My son is a pretty good sleeper, as babies go. He’s gone through the typical sleep-changes and regressions of course (allowing us to experience parenting in all its wake-up-every-hour-or-two-all-night-long glory), but on average he only wakes up once a night. On a good night he won’t wake up until 4 or 5am, eat, then go back to sleep for a couple of hours.
I hesitate to voice my struggle to the world, knowing there are moms out there who are waking constantly, night after night, with multiple children who are needy at night, then wake with the sun. I almost feel ashamed to bring it up. Ashamed that I have a son who has been fairly even-tempered and predictable with sleep, yet here I am, still struggling.
I struggle with sleep.
Every day I wake up tired. Most nights are spent tossing and turning, senses fully alert, deep sleep only seeming to settle in with the morning dew. Most days I start the day thanking God for caffeine and a sensitive husband. Some days are started with a heavy heart, wondering if I’ll ever be able to experience true refreshing rest.
Nights like this have always been common. I’ve struggled since I was an infant with sleep due to an extreme sensitivity to movement, sound, and light. The light and sound sensitivity also make the whole ‘sleep when baby sleeps’ mantra impossible to follow during the day, as naps are non-existent in my world.
When I was young I would cry.
Waking up for the 10th time around 3am, I would cry hot tears of rage and frustration knowing there would be little relief in the remainder of the night. I would cry going to bed, knowing that even though I was exhausted, sleep wasn’t on the agenda. As I grew into an older teen I tried to learn ways to help my mind shut down, to help my body drift into a sleep cycle, and to be able to stay asleep for longer periods of time. Eventually I came to accept the fact that my ‘normal’ was waking up many times throughout the night.
The nights where I wake up only 4 or 5 times for a minute or less produce wonderfully stimulating days full of energy and drive. The nights where I wake up every half hour for more than a couple of minutes produce days of discouragement, frustration, and apathy.
Those are the days I struggle with self-worth. Wondering how I can be of help to anyone. Feeling like a failure in my career. Feeling like a failure as a wife, homemaker, and mother. Feeling like I just can’t push through another night like the one before.
Every mom knows how hard it is to function on little sleep. I’m not saying anything new.
The point of this post isn’t to garner sympathy or to find the most recommended sleep aids. The point is that we all have something that can (and maybe does) debilitate us. We all have something that we feel could or has completely handicapped our ability to function or move forward in life. Some days we feel almost normal, and some days are worse than most. Some days we’d rather not even attempt to do life because we know that our attempt will probably result in a failure. Failure becomes a fast-track to self-deprecation and depression, and the cycle continues with our focus stuck on victim-hood.
I’ve learned through my struggle with fatigue that no amount of ‘pushing through’ or ‘pulling myself up by the bootstraps’ can get me through a week of little sleep. At some point, even this way of thinking crumbles when my body cries ‘Enough!’. The only way I can get through those extremely trying weeks is to be honest with myself about my shortcomings, honest with my husband about my need for help, and honest with God about my desperate need of Him.
I’ve learned to understand that some weeks the house may need to just stay dirty, and that’s ok. I’ve learned that my strength of body isn’t strong enough and my strength of mind has a limit. I’m learning to be ok with knowing that failure is a regular part life and that depression or self-deprecation must be fought at all costs. I’ve learned to say ‘I can’t make dinner. I love you, but we’re going to do cereal tonight’. I’ve learned to find relief in ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest’ (Matt. 11:28).
Although sleep might be beautiful and wonderful and satisfying, it’s not the source of ultimate happiness and joy. My source of daily joy and inspiration only comes when I choose to start my day with thanksgiving. When, even though I may be exhausted, I choose to serve my husband by engaging with him in a conversation about his day instead of letting my mind wander to my own desires. When I choose to love my son by sitting on the floor with him, taking him for walks, and blending fruits and veggies for him to eat. When I choose to think of ways to serve or encourage the people around me (sometimes even just through texts or emails) instead of wallowing in my feelings of tiredness. When I choose to have a cup of tea and read or write a letter instead of binging on Netflix.
Most days I wake up exhausted, yet I can live with purpose because I know the Giver of life. I am intimately known and loved by the One who can fill me with heart-strength and deep, new joy, day after day.
Even in the midst of dark, sleepless nights, I know that the steadfast love of the Lord covers me. He is my strength and in Him I can rest.