“Sometimes he just needs to be held.”
This was the most valuable parenting advice I’ve received, to date. And it came in the first 24 hours of our son’s arrival.
I had read all the books, the blog posts. And I was ready for a newborn. Feed every 2-3 hours. Let him self-soothe to sleep. Don’t create sleeping props. Got it.
The first night in the hospital as a family three, he wouldn’t stop crying, and I was stumped. And, honestly, emotionally and physically exhausted. I had just had a baby, been on an adrenaline high all day, and the sugar rush from my Wendy’s Frosty was starting to fade.
I texted the nurse around 2a – technology is amazing! – and said something like, “This isn’t urgent, but I need some help when you have a few minutes.”
A few minutes later, into my room walked one of my favorite parenting memories. I don’t even remember her name, but she was several years younger, recently engaged, and such a God-send. Literally.
“He’s changed. Fed. I swaddled him. He won’t stop crying, and I have to pee,” I said.
She held him while I went to the bathroom and redid my ponytail.
What she said next was profound to this new mom.
“He’s been with you for 9 months,” she said, tucking the blanket under his chin. “For the first time, he can’t hear your heartbeat. For the first time, he isn’t engulfed by you.” She placed my wide-eyed son in the crook of my arms. “Sometimes he just needs to be held.”
Freedom. Freedom to enjoy this fleeting moment and not worry about setting bad habits. Freedom to rock my newborn and feel his baby hair against my check and not think about sleep props or schedules.
Five months have passed since that first night. I like schedules. I know that at 7a every morning he’ll wake ready to eat and at 8a – on the dot – he’ll go down for a 2.5 hour nap without crying.
But there are some nights, much like that first, that the schedule is abandoned for what my son needs most: to be held. God was wise when he gave babies this need, because He knows that there are nights when it isn’t just what baby needs but what mama needs too.
As I rock – usually an overtired – little boy, he is old enough to initially fight my embrace. He pushes away with surprising strength and pulls my long hair.
Like mother, like son. Just this afternoon, my husband found me crying in a pile of laundry. It doesn’t happen often, maybe twice a year that I get overwhelmed to the point of tears. But there I was, with my face buried in a stack of jeans. He tried to hug me, and I struggled away. I needed to keep working.
“Child,” God whispers through my frenzy, scrambling for more time and more energy to do all that’s needed. “Just rest. Come to Me. Be still.”
I fight my Savior. I fight my husband, just as my son fights me in the twinkle of the nursery night-light.
Through gentle coaxing, husband-man pulled me up and to his chest in a strong embrace. I stopped fighting and found rest. The little limbs in a dinosaur sleeper stop thrashing, and the curly head drops onto my shoulder. Rest. It’s what he needs. It’s what I need.
Sometimes we as mamas just need to be held, and God knows it.