When my first daughter was born, I hated night time. All day every day I dreaded that moment when it was time to go to sleep. When everyone I knew was resting peacefully in their beds, eyes closed, for a full eight hours. When my husband was breathing deeply and peacefully next to me, as I sustained the life of another for just one more day. When TV turned trashy, and even my sleep-deprived mommy brain could not make sense of it. When I shouldn’t drink coffee, or eat sweets because that elusive thing called sleep could be moments away, or hours, or days.
There was too much unknown about nighttime, and too much at stake. Not sleeping meant misery for the whole next day, and falling asleep meant I could be getting a full two hours, or maybe just twenty minutes, or ten, or two. And who knows what could happen while I was asleep? Is that swaddle too close to her face? What if she breaks free of the swaddle (which she’s never done before) and then pushes it against her face and I don’t wake up? What if it’s too hot, or too cold? What if she poops, or pees, or spits up? And then before you know it, she’s awake again.
And then there’s the ever so delicate decision: to put her down, or to hold her? Holding her means she’ll sleep for two hours, no question, maybe more. Putting her down means I could get two hours of sleep in my own bed on my stomach maybe, or she wakes up before my head even hits the pillow and I have to start the nursing, rocking, singing, shushing routine all over again. Holding her also means I could fall asleep, and then maybe drop her, and that anxiety is enough to keep me awake, holding my baby, watching trashy TV, until the wee hours of the morning.
My first daughter was something. My Mom still tells the story of how I called her in tears telling her that she just never stops crying. My Mom told me “Honey, babies cry.” And then my Mom came to visit, and she realized, oh my goodness, this baby really never stops crying. There was no explanation for the stress that was my first experience with motherhood; there were so so many tears, and also so much grace. So much grace. She was either crying, nursing, or sleeping for the first 6 weeks of her life. I was losing my mind, and there was no way to fix it, but to go through it.
A friend of mine once came to bring us dinner, and the second she asked “How are you doing,” I immediately burst into tears. I couldn’t fathom getting through this, and couldn’t see the end. In my mind, there was no end. People would tell me “well teenagers sleep through the night, and they don’t cry when you’re not holding them.” I do not have thirteen more years of this in me; I do not have thirteen more hours of this in me, thirteen more minutes. It was around the clock, it was exhausting, and it was all on me. My husband is amazing, and worked hard to get through it all, too, but babies need their mamas, and that statement in itself is more than I could handle at the time.
It’s a wonder I had any more kids after her, but she has grown into the most beautiful, loving, strong-willed little thing, and I could not ask for a better six year old! The Lord knew that I could handle her, so he gave her to me. But, if you had asked me, in the middle of the night when she wouldn’t stop crying, and wouldn’t eat, and wouldn’t sleep if I could handle it, I would have vehemently said no, absolutely not.
But in those sleepless, frustrating, unending nights, I held onto one thing. A friend of mine sent me these words in the middle of the night as she was also up with pregnancy pains of her own. “His mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:23).” If I could just get through the night, his mercies would be new when the light broke over the horizon. When I saw that first hint of light, I could breathe a sigh of relief because his mercies were new. Every day he’d give me new strength, new life, new energy, and new love for this tiny unpredictable child in my arms.
And another friend sent me “Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes in the morning (Psalms 30:5).” The Lord who inspired that verse definitely had me, and other sleepless mamas, in His mind. The nights were so hard; there was a lot of weeping, but if I could just get to the morning, there would be joy. My baby would smile, my coffee would taste good, and maybe a friend would be coming over with food, or I would get to take a shower.
If you are deep in these moments mamas, take a deep breath, and soak in the promises of God. Every morning is new, and He is there in all of it. Repeat it to yourself as you nurse, or rock, or bounce, or change that baby of yours. Sip that delicious coffee and feel that joy. Take in that elusive, gassy, baby smile, and feel that joy. Watch that ridiculous reality show, laugh, and feel that joy.
And if you’re not a brand new mama, but you find yourself in some darkness, just know that the dawn will break, morning will always come, and His mercies will always be new everyday. The Lord sees us, knows us, and won’t leave us in our darkness forever. Hold on tight to these promises in the darkness, and before you know it, the morning will come, and so will the overwhelming, and merciful, abundant joy.