Meditation, interrupted

Meditation, interrupted

I finally have a few minutes to myself. The boys are out, the baby is upstairs asleep, and there’s no pressing work to do. It’s Saturday morning. All is still.

My mind whirrs into action, trying to figure out what to do with this precious gift of time. Do I sit and write? Cook? Clean? Declutter? Do I call a friend? Dust off my yoga mat and move my body?

I choose to meditate. It’s been way too long.

I grab a cushion, sit myself down among the toys strewn around the floor. I set a timer for 20 minutes. On one hand it seems like nothing – I used to sit for an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening – and on the other hand… 20 uninterrupted minutes? That’s an eternity.

The bell dings, I settle in. My mind is a mess. Loud and frenetic. But of course, after a few minutes, it starts to settle. I sink into that familiar old sensation of being here. In the moment. In my body first and then in my mind.

At 9 minutes and 45 seconds a different bells dings – Little A, crying upstairs. At first I wait, maybe she’ll go back to sleep. Not happening.

So I take my meditation upstairs with me, I notice the cold of the stairs on my feet as I run up to her. I gather her up in her blankets and smell her little chocolate milkshake smell. I notice how my heart swells.

Something’s bothering her. She twists in my arms. So big and so expressive yet still such a baby.

For once, I’m actually there with her. Not looking at my phone over her shoulder, not wishing she’d hurry up and get to sleep so I can start getting GG into bed, or get back to work, or go to sleep myself.

She gets herself comfortable in the nook of my elbow, rests her little head and drifts back off. She reaches for my face in her sleep.

And I’m still there, still meditating, present with her. I am hers and she is mine. I’m pretty sure I can feel the oxytocin flooding my body.

I look down at her peaceful face and realize I don’t take photos of her sleeping anymore. I used to do it all the time when she was little. Another reminder that time is passing. As it always does. That it’ll pass no matter what.

To be honest, at first when I heard her voice as I was meditating I felt annoyed. I can’t even get 20 minutes uninterrupted.

But as I snuggled her back into her bed I felt so grateful I could cry. I feel so far away from my kids through long days at the office during the week. Through rushed bedtimes and difficult mornings.

This is the antidote – actually being with them when I’m with them.

She relaxes into her bed and I come back downstairs, free again. Time to chop veggies, sort out bags for the new week, tidy up a bit. Maybe I’ll finish the meditation later. It’s the usual grind, but hopefully I can be a little more present as I move through it.

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The Opposite of Mindfulness

The Opposite of Mindfulness

Readers of this blog will have enjoyed (or rolled their eyes at) my recent rants about mindfulness – about the value of bringing your full attention into the present moment, nursing and meditating etc. And I really do believe it’s a transformational practice – both in it’s seated form and as an exercise of consciousness throughout our everyday lives.

The thing is – I haven’t slept that much since having a baby almost a year ago. And sometimes mindfulness is just too much for my poor, exhausted brain. There are moments that I’m so damn sleep deprived that I’m decidedly unmindful – or should it be mindless? Two examples from the past week:

Unmindful Episode #1: I took the car to work last week, as it was raining and I was picking up Gadi from daycare. I left the office, got into the elevator, pressed the button for the parking lot downstairs, and played with my phone while waiting for the lift to descend to the car park. It didn’t. Instead, the lights went off, and I was left alone in a pitch black metal box. I started to panic. My heart rate rose, I started to think about how long I might be stuck there, who I should call, whether I had cell phone reception. I reached my hand out in the dark towards the buttons, and suddenly the lights came back on. And it was then that I realized. I had pushed 1, the level of my office, rather than -1, the parking. Duh. What actually happened: I stood in a stationary lift so long the lights turned off.

Unmindful Episode #2: While the baby and the husband napped this afternoon, I made two batches of Anzac buscuits. Super pleased with myself, I decided to have a coffee and sample the goods. I got a mug, put a pod in the machine, pressed the button, and heard the coffee start to pour as I put a couple of cookies on a little plate, all the while commending myself for being so brilliantly domestic. I took my mug and my cookies to the couch… only to find the mug completely empty. Where was my coffee? Steaming away in the drip tray of the coffee machine, of course. I forgot to put the mug under the spout.

Guess I should have taken a nap with the boys, huh?

