Everyone knows the first week after a baby is born is filled with sleepless nights. It is the boot camp of parenthood. It is the loud wake up call, immediately following the challenges of having the baby, when you realize that you actually have to care for this new life and develop a heart of servant hood for your child. Death and resurrection. My life for yours and all that.
Fortunately you have the warm, soft baby skin to snuggle with and sweet baby breath on your neck to remind you of the magical privilege of it all.
It also helps to have an incredibly supportive husband who willingly takes a shift when jumping out of bed the day after delivering a baby just doesn't sound so good. And it also helps to have caring family members watch the older kids so resting on the couch, or even taking that dreamed of afternoon nap, is actually possible. And getting delicious home cooking delivered to our doorstep. Yes, I have it good.
However, it can still be hard to remember all of these blessings and acts of love when the baby starts grunting violently, gradually crescendoing into an indignant cry, for the fifth time in half an hour, at 1:30 in the a.m. And you realize that you haven't really slept at all and you're not sure there's much hope for the rest of the night. And the other two children will be raring to go at 7 a.m. the next morning with no compassion for your sleep deprived state. It is a very brief phase in life but while you are in the trenches it seems interminable.
Thankfully I have been exposed to the wise council of older and more sensible women in our various church families. From Nancy Wilson's Bible study for mothers, reminding us to not be selfish with our sleep or hold it against our children in bitterness and frustration, to casual chats over a meal or in the nursing room at church, swapping suggestions and perspectives.
One very helpful perspective that was shared with me was to remember to be thankful for every bit of sleep that you do get. Dwelling on the positives instead of the negatives. Glass half full sort of thing. It seems so simple, but having that drilled into my head one more time made an impact. Time to stop counting exactly how many hours and minutes of sleep that I get every night. And not being resentful when that precious little bundle caused me to fall short by 23 minutes (or 6 hours). Trusting instead that God will provide just the right amount of sleep needed, and the strength when I'm running low. Allowing myself to indulge in as many naps as possible. Remembering that this too shall pass and I will be looking back to those sleepless nights and missing the tiny fingers clutching my hair and the round little head tucked under my chin.
Point in hand - I recently read this excerpt from my journal from when William was a wee one (so long ago...). I usually don't go for the sort of 'stream of consciousness' style of writing, but it seems to fit with the subject matter considering I don't usually think clearly when woken out of a deep sleep:
"Midnight feedings - Frozen bare feet on hardwood floors. Shivering as I pull his chubby body close. Rocking back and forth with my eyes still closed. Dimpled baby arm raised up high. Sweeping across my chest and neck with featherlight fingers. Then with full belly cuddling upright. Head tucked under my chin. Fingers plucking at my bathrobe until tucked back into crib." ... "These are moments I take for granted, even dread when lying in my warm bed. When I forget life's true perspectives. Yet so dear to me and then they are gone and I miss them terribly. These are the moments that make up motherhood."