Maternal Instinct

It always amazes me how my body reacts to the little tambourine’s cry.

It’s the middle of the night, and I’m in a deep slumber. One whimper sounds from the adjoining room and in an instant my eyes are open, my heart is racing, and my entire body is tense. It’s as if I’ve reached into the animalistic “fight or flight” part of my brain and pulled out what can only be described as… well… a maternal instinct I suppose. Every mother has had this feeling at one point or another. The feeling that something is wrong with your offspring. You don’t think. You simply respond. I would imagine this is what it’s like for a mother bear when a human comes between herself and her cub.

It’s a hard feeling to forget.

This happens about three times a night with the little tambourine and myself. He wakes up, makes noise for varying periods of time, and then will usually fall back to sleep. The entire time he is awake I am tense, my heart is racing, and my eyes are wide open staring at his door. It always takes me a while to fall back to sleep after one of these episodes. What do I think is wrong? I know he’s safe.

I think it’s a learned response from the days when he was waking every 2 hours, the wretched post- newborn/pre-Ferber days. Those were the days when I dreaded putting him to bed because I knew he would be up again in two hours. Those were the days when he would wake up, and I would lay in bed hoping with all the power in my being that he would make a little bit of noise and then fall back to sleep on his own. This never happened. He was conditioned to fall asleep only after he’d spent some time with Mami. I had made him this way. Those nights my eyes would open, my heart would race, and my entire body would tense up.

Things are much different now. Much better, really. And yet, I still respond the way I did when sleeping was not a happy time. I sometimes wonder how long it will last. I wonder when he is 3, will I still awaken with an increased heart-rate? Will I ever forget what it was like those first 6 months of his life? I have a feeling that as soon as I forget, that will be when I truly need to respond in this way. For that reason I’m ok with being tense for a few minutes if it means that I am ready if he ever truly needs me.



  1. Mine slept for four hours last night and it saddened me. Of all I could have felt, I can’t believe it was grief that the two hour feedings are coming to an end.

  2. So true about the maternal instinct. It bit me in the butt the other day. My son was about to fall off playground equipment (POSSIBLY. He was just standing at the edge and I freaked) and I sprung to rescue him. Right into the overhead monkey-bar poles. Got myself a gash almost an inch long, and bloody on my head for the efforts. :p

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