Taking care of a hurting baby can leave any mama sleep-deprived. This is encouragement for the sleep-deprived mother (or father).
To the sleep-deprived Mama,
You are not alone.
I’ve been there; so tired you almost fall asleep on the toilet.
I hope you find this at 2 am, when you’re desperate for a word of encouragement and haven’t yet slept a wink because your child hasn’t slept.
I’ve rejoiced over 4 non-consecutive hours of sleep a night because for months we had less than that.
I know that the term “sleeping like a baby” was written by someone who was ignorant of what it is like to have a hurting baby.
I, too, was a real-live zombie, in a daze, wandering around aimlessly, looking for a bed.
I’ve felt your hope as you plan a new strategy to help your baby fall asleep and stay asleep.
I read those books and blogs, and heard the advice of fellow parents.
We bought the highly acclaimed swings, noise machines, and baby sleep books written by experts; all of which did not work for us.
One by one, tools and advice of experts failed for my hurting child who couldn’t sleep.
Desperate, we also tried letting baby ‘cry it out’, but with a hurting child, but it just wasn’t right and the crying went on far too long.
We learned that a hurting child is not able to self-soothe and what it is like to be needed by them to fall asleep.
I have seen a hurting child finally pass out in my arms, and realize it is the only time all day that their body relaxed.
I know how it FEELS to rock a baby so much that your back feels it may break.
I understand that the ONLY reason you can keep rocking them is because you LOVE them. So. Very. Much.
I’ve cradled a child with numb and tingling arms, too afraid to move for fear of waking them up.
I have felt poorly equipped, inadequate, and have sobbed, along with my child, unable to soothe them.
I’ve fallen asleep in that uncomfortable chair, freezing cold because you can’t reach the blanket, with my bladder about to burst, because I know if I move they’ll wake.
I know that you, too, would sacrifice your health, body, and sleep if it meant your child would feel better.
I have felt what it is like to be so tired, having given all your energy to the child, that you’ve forgotten to eat, or drink anything all day.
I tried to sleep when the baby slept, but a few 1 hour stretches at night were just not enough. And I know that when you work during the day or care for another child, that napping when the baby naps is not realistic.
I know the feeling of exhaustion that goes down into your SOUL.
And for those days to go on for MONTHS and MONTHS.
I heard my friends boast of how their child slept well from “the night they brought them home” and wondered what was wrong with us.
I know that until you’ve had a hurting child and experienced the sleep-deprivation it can cause, that you can feel entirely alone, misunderstood, and that you may fear it will. NEVER. end.
Seeking help, I took my child to the doctor and cried in the office.
I know how vulnerable it feels to have a public break-down and how grateful I was to the nurses, doctors, co-workers, family and friends who spoke kindly and encouraged me.
I know what its like to truly worship sleep and to be unable to focus on anything but the next chance to get some.
And, I too, reached the point where even when my baby slept, I stopped being ABLE to sleep.
As I laid my sleeping baby down, exhausted, a surge of adrenaline pumped through my veins as I slowly backed out of the room and closed the door. I was hypersensitive to ANY sound that might wake the baby.
I, too, collapsed into bed only to hear my child’s baby grunts and noises that all babies make in their sleep.
I know that with each sound, a fresh dose of adrenaline surges and that fear that the baby will wake can steal ANY sleep you might get before the crying begins again.
After months of sleep deprivation, I, too, heard my baby’s cries in the white noise of a fan, in the background of a football game, or the sound of the shower running, and wondered if I was a crazy person.
With nowhere else to turn, I relied on the Lord to carry me through those nights where I cried as much as my child.
I too prayed those persistent prayers for sleep and for healing for my child. In our case, I prayed that his heartburn and acid reflux would cease and he would no longer hurt.
It took 15 months for those prayers to be answered.
BUT, Have hope.
My prayers WERE answered.
I have awoken to light streaming through the window and felt the seizing fear that something bad had happened.
And then I felt the JOY and RELIEF when I found the baby still asleep.
We slowly saw a few sporadic 4 or 5 hour stretches of sleep mix into the sleepless nights.
We saw a few long stretches turn into regular occurrences.
After months of a few hours of broken up sleep a night, I know that a 4 hour stretch can make you feel like a new mama.
As the long stretches turned into sporadic nights of 8-hour stretches, I know that at first, you wake up, wondering if something is wrong.
I also know, that at some point, you will realize that you had two nights in a row, then three, and then a week of good sleep.
For us, it was sudden. When my son walked at 15 months, I felt the elation of our first full night of sleep. It didn’t take long for it to be a regular occurrence.
It did take quite some time for me to feel refreshed, despite full nights of sleep. Your body needs to catch up. Be gentle with yourself.
Looking back, I cannot begin to fathom how we even survived, but I can tell you, we did only by the Lord carrying us through it.
My son’s name is written in my Bible next to this verse, and it is imprinted on my soul after saying it over and over, half-asleep and weary.
I remember you upon my bed,
and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
for you have been my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.
My soul clings to you;
your right hand upholds me.
God IS hearing you.
He IS helping you.
He IS holding you up, as you struggle to stay awake and to comfort your child.
He IS equipping you to parent, work, and function, despite severe sleep deprivation.
If you are reading this with red, stinging, tired eyes that you can hardly keep open, take heart, sleep is coming.
If your child has reflux (GERD), and it is not responding to medication as our son didn’t, cling to the promise several doctors gave me and was TRUE for us: when your child walks, everything changes. The muscles develop, the pressure lifts from their stomach, and sleep comes.
This. Shall. Pass. I’ve experienced it.
Your child WILL sleep through the night, even if it feels like it may never happen.
It will not be as soon as you’d like.
It will take you by surprise and suddenly life won’t seem like such a BLUR.
Your view of sleep will never be the same.
Even today, my son is 4 years old, and has slept through the night since 15 or 16 months. I still wake most mornings, grateful that my children slept all night long, and for their health.
When sleep comes, it will bring with it WAVES of gratitude.
But, for now, cling to hope. Be encouraged.
Keep loving your child.
If you feel like you’re just surviving, that is OK.
You are doing ENOUGH and I have no doubt that you are doing a GREAT job.
You are not alone.