The Necessity of Dawn

I have always been a morning bird. I think it’s because I was born in the morning, my first breaths of my life in this world were with morning air and I completed my first day as the day completed itself. As a teen, when I had more time to do as I pleased, I would stay up all night until the first morning birds began to chirp and only then would I go to bed, but ultimately morning has been the time of day my body gravitates to. I took the majority of my college classes before noon, as a young adult I would still wake early to make a large breakfast before going to work, in the workforce I always preferred earlier start times to my job so I could leave work mid-afternoon.

Late in my pregnancy, my husband would drive me to work, and he would be chipper and talkative but I would be silent. I liked going into my job early because so few people would be there and it would allow me silence as the day started without the buzz of conversation going on around me.

Parenthood shook my idea of time and day. An infant waking every few hours to be fed led to my being awake at all odd hours. Looking at pictures from the first month of my son’s life, I laugh now at the time stamps of 11 pm, 2 am, 4 am and so on. Separately, I struggled with sleep in the early month’s of my son’s life. I couldn’t get myself to relax enough to fall asleep because I was constantly listening for my son’s little grunts or the repetition of his breathing. But for all the times I would sit awake with him, what I remember distinctly is the slow adjustment of light in the early morning as people began to wake and the sun moved closer to dawn.

A year and a half later, I feel more comfortable with motherhood and have returned to sleep. I go to bed early and wake early, partly because I need at least 6 hours of sleep to be a functional human and there’s never any knowing whether or not my son will give me a full 6 hours, and partly because that time frame seems right.

Occasionally, of course, I’ll stay up later. But it’s a rarity and even still, even if my husband gets my son or he manages to sleep in, I’ll be up by 8 am at the latest.

In the summer, I tend to wake up on my own a bit earlier than the rest of the year. The sun rising so early stirs me awake and I often can’t fall back to sleep. If my son wakes early in the morning and cries out from a bad dream, and there’s that faintest hint of blue-light glow of early morning, I’m done for and up for the rest of the day. After months of fighting off the sunshine and my body’s decision to wake, I’ve begun to just accept that it’s time to wake up and have discovered it is actually the perfect fit for me.

Anyone who has met a toddler knows they aren’t quiet. Anyone who has met my husband knows he has a very loud laugh. Even our male cat is constantly meowing and loud. Indoor voices are a thing that do not exist for the men in my household. But for me, constant noise makes me overwhelmed. I enjoy quiet, I enjoy no noise, and I particularly need it in the morning.

My discovery that early mornings bring me joy occurred briefly the first summer of my son’s life. I would wake up while my husband and son slept, creep out of our room, and sit in the morning sunshine in our kitchen sipping coffee as the fogginess of those early motherhood sleepless nights cleared. I remember then that I enjoyed those moments alone but soon I succumbed to extra sleep. This summer, however, it seemed like a long-lasting decision. Weekends, if I could pull it off, would be for sleeping in until 7, but during the week? Well, that’s a different story.

As my son began to transition from two naps to one, I was sad he was showing another sign he was rapidly growing up but also sad that I was losing those two ‘breaks’ during the course of my day. I appreciated them and was just beginning to understand that they should be treated as breaks–for the previous year I had used nap times as chances to do chores. Cleaning the kitchen, folding laundry, doing dishes filled those nap times but soon, as my son’s patience and interest in toys grew, I discovered they could be done during his waking hours. So, nap times became a break. A chance for me to sit, write, crochet, read, and on and on. Now that my son was transitioning to one nap I found the early mornings to be such blissful times alone that I began to set an alarm, just in case I should miss waking up on my own, and set intention to enjoy each of those mornings by myself and the entire experience edged on religious worship with mindful intention on everything I did.

I woke, checked the time, then laid in bed looking at the outline of our curtains as the world lightened outside for a minute before sitting up. I would take off my fertility monitor, upload the data, then unplug the various electronic devices that charged by my bed.

I’d go to the bathroom, blinking and squinting out the window and sometimes opening it to see if it was humid or not outside, wash my face, then proceed to the living room. All lights were off, all footfalls gentle, and typically our very loud cat even got the memo and would quietly join me. I’d pull back the sheer curtains and open the window a crack before curling into my spot on the couch beside the windows. Then, for the next hour or so, I would stare out the window, listen to the birds, write in my journal, crochet, and perhaps play Animal Crossing (but only for a few minutes).

Somehow, this hour would always feel so long. I suspect it’s because I was not allowing myself to zone out and be distracted by a myriad of items. The lack of noise created by me, by my family was felt heavily and allowed the sound of birds and summer bugs to take the forefront. I was able to appreciate the nature around me more. I was able to take notice of our world more.

Over the course of two weeks, I noticed the sun began to rise a tiny bit later every day. I’ve always been so intent on noting the sun rising and setting because I am awake those hours but often sunrise would go unnoticed. I also was able to see how the air changed, how it was cool upon waking and warmed over that span of time when the sun was climbing higher and warming the earth.

Prior to waking up earlier than my family, I would groan and be irritated when my son would wake up. “Why is he up so early,” I’d growl. And that’s simply not how I want to greet the day, it’s not how I want to greet my son or the attitude I want first thing in the morning.

But with waking early, with embracing that hour to myself, I found myself feeling relaxed and at ease. I found myself having fulfilled an unknown need to be focused on myself and attend to my own needs. I found myself happy to hear his little sounds when he woke and greeting him with joy–which he deserves more than anything.

I know these early mornings will change. Soon enough, it will be dark for much longer and somehow waking when it still seems to be night causes an entirely different reaction for me. But for the summers, well, I suspect I’ll do this every summer from here on out. Set my alarm, get my early morning items set up by the window, and greet the day with silent observance.

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