Which brings us to my point –  I am not getting enough sleep. Over six months ago I wrote a smug post about how Gadi started sleeping through the night – a rookie mistake. He hasn’t slept more than five hours straight since. Maybe I wasn’t ready for it yet either, who knows, but now we’re ready for a change. I can’t just sit around waiting for the next elevator terror or empty coffee mug shock. Tonight we’re starting with Dr. Jay Gordon’s super gentle night weaning plan. I told Gadi all about it before he went to sleep tonight, and I’m convinced it’s the right time. The plan is for Gadi to be getting (at least) 7 hours straight sleep – and a more mindful mama – in time for his first birthday next week.

Wish us luck!

Gadi’s Journey to Sleeping Through the Night (and Rocket Alert Sirens)

Gadi’s Journey to Sleeping Through the Night (and Rocket Alert Sirens)

Third post this month on sleeping! Seriously who am I? If you would have told me a year and a half ago that these would be my blog posts I wouldn’t have believed you. And yet here we are.

So, after a fairly difficult month last month with Gadi’s sleep (and my own little slumber realization, to boot), a war raging in the South, and moving apartments this past weekend, it looks like we’ve finally turned a corner for the better – in the sleep department, that is. Of course it could be a total coincidence – that whatever developmental leap he was going through, tooth movement he was suffering from or whatever else ended exactly at the same time as we decided to take action. Anything’s possible. But let’s just pretend for a moment that I have some kind of control here, shall we?

About three weeks ago, we decided enough was enough – that an hour of screaming before bed, shrugging our shoulders and trying to laugh about the fact that we no longer had any idea how to help our baby go to sleep was not gonna fly anymore. We formed a plan to give Gadi some firmer boundaries around bedtime, while still keeping the flexibility that seems to work for us. We chose an earlier bedtime (7:30pm) and a little routine (bath, massage, book, feed, bed), and decided to give it a week and see what happened before considering talking to a sleep consultant.

And miraculously, within a matter of days it became downright easy for me to get Gadi to sleep. (If anyone has a direct line with fate please don’t pass on this blog post – tfu tfu tfu, throw salt over my shoulder, kiss the evil eye etc.)

There’s the main points that really helped us.

  • Recognizing overtiredness. We ended up moving bedtime to 6:30pm and even though he usually wakes for another feed around 7:30pm, both times going back to sleep is a breeze. I was making the (rookie) mistake of thinking that crying meant he didn’t want to go to sleep – while in fact the opposite was true. All that crying around bedtime actually meant that I had missed the window.
  • Connecting day and night. By the same token, the only way not to end up with an exhausted baby at the end of the day is to become a Sleep Sergeant 24/7. For Gadi, that means as soon as he’s been awake for two hours – it’s nap time. And all things being equal (ie if my own comings and goings don’t get in the way), he generally starts showing signs of tiredness like clockwork – 120 minutes after waking up.
  • Looking for what’s missing. One day I was watching him struggle to fall asleep, and it dawned on me that his flailing around might be related to a need to be more snuggled up. In 30 degree heat and at 5-months old I thought he was too old and too warm for swaddling or much clothing (if any). Turns out blasting the air-conditioning for a couple of hours before bed and using a thin sleeping bag was just what the sleep doctor ordered.
  • Confidence. It’s really easy to question yourself with a crying baby twisting and turning in your arms. Trust your instincts and your baby will, too. Question everything you do – and I’m guessing your baby will do that, too. Less than ideal. I found consciously reminding myself “he is tired, he needs to sleep” really useful, as well as helping Gadi understand those feelings too – “you’re having a hard time winding down bubba, I know. But you’ll get there soon and you’re gonna feel SO much better when you wake up.” I know he probably doesn’t understand my words but I like to think there’s something about the tone that does come across.

To finish the story, we have now moved apartments, and Gadi moved straight into his own room. As I suspected might happen, he seems to have quite taken to it – and last night he slept through the night. His last feed was at 8pm, at 10pm I carried him out of the apartment sound asleep to take cover during a rocket attack (surreal, yes), and at 5am I woke up to hear him singing, happy shrieking and clicking his tongue down the hallway. Amazing. I was so excited I woke my husband up to tell him – kind of defeats the point, I know. But seriously, I couldn’t be prouder if he’d gone and got a Harvard Law Degree while I was sleeping.

Of course, I know this too will pass; there will be more sleepless nights and the next challenge is just around the corner. But I feel that I learned a lesson in conscious parenting here – and I have my husband to thank for bringing up the issue and pushing me to do something. There’s a lot we can’t control when it comes to babies (and life in general) – but being mindful of our actions and setting some firm but flexible boundaries can go a long way.