White noise to mimic blood flow in the womb. Rocking to simulate belly motion. Extra snug swaddling to recreate that ultra tucked-in security. Parents of newborns learn hardcore tricks to soothe a baby to sleep, strictly schooled by authors and pediatricians and neighborhood nannies. "It reminds them how it felt before birth." And so it must be good. If your baby likes to be swaddled, you've got it made. A simple tuck, tuck, tuck and it's sleep, sleep, sleep.
struck me today how odd it is that we try to recreate sensations of
being in the womb. Was that not the most confining, contorted time of
our life? Even more odd that it so often works. Here you are, set free
from months of dark, whirring, tangled entrapment and we soothe you by
binding, blasting and jostling you to sleep. Why does it work? You
wouldn't try to soothe a newly released captive by recreating the dank
torment of his prison, would you?
It must be ridiculously uncomfortable for many weeks before birth, but the newborn finds it comforting to hear those sounds and be held in similar positions. The reason is simple: familiarity. In that very first condition of life, there's no contrast for comparison. It's all we know. Once we enter the world, a variety of sensations present and overwhelm us. The input is extreme! So it feels "good" to go back into a familiar state. Never mind that other options feel better; we cling to what we know.
The same instinct to stick with what's familiar is at work in dysfunctional relationships, stubborn bad habits and self-sabotaging mindsets. The alternative - to break through, take a leap, walk away or say yes to something better - is an invitation to step beyond the familiar. The comfort zone may lack comfort entirely, but it keeps us lulled because we know it by heart.
Sachi never gave in to the swaddle and we finally gave up trying. No matter how expertly we wrapped and secured her blankets, she squirmed more expertly. While I lamented our failure because it meant less rest for us, I'm quietly glad she wanted to flail herself awake. Unswaddle yourself, my Love. "The world," as David Whyte said, "was meant to be free in."