"My Nights with Tiana"

I worried about my daughter's inability to cry, until she started waking throughout the night.

Bonding Through Sleep

The moment I laid eyes on Tiana, in the orphanage in Guatemala City, my heart melted into blissful adoration. I knew that this beautiful baby was the daughter I had longed for. When I brought her back to the hotel that first night, she did not cry. Not once. I gave her a warm bath, then laid her on my bare belly and chest, knowing that feeling my flesh against her own was a step toward our bonding.

On the second night in the hotel, my daughter still did not cry. The other parents who were there adopting their children remarked on how lucky I was, what a “good, easy baby” I had. I did not tell them of the deep fear I held in my heart, that my baby had given up asking for what she wanted or needed, that she saw no use in crying.

On the third night, Tiana cried. I rejoiced! After we flew home, I put her in her crib, then crawled into bed with my husband. Tiana cried. The first night she cried every two or three hours. The second night she again cried every few hours. The third night she cried, and, each time I tried to put her back in her crib, she cried harder and longer. Finally after a week, exhausted and at a loss, I brought Tiana into our bed, placed her on my stomach, and slept a long and luxurious sleep.

So Tiana moved into our bed. As time went on, she began to awaken, startled, reaching her little hand toward my side of the big bed. As soon as she felt me beside her, she would fall back asleep. By her third or fourth month home, Tiana was waking up every 10 minutes to make sure I was beside her. Her panic was palpable.

My friends and family were concerned about the bags under my eyes. Everyone was certain that I needed to get this child out of our bed. But my heart told me that Tiana needed to know that I was there, right beside her each and every time she woke up startled and afraid. I felt that she was testing the strength of our bond, that she needed to know for sure that I was there to stay. As more time passed, Tiana began to wake every hour, then every two, and finally she would wake only when she’d had a bad dream. My baby needed to test and trust my permanence. The glue that bonded us came with small bursts of doubt and fear, assurance and discovery, every night for many, many months.

Now, years later, the bond we formed over those long nights of little sleep has given Tiana the strength to move out into the world.


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