her, listening to her breathe…and then ask another question. When Little C was a few months old, I wrote this poem:
My Skin Remembers
In the dark stillness of the early morning,
before the first glimmers of dawn appear through our bedroom window,
Brian brings Clara to me for an early morning feeding.
She is half awake half asleep now nuzzled next to me.
Her little feet rest on my bare belly as she wraps one arm over my chest
and tucks the other under my breast to nurse.
I am laying on my side, my left arm stretched out on the bed
and heat from the top of Clara’s head warms the inside of my elbow.
My right arm wraps around her tiny, plump, six month old body.
Our bellies touching rise and fall together in a soft rhythm.
Though my body begs for more sleep, I don’t mind being up so early
before the sunlight slowly dances into our room.
I know now with my second child that this will not last forever.
There will come a day when I will long to hold my babies again
just like this
and my skin will ache with nostalgia.
But this morning, I also know that when that day comes,
a smile will rise up from within me
as my skin remembers breathing in
Butttttt….there are times when I am think “O.M.G., you gotta go to sleep!” I am tired, needing space, needing to be on my own for a bit. And that’s when my meditation practice comes into play.
“It’s ok to feel this way, Lisa.”
“It’s ok to want time alone, to need space.”
In those moments, I try to remind myself to practice self-compassion instead of beating myself up with mama guilt “Oh I shouldn’t feel this way! I should be oh-so-very present AND loving every minute of it. Why don’t I feel that way? What’s wrong with ME? So-and-so…you’d never hear that from her! She loves everything about being a mom….” It goes on, doesn’t it? Well, instead of going down THAT path, ….
I pause. I stay with what is rising up. I don’t push it away. I just stay. I hold my heart and my needs and my yearnings close, with breath and spaciousness. I soften. And the once intense emotions and thoughts shift.
What rises up is a sense of “ahhhh, ok. I’m ok. This is ok.” And then I’m able to make a clearer, more compassionate choice.
So back to this one night in December…
I thought my Little C. was asleep. I slowly rolled out of her bed and started to get up to leave.
“Mommy, where you going?”
OHHHH I could’ve lost it. I was tired. It was late. I felt my feet on the earth (on our “beautiful” carpet stained with milk and god knows what else!), I softened, breathed…
And then Little C. continued, “Mama, you stay with me?”
STAY WITH ME. These words cut riiiight through to what is most important. Right through any frustration, tiredness, need for alone time.
I turned back into the room, got into bed again with Little C., and said, “Yes, my Love, I’ll stay with you.”
We laid like that for a long while. Just in silence. Me — softening, letting it all go, noticing, allowing.
And then Little C. whispers – half asleep, half awake, “Mommy?”
Me: “Yes, Love?”
Little C.: “I love you.”
Then she fell sound asleep.
As I pulled the covers up over her little chest, as I walked out of the quiet room, I thought about how that could’ve gone comPLETELY different. There are times it has — when I’m like, “BABY! You gotta go to sleep!” Times when I lay there but I’m not really present. Times when I am tired and under resourced. And I react. Instead of respond. And as I walked out of the room, I found myself oh so grateful for the intention I set years ago to be a mindful mama, for how that has informed my practice of SOFTENING, tending to, allowing, being with, being gentle IN OUR EVERYDAY LIFE. I found myself bowing to the community of moms and dads who are on this journey of healing our world through being RIGHT HERE, present to and regarding our little ones.
STAY. STAY AND SOFTEN. With our own hearts, with our little ones. I am finding that the more I offer myself such sweet spaciousness, the more I am able to extend that to my dear ones. And I smile softly, with no regrets.