A summer night, just one month after KJ was born, RRL and I were sitting at one of my favorite places- my parents’ dining room table. There aren’t many places I’d ever rather be. Usually it means good food, lots of laughter, maybe some snarky comments from a brother or two and always always always leaving so full my pants need to be loosened and my heart might explode.
On this occassion the entire dinner time crowd was in a spell- staring and swooning over our sweet first born son. “Nonna” was loving playing her new role and “Granny Frannie” an adopted grandmother was happy to step-in when she needed a free hand. At some point during dinner one of them mentioned, “ABL, isn’t this just the sweetest time of your ENTIRE life?”
And I burst into tears.
Oh, heavens- I sure hope not. Because if you are telling me that cleaning yellow slimy poop, struggling to breast feed, and not sleeping (oh, how I missed sleep) are the sweetest times of my life- I’m not sure I’m cut out for this parenting thing. Sure, I loved the little guy in a completely unexplainable sort of way. Somehow, although no formula could rationalize it, I was absolutely head-over-heels for him. But I also loved sleep. Really missed it. Lots.
I was smack dab in my first of four periods of “I don’t think I’ve ever been this tired. Will I ever sleep again? I’m not sure rational sentences are even coming out of my mouth. What day is it?” exhaustion. And every single time I had a baby, even with more wisdom and less stress in each subsequent period, it was overwhelming. Yes, every.single.time.
But guess what? And depending on where you are right now in the sleepless-night-stage this may shock you:
Each time I came out on the other side. At some point (and the points were broadly mapped across the spectrum with our four), I did sleep.
If there is any one question I get asked by other moms most frequently, this probably is it:
HOW do I get them to SLEEP?
Here is usually my answer: “I have no idea.”
Which is why this blog is read by 5.3 people. Ok, sure, I have ideas. Lots of ideas. But beware: so does every other mom you ask. Everysingleone. So, do yourself a favor- don’t ask.
Because unfortunately (or actually, fortunately) every single baby is different. So there won’t be a perfect solution, created by someone else, that will work for your baby. I’m so sorry. If you haven’t already, you have GOT to go read this hilarious post by Matt Walsh about why we’ve gotta quit parenting other people’s kids. Read a few things online if you need to, to make yourself feel better, pick one trusted friend to vent to, and then just do what you gotta do to survive.
And for that, I actually DO have some suggestions.
Tips for surviving sleepless nights (none of which have to do with making your baby sleep more):
1) Hide treats for yourself. Whatever you love- a favorite lotion, some chocolate, a healthy snack (i mean, if you’re like that), a book. Make them accessible. Forget a sock drawer in the nursery- you need a survival drawer. Because lets be real, if you’ve been up 199 times already you don’t want to go scrounging around downstairs for these items.
2) Have your husband (or friend or mom) write you notes about what a great mom you are. These should be very short and easy to read in a state of delirium. Wives- YES! It is absolutely ok to ASK your husband to do this. He won’t ever think to do it on his own, but he’ll be so thrilled that his way to “help” at night can be accomplished in the day. Post these on your bathroom mirror, on a table in the baby’s room or as book marks in that book you’ve stashed (see #1). Believe the words written in love. Don’t let the enemy of doubt creep into the literal darkness of night. Its one of his favorite places to lurk. Instead, believe that you were made for this purpose and this baby was made for greatness.
3) Write yourself notes: “This won’t last forever” “In the morning he’ll be adorable” or favorite verses or other quotes you find encouraging. Put them where you’ll see them. On top of the wipes dispenser, on the diaper trash can, near the crib, beside your clock (I mean have those glowing red numbers EVER been so annoying)- wherever your eyes might go before your brain goes somewhere you don’t want it to be: COVER that space.
3) Get a hobby– something you like doing when you are awake for longer periods of time and something you might even start looking forward to. (watching Downton Abbey, Play Sudoku reading children’s books to your baby, picking out paint colors for the dining room. You know- hypothetically speaking.) Pick something you’ll be proud of in the morning. Beware of addictions.
4) Keep a journal to jot down notes- on paper or just in your phone. Just write down where-ever your crazy brain takes you on that midnight train. You will either A- literally laugh out loud later reading what you thought were perfectly rational thoughts at the time or B-record something that only the Lord could have spoken through an exhausted heart. Either way- it will be a best seller! Do me a favor though- don’t post any of these thoughts online until you are awake enough to be sure you really wanted to share that.
5) Remember it is ok to walk away and breathe. I’m not talking cry it out (remember this is not about how to make your baby sleep). I’m just saying- recognize your limit and believe with your heart that if you need to put your baby in a safe place for a few minutes and walk to another room in the middle of the night (while munching on something from your stash), this is perfectly acceptable- even commendable.
6) PRAY! I know, I just lost a few of you. But really. Try this: Pray for your baby. Pray for your husband. Pray for your coming day. Make a list during daytime hours of other people you can pray for. Grab that list at the moment in which you are thinking your life might be the hardest of all lives ever created.
None of these will make your baby sleep more. That’s my disclaimer. But maybe one of these will help you make it to the other side! There is light ahead, I promise. There are many blessings that will come from this season, indeed. You’ll depend on others, your baby will depend on you, you are just at the very beginning of a relationship that will ROCK YOUR WORLD.
And I think that is what they meant that summer night around my Momma’s table- they knew that this sweet baby being born (keeping me up at night, not withstanding) was the beginning of greatness for me. They’d seen their own babies grow AND SLEEP and love and learn and change and share and give and become. They’d seen the path that would lead out of those sleepless and selfless nights, so they could recognize the beauty of the beginning. A beginning I now know I wouldn’t trade for all the sleep in the world.