I had swaddled him securely, held him in the proper position, and at the volume of a vacuum cleaner, was shooshing and swaying my baby boy like a maniac in the darkest hours of night.
While others all around us in our neighborhood slept peacefully, my husband and I were up every hour of the night, every night, month after month.
I felt hopeless. We had gone to months of parenting classes prior to Oliver’s birth. I was an organizing machine and as a teacher, I knew how to keep a schedule down to the second. It’s what I did every day. When our first child was born, we knew what to do.
And then he started spitting up constantly.
When I say “spitting up” I mean profusely regurgitating all day long. I rarely went out. I changed my clothes, and his, five to six times a day. He cried constantly. I prayed, constantly. I wept from the feelings of isolation. As a strong woman who was typically unflappable, I felt defeated for the first time in my life.
Sure enough, after three or four months of agony that I was not doing something right, and listening to the few moms I knew had babies the same age that slept and gurgled happily during the day, Oliver was diagnosed with colic and severe reflux. The medication he began was a life-saver. We had already tried EVERYTHING else. Finally, Oliver didn’t seem to be suffering as much and although he still spit up continually and never slept, he was less fussy. I thanked God for at least allowing us to understand what was happening to his little body and giving him some relief.
We became experts in everything from sleep training, to massage, to infant chiropractic methods-you name it. We hired an expert in sleep training who had helped thousands and thousands of families. And after working with us, she gave us our money back, told us that we were 1 of 3 families in her career that she could not help. She uttered four words to us that changed everything for me: “He’s just not a sleeper."
At last, a professional told me what I knew all along.
I wasn’t doing anything wrong. It wasn’t my fault. He just wasn’t a sleeper. He had some issues physically, but ultimately, it was simply not part of who Oliver was. To be honest, it’s what the Holy Spirit had been whispering to me for months. From that point on, I relaxed. I breathed. I knew that I was going to get up all night and instead of longing for him to sleep and dreading the cries, I eased out of bed, ready to hold him, loving who he was in his unique neediness, and tried to release my weariness to the soothing touch of cradling my baby who simply needed his mother and father to hold him through the night. We were still bone tired, but we weren’t agonizing over it anymore.
It wasn’t something we could “fix” and we were okay with that.
Eventually, after his first two years of life, Oliver became a wonderful sleeper. He overcame that chapter of his life, and with his next two brothers, we were much more in tune to their unique needs and methods for helping them get to sleep. Something different worked with each one, and they needed us be open to parenting them without formulas. None of them were ever great sleepers for the first 9 months. But we no longer agonized over their sleep patterns.
If you are that mom, the one whose world has been flipped upside down by this baby you love endlessly but can’t seem to “figure it out," allow yourself to go with the flow knowing that change happens slowly most of the time. Let yourself breathe, and meet their needs time and time again if necessary, strengthened by the daily grace of the Holy Spirit to guide and restore you. Listen to your instincts, pray for self-control, and then seek to enjoy your child in the midst of their difficulties.
That’s what being a good mom is. It’s not fixing everything the first time and having an ideal child. It’s knowing them, loving them, and doing it again tomorrow, whether in the bright moments of day or the darkest moments of night.
Whether they eat what you want them to or not.
Whether they sleep at night or not.
Whether they nap well or not.
Whether they grow according to a doctor’s growth chart or not.
Whether they cuddle you quietly or not.
By His divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. 2 Peter 1:3
The Lord has given you the Holy Spirit to help you in this very moment. He promises to give you wisdom for your individual needs and role as a mom. Cling to that. Cling to Him. You can do it with God’s help, and it will get better. I promise.