Today’s post in the series Worshipping God in the Real World comes from Sally Collings. Sally is the author of Parenting with Soul (from HarperCollins, available in Amazon’s Kindle store – print edition currently available in Australia only), Sophie′s Journey, Positive and The World According to Kids. She lives in Brisbane, Australia with her husband, two daughters and one goldfish. Even as mother to two young children, she still manages to grab the odd nanosecond of serenity.
I reckon mothers of newborn babies should be recruited as spies. Interrogation techniques involving sleep deprivation would be useless on us. ‘You want me to stay awake for 48 hours straight? That’s too easy – do you want me to change diapers and clean up vomit too?’
I’m a bit of a morning person. In my early twenties I worked the breakfast show on a community radio station, so I would be up in the dark, catching the train with the early shift workers. I used to love seeing the first glow of light blush the sky, being out in the world with the privileged few while the rest of the world slept on, unconscious. The world out there was so still and full of promise.
Years later, I sat with my first child in the first few months of her life. Awake through the night again, but not by choice. Not even remotely. It’s all very well staying up to see the dawn when you know you can sleep in the next day. It’s another to be forcibly woken night after night after night …
Babies display all the characteristics of jet lag. Night or day, it makes no difference to them. They can be living in Boston but operate on Madrid time, they may be in Johannesburg but their watches are set to LA’s time zone. It’s one of the first great lessons a newborn must absorb: daytime wake, night-time sleep. Given that they won’t learn to tell the time for another seven years or so, no wonder it’s all a mystery to them.
In those first years of being a parent, waking up and getting out of bed becomes one of yours spiritual practices. Think of monasteries and nunneries where the bells ring in the darkest hour before dawn, and the faithful must rise and go to devotions. That’s you.
In those night hours, everything is still – and the sound of a baby crying can seem loud beyond imagining or tolerance. Yet when your baby settles to feed or is bundled up in their cot, there is no time or place that is more silent. There is just the two of you. Nothing else is.
It soon becomes second nature to roll out from under the covers when your baby squeaks. Some nights it is harder than others: your baby’s cries become part of a dream that goes on, or you feel that your limbs are lined with lead and it is purely impossible to rise up.
My two girls are six and almost eight now and we are reclaiming the night. Eight hours sleep is mine again more often than not. Perversely, though, sometimes I look back with a tiny bit of longing at those soft, still, aching nights, sitting with a baby feeding, alone together in absolute intimacy.
When you’re awake at three in the morning, look on the bright side – here’s some silence and solitude come your way. Your days are full, so this is a gift. Feel fellowship in the fact that there are so many parents right now doing what you are doing. You might want to say a prayer for them; here’s one that works for me.
Please bless all mums and dads who are awake with their children right now. Bring serenity to breastfeeding mothers and healing wisdom to parents with sick children. For parents who are sleepless, tense and anxious, I pray that you will bring them solace in the night hours.