I Made You a Promise

To my little man:

I remember hearing your heartbeat at our first appointment. The biggest smiles were plastered across mine and your Dad’s face. Completely baffled as to why I was not shedding any tears, I quietly asked your Dad, “Should I be crying?” “Why am I not crying?” Your Dad said, “I think we are both too happy to cry.” I felt at ease and agreed with him. I said, “You’re right, I couldn’t be happier.” In that moment, I made a promise to you that I was going to be the best mom I could possibly be.  

Unlike our first appointment at eight weeks, we left our 20-week ultrasound with plenty of happy tears running down our faces.  For weeks I had been feeling your kicks as you were letting me know that you were really in there. It was finally my turn to be a mom! I got to see your beautiful face on the screen, and you were starting to feel even more real to me.  The ultrasound tech showed us your little feet, your delicate hands, and your strong heartbeat. She looked at us and said, “Okay, the doctor will be in shortly to talk to you.” Your Dad and I sat there holding hands anxiously anticipating the doctor’s arrival.  So many different thoughts run through your mind in those moments. You want to be prepared for the worst news, but you’re hoping for the best.  The doctor came into the room after what felt like forever and said, “Well, everything looks perfect. If you wanted a healthy baby, you’ve got it!” Relief washed over me as we quickly left the office and made it to the elevators down the hall. The tears were imminent as your Dad and I held each other. I couldn’t stop crying. These were tears of peace, happiness, and grace.  I made a promise to you again that I was going to be the best mom I could possibly be.  

It was a quick 14 weeks later when you surprised us with your early arrival. My hospital bag wasn’t packed, your beautiful nursery wasn’t complete, and I still had not finished opening all of the presents from your baby shower. My water broke at 34 weeks, and I was far from home.  I called my midwife and described what was happening. She said, “The baby is in distress and you need to get to the hospital immediately. How far away are you? Can someone drive you? Do you need me to send an ambulance?” I hung up the phone and found a friend to drive me to the hospital. It would have taken too long for your Dad to pick me up, and I was in no condition to drive. On the way to the hospital I told myself over and over that in order to be the best mom, I need to remain calm for you. I will do whatever my baby needs, just please God let everything be okay. 

While lying in the hospital bed, the stillness of the room somehow made me realize that I had not felt you kick at all that day. I could hear your heartbeat on the monitors, and it eased my mind while I waited for your Dad to arrive. As he walked through the door, his presence provided the comfort that I needed so very much during this stressful time. Your heartbeat was strong, but you still weren’t moving. I could sense that my midwife and doctor were concerned.  I needed to be the best mom, so I asked the doctor what course of action we should take to get you out without any complications. It was 9:30 pm, and the doctor explained that he wanted you out before midnight. They began prepping me for an emergency C-section. This was not how I envisioned my birth process to unfold. My original birth plan called for essential oils in the air and relaxing music in the background. I worked so very hard to be strong enough to birth you naturally and have you placed on my chest for special skin-to-skin. I knew in that moment that I needed to let go of my original birth plan, as the most important thing was getting you out quickly and safely. After your delivery at 10:58 pm, I did not get skin-to-skin, I did not get to hold you, but I did get to hear the sound of your beautiful cry, which let me know that you were okay and you were prepared to fight.  

I was brought into recovery, and you were brought to the NICU.  We were now separated after being so close for eight straight months. Hours later, they wheeled my bed into the NICU, and I was able to hold you for the first time. I was overcome with complete joy and peace once I saw that you were healthy and safe. I again made the same promise to you, but this time I actually knew who I was making the promise to. I will be the best mom. I will do whatever you need. Your needs will forever come before my own.  

You spent 12 long days in the NICU. I kept my promise to you. I want you to know that I slept in the chair next to your little hospital bed, I worked hard to breastfeed you, and I always did everything the doctors and nurses advised me to do. I never came home even once to rest while you were in the NICU. I was trying to be the best mom I could be. We finally brought you home, where we faced more challenges: recovering from emergency surgery, colic, reflux, cluster feeding, and complete exhaustion. Anything that came my way, I would conquer because I was going to be the best mom. I had to be the best mom.  

When you were six months old, the exhaustion started to catch up with your Dad and me. The pressure of being the “best” started to wear me down. I felt like I was failing you. I had not slept longer than three hours in six months, which meant that you had not slept longer than three hours in six months. This can’t be healthy! He needs to sleep! I need to sleep! I must be doing something wrong! I felt like I was failing as a mom. I was failing at the promise I made to you, yet I was doing everything you needed and responding to your every want. Completely frustrated and out of answers, I wondered how this level of effort was not making you happy.

The image of the mom that I desired to be was drifting further and further away. I finally realized exactly what we both needed, and it was sleep! I needed to be strong enough to teach you how to find comfort in your crib, soothe yourself to sleep so you can feel well rested, and help you grow and develop into the happy baby that I knew you were meant to be. I desperately needed sleep in order to wake up feeling energized for the day, so I could laugh with you and help you discover the world around you. I knew at this point that the best option for both of us was sleep training.  

I thought that being the best mom meant that I would never let you cry or feel uncomfortable.  I quickly realized that in order to be the best for you, I needed to feel my absolute best. I needed to be strong enough to teach you how to soothe yourself, even if it meant listening to you cry along the way. I needed to guide you so that you would feel secure with yourself.  In the moments that you struggled, I was right there by your side every step of the way to comfort and encourage you. 

I now walk into your room every morning and see the excitement on your face after getting an uninterrupted 12 hours of sleep. I am proud that you are getting the rest that you need in order to flourish. Every day when I hear your laugh, I feel like I gave you what you needed to take on another day, and I now have the motivation to keep up. I love watching you explore your surroundings, teaching you, and watching the joy you discover in the simple things. You have taught me what life is all about, and I promise to always be your guide through everything life throws your way. I will be strong enough to get us both through this amazing journey. 

Love – Momma

P.S As a first-time mom, there are many challenges that you have to face along the way. Most of these challenges are things that you would never expect to happen when you decide to start a family. Facing these challenges sometimes requires help from others along the way. It took me six months to seek out the help that ultimately changed my family’s life and allowed me to be the mother that I always dreamt I would be. With my new-found time and energy, I can now be there for other parents that need sleep. As a sleep consultant, I empower my clients through education and encouragement in order to transform the sleep process for the entire family!    

Sweet Dreams,
Katelyn McNellis
Certified Baby + Toddler Sleep Consultant




I'm Marli

I am the owner of and lead baby and toddler sleep consultant at The Cradle Coach. I am a family-first mom of three, goal-oriented entrepreneur, to-do list extraordinaire, avid dreamer and unshakable optimist dedicated to helping tired families all around the world give their child the best sleep possible.


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