Generally people use the turn of the new year to start fresh. New Year’s resolutions, goal-setting, the plans for the next 12 months – it all starts after the fireworks at 12:01 of January 1.
That’s never really worked out for me. I mentioned in the past that I’ve never been really good at keeping New Year’s resolutions. Somehow, the more “significant” goal-setting date has been towards the end of January – twenty nine-days into the new year, to be exact.
For those that know me personally, January 29 is my birthday. I was told that one’s birthday is a good time to reflect on the year that was, and the year that could be. In a way it is a personal new year, and I’ve always felt it to be more meaningful.
As I became a mom, January 29 has been the date I’d set for the girls and I to achieve certain milestones. Admittedly, it was easier to remember that my birthday was also “D-Day” for these goals (with the mom mush brain, date efficiency is key!).
I don’t quite remember the significant milestone I’d set for January 29, 2009. Sam was only two months old then, and my sleep-wake patterns were still very much a blur. What I do remember is that it was along the lines of trying to get her to sleep for longer than 3 hour-intervals. I’m quite sure that didn’t happen (Or maybe it did… but not very consistently) because I have a faint memory of dancing around the entire apartment like a crazy person in the wee hours of the morning with a baby in my arms, when daylight savings hit later that April. I know because I had to do it for an hour longer than usual.
The year after was the date I said I’d wean Sam from breastmilk. Back then I was under the impression that if you wanted to try for a second child, you had to wean them off completely (Incidentally, this is not the case and so in retrospect, I was misinformed). She had been mixed feeding fresh milk and breastmilk since her first birthday, and we had just finished our major trip back to the Philippines, so there were no more big reasons to delay it any further. I remember very clearly that I was successful in doing so sometime within that week, and she took a full bottle of fresh milk (FINALLY!)with no protest.
For 2011, I was in the middle of sleep-training Sam and the significance of that date revolved around this. I remember it was a long, frustrating process but I did feel some relief around the time of my birthday when she started showing signs of being able to do it consistently. It’s in another blog post – January 12 was the first sign of hope; I will never forget that day either.
In 2012, January 29 was the date I said I’d take Jamie on more stroller rides as exercise. I think I did for a while, but it was so cold we gave up on that idea quite quickly and resumed over the hotter summer months instead.
For this year’s January 29 date, I thought to give us a break after reflecting back on the last few years. After all, we’d just made the big move back to Manila, and even I’m still getting the hang of it. Secretly though, I was hoping to sleep train Jamie because it’s quite restricting to be tied to her physically during nap time. She habitually nurses until she’s fast asleep, and would otherwise fuss and screech and cry. I knew that if I was to relieve any stress on the schedule juggling (and consequently alleviate the guilty feelings), I’d have to wean her off the breast sooner than later.
I didn’t see it happening at all. I was more successful about the night-time disengagement (and I’ll say more about that next time), but the naps didn’t look too promising. She was also teething on a very major scale (four teeth cutting through at once, my poor girl), so her naps were becoming very erratic.
Then, two days after, I was rushing off to a meeting and I couldn’t finish putting her to sleep. I had no choice, so I looked her in the eye and said I’d leave already, and that she had to go to sleep. She looked straight at me and said, “Okay mom.” I asked her if she wanted my mom to stay with her and she said no. Then she rolled to her side and shut her eyes tight. Well — I had to follow through! So I stood to leave, and then I prayed and prayed and prayed. When I called 15 minutes later, my mom said that according to our trusty video monitor, she had indeed fallen asleep by herself. Oh!!!! The wave of relief and joy that washed over me (you can feel it all the way through this blog).
It’s been about a week since then and she’s been quite consistent about taking a nap on her own without my milk (I hope I don’t jinx it by talking about it now!). She even tells me to go outside. I don’t what clicked, but I am grateful for it. There was no crying, no protesting, and no looking for “Mommy’s milk”. It was the smoothest sleep-training transition I’d ever gone through.
As much as the girls at their age have no concrete concept of dates and times, I like to think that they can sense it is a period around my birthday. While I don’t hold it against any of us when things don’t go as planned, I leap for joy when I see we have made some form of progress. I think to myself: maybe it’s the girls’ gift to me. After all, what is more meaningful to a mother than signs that your children are showing a little bit more independence, or giving you a little more sleep and a little less stress. Whether or not it’s really true or it’s just been coincidence all these years — I’ll take it!
The funny thing about January 29 (give or take a few days), is that while it is my birthday, motherhood has somehow made me turn it into a day about my kids. I think about my year in terms of their milestones and while I am happy to see them, I also get nostalgic at how fast time flies. Every year as a goal is (subconsciously) set and another milestone achieved and these are all causes for celebration. But I can’t help but feel a tad bit sad, because it’s also when I realize that my babies aren’t babies anymore. It’s on my birthday when I begin to miss them a little bit more each year.