Sleepless Nights: You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet

It was 2AM. The shrieking had subsided, but the tears had not. My eyelids were like lead, becoming heavier by the second, but I wouldn’t dare let them close all the way. I’d heard too many tragic tales of parents dozing off while rocking their infants to sleep, so instead, I allowed just a sliver of light in to keep me awake.

I had tried everything. I had Googled far too much. I’d changed his diaper, fed him, ensured he was neither too hot nor too cold (just call me Goldilocks), swaddled him, unswaddled him, re-swaddled him with both arms out, then just one, turned the sound machine on, promptly turned it off, plugged in a nightlight, made sure it was pitch black, whipped out the Pack-and-Play, gave the bassinet a whirl, and attempted the mamaRoo. I even grabbed my phone and made it all the way to the checkout of the magical, mystical, seriously pricey (but, so I’ve heard, worth every penny) DockATot before determining that a middle-of-the-night splurge of that caliber was likely a bit much. And wouldn’t be super fun to explain in the morning.

So, as I slouched in that beige glider, rocking the night away while transforming my chest into the ideal sleeping location for this tiny, somehow wide-awake human, I wasn’t able to reach a place of gratitude. I didn’t steer my thoughts someplace lovely and beautiful, somewhere above the frustration, confusion, and exhaustion. I didn’t thank God for the precious life that I was holding in my shaky, weakening arms.

Because it’s hard to do in the moment. It’s nearly impossible to be that woman, the one who praises the glorious creation in the midst of helpless screams and seemingly endless tears. And even when I’m able to muster the inner strength and wisdom to recognize the blessing of this fleeting stage of parenthood, night falls once again. I’m back to square one, and having been oh-so-wise last night, it’s only natural that this time I’ll play the fool. That frustrated, confused, exhausted mama rears her ugly head once more, squelching any bit of goodness left over from the night before.

My most recent reason for sleepless nights, Jones Holden (now eight months). PC :: Rachel Sanders with Sun Chaser Studios

But I oftentimes find that life’s lessons have a way of creeping into my heart, seeping into my bones. I can’t evade them, no matter how hard I try.

We moms feel this pressure to live every moment of motherhood within a bubble of gratitude, because it is, without a shred of doubt, an immense blessing to be called, “Mama.” There are many times, though, that that gratitude, that understanding of the swift pace at which this age of neediness will pass, comes later. It comes when you’ve had more than three hours of sleep in a twenty-four hour period. When you’ve had a nice, hot warm cool cup of coffee. When you’ve removed yourself from the stress of not knowing how to soothe your babe and make all things right again.

For me, it came months later. Just the other night, in fact. The days of sleepless nights around here are long over (insert: all the praise hands), but for some reason, I just could not fall asleep. I was stirring, tossing and turning, for hours – something that is highly unusual for me. I’m a lay my head on the pillow and fall asleep within seconds kinda girl. A snoozing during the craziest part of Dateline kinda girl.

Then, out of nowhere, it hit me. Those sleepless nights that I’d experienced, those hours of praying desperately for supernatural strength just to make it through, those are the sleepless nights I will forever cherish. Those are the sleepless nights that I want to remember; they’re the ones that I would gladly take back any day; they’re the ones that I will attempt to genuinely embrace the next time around.

Because one day, years from now, I’ll be experiencing those sleepless nights all over again. Yet, this time, I won’t be holding a baby in my arms; I’ll be holding a young man, my oldest baby, in my heart. I’ll be restless, full of anxiety, as I wonder where he is. Who he’s with. What he’s doing. If he’s making good choices. I’ll be earnestly lifting my son up in prayer, knowing full well that it is out of my control, that his well-being isn’t in my hands.

So these sleepless nights, the ones where I get to hold my wailing but safe, secure, protected babies in my arms: I’ll take them. One thousand times over, I’ll take them. Again and again and again.

And that’s the beauty of motherhood. My mama heart isn’t ready for those sleepless nights, but it doesn’t have to be. I’m not there yet. My journey hasn’t reached that point. So, for the time being, I’ll welcome these sleepless nights with arms wide open, knowing full well that these are the sleepless nights I’ve been created to handle.

For now, at least.

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