On change and comfort

I’ve never noticed how comfortable familiarity could be until I had a child to remind me.

For the past two weeks, we’ve been experiencing less and less sleep – a state that has been created by Sierra, our light sleeping six-week-old girl.

It wasn’t always like this. In the beginning, we felt we had been blessed – we slept well, and found ourselves ecstatic with a little girl that slept three or four hours at a time – if not longer. Sure, she grunted throughout the night. Sure, she sounded like she was awake more than she was asleep. Sure, we were on the edge of awareness, ready to spring up and rescue her from a bad dream, a freak accident, a fictionally created ailment. But we were sleeping all the same.

Sierra wasn’t sleeping in her bassinet anymore – she was sleeping in the chair that accompanied her swing, a papasan style sling that she’s found much more sleep-worthy than any old bassinet. We were amazed in the difference. Who knew babies were so picky?

We drove to Rapid City, and after a rough pre-bedtime ritual, Sierra slept for six hours straight. A silent cheer was raised that night, and we made plans to no longer be sleep-deprived parents. It was that easy, we thought.

She had picked up a little head congestion, however, and after a few days her longer sleeping periods shored up, became shorter and noisier, featuring more grunting and more snorting. We thought she was uncomfortable in her papasan, too cramped and at an awkward position. We thought her noisiness was due to the angle of the chair and began putting her to bed in the crib.

It didn’t change. In fact, it got worse. She’d wake, if we were lucky, four times a night. Our sleep was broken up into one and a half our chunks. We had regressed. We were haggard.

Last night we went back to the papasan. She slept better than she has in weeks.

See, she was comfortable there, and we made too many changes too quickly. We forced her to grow into a new sleeping area at our pace, neglecting the fact that she was fine where she was. With the congestion gone, the chair was perfect, a cozy womb-like area that heightened comfort.

We’re all the same way. We may take on new things and experience new highs and lows, but we’re never really comfortable with anything but the familiar. And in this way, as humans, we found ourselves regressing into the comfortable, whether the comfortable is overeating, addiction, a bad relationship, fear of public speaking or a stale job.

Change something too quickly and we freak out. Very few can handle the trials of change – the nasty uncomfortable feeling that comes with new things; the learning curve, the lack of familiarity, the uncertainty of new relationships or the self-consciousness that comes with learning a new skill.

Each of us has a comfortable vice; a situation that we know is not healthy for us, either physically or mentally, but we continue with because we don’t know anything else. Because we wouldn’t be comfortable. Because change is too hard.

And that’s one of the hardest things to do in life – to overcome comfort in order to become a better person, to throw off the shackles of personal laziness or indifference or apathy and embrace something enriching. Something life-changing. Something that will cause you to look back years later and think, “What was I so afraid of in the first place?”

For now, Sierra’s taking things one at a time. We moved her from comfort without any preparation, and now we realize that, even at six weeks, these things take time.

I’m blown away. I never expected I’d be finding life lessons in the sleeping patterns of my six-week old daughter. But here they are.

This was lovingly handwritten on September 13th, 2007