the nightwatch :: sarah bessey

Our last little baby doesn’t sleep. She is now nearly eleven months old and I am too old for this. She falls asleep easily, she is happy and content, she naps beautifully, she is ahead of the curve in her development in every way and she is apparently unable to sleep longer than two hours at a time. She simply wakes up constantly. And so I am awake every two hours at least, some nights it’s as often as every thirty minutes. For nearly a year of my life, I have not slept.

I have deployed every tool in my toolbox. After all, I am the mother of four: there are few things I haven’t tried and there are few dogmatic ideologies left intact. I have had everything from great sleepers to not-so-great sleepers. But this is a whole other category of sleeplessness, never before experienced by me. Since nothing has worked and she is happy and healthy – if alarmingly awake in the wee sma’s of the morning – there is nothing much left to do so we, well, we endure.

But that word doesn’t quite sum up what that time has become for me. I am trying to fix this, absolutely but I also have to accept that this is her right now and this is what it will be for however long it would be, so I have searched for grace here in this, too.

Because I cannot fix it. I am out of ideas. I have had to find a way to function in my life without much sleep. I feel okay most days: some days, I feel not-okay but even that is okay. I am not alone, I have support, we have found our ways to deal with this. It seems a small thing from the outside, even a rite of passage: “The baby won’t sleep” – we’ve all been there. And now it feels like this entire year has been one very long day broken up by naps.

I think that when we are faced with something we cannot fix or control – however small or however big – it can break us wide open and we discover who we were underneath the comfort trappings of answers or affluence or health or even sleep or whatever it is that we’ve lost. And then when the underneath of us is out in the fresh air, I think it’s an opportunity to heal it, to strengthen it, to make beautiful even the reckoning.

Some nights, I trudge through these rituals: the fuzzy “already?” waking up to her cry, the patting of her bum, the nursing in the rocking chair, the “will-she-go-back-to-sleep-or-won’t-she?” of pausing before rising to do either one, the tip-toeing out of a dark room, the gentle closing of a door only to hear her stir and rise and weep again while I softly bang my head against the door frame. I am no super mum by any stretch; there are plenty of nights when I am comatose and automatic, nights when I am frustrated.

But then here it is: hiding in plain sight, an altar. I’m standing sentry and holding vigil for her. It feels like I have become the answer because I have no answers and so I am free to simply show up both during the night for the baby and even as I am now during the day. It feels like a holy act to lift one crying and cold baby up out of her darkness and hold her to my body, to still the cries of at least one soul.

I cannot save the world, I know that by now. My idealism of my youth has become the pragmatism of my do-what-works stage of life. But I still believe that every small thing matters and that everything in our lives, everything we do can be a testimony to the goodness and freedom and welcome of our God. And so maybe I can’t save the world – it isn’t mine to save anyway – and maybe my life is smaller than the world tells me is acceptable, but this is my place, no one else has this spot. I’m powerless but I’m redeeming it: there are many nights I pray in these hours standing in the gap for every mother who isn’t safe and every child who isn’t being held.

Last night, I rocked Maggie back to sleep. I held her upright against me, her left ear pressed just below the hollow in my throat, the curve of her small head fitting just underneath my chin, her hands were tucked in, her legs wrapped around my soft stomach, and we rocked together. I rubbed her back with the palm of my right hand, my left arm wrapped underneath her little diapered bum, holding her close to me, I felt her breathing slow. And even in the difficulties, even in the exhaustion, even in knowing that I have to rise and shine for every one else in the house in just a few short hours and how my work has suffered, even knowing I can’t do this forever and knowing that I’ll finagle for a tandem nap while everyone is at school, even here in this moment, I admit it: I delight in her and in this rickety glider that creaks on the ease back motion. Look here: her hair is like dandelion fluff and it moves with my breath, isn’t she a miracle?

I am tired. I would be glad if she would sleep. If heaven is an actual place, I hope that it’s a dark quiet room with a big king bed and I hope no one bothers me for the first millennium while I sleep off motherhood.

And at the same time, I wouldn’t be anywhere else. I wouldn’t make her scream in her bed alone and I wouldn’t trade even the hard parts, the demanding parts, because this place of parenting as simultaneous power and powerlessness is my altar. It’s where I learned about prayer as breath and work and presence. This is where I learned the holy work of waiting in the darkness, that the Holy Spirit is bright and alive in this moment not some far off moment, that our God is a mother and a father who comes to us out of the darkness and the cold to lift us up over and over and over again until we finally surrender to rest.

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  • As I’m reading this I’m hiding in the corner of my kitchen while the baby plays in his play yard, and I have so many tears. This is wonderful.

  • Yes, all the holy yeses. Thank you Sarah for writing the holiness of mothering (and all the hard too — because really what is holiness without hard?)

  • Laura

    So needed to read this and weep while trying to survive the afternoon with my never napping 9 month old wonder baby. Thank you.

  • hannah hardyman

    My little girl would wake every 2 hours to, she would feed for half an hour and then sleep for an hour and a half! It was only when she reached over a year that she went for longer! I came to love those night wakings when it was just the two of us and God! X

  • Lindsey H.

    I love this post! Thank you so much for sharing! How true your words are and it really hit home with me. Thank you for sharing your heart!
    I know you are probably tired of hearing try this and try that, but I have a suggestion…try feeding her yogurt before bed. I have an almost two-year that doesn’t require much sleep to function (unlike her momma), but I noticed that when she was a baby the nights we fed her yogurt (we would mix up her medicine in it whenever she was sick because that’s the only way she would take it) she tended to sleep better and for longer periods, so that is part of our regular nighttime routine now. Also, since we started doing that I have overheard a couple of other moms in my baby’s daycare class had also realized that yogurt at night seemed to help their child sleep better as well. Anyways…I just thought I would throw that out there even though I know you are like me and probably have already tried multiple things. I enjoy your blog so much!!!

    • Thanks but dairy at bedtime hasn’t been a big hit. 😉

  • ursulamargrit

    Have you thought of bed sharing, so you can simply keep sleeping while she nurses? If I wouldn’t have done that with some of my children, I would never have had any sleep, either. And no, bed sharing doesn’t cause SIDS. The usual reason for SIDS is vaccines were given within usually hours of death, sometimes up to a week. And it is not a coincidence, either, as doctors claim.
    Your baby wants you close, the next room and the crib are too far away for some babies. Nurse her in bed, rather than a rocking chair!

    • I wasn’t particularly inviting unsolicited advice but we have bed shared with all of our children including Maggie.

      • ursulamargrit

        Sorry, just thought I’d mention it, just in case you haven’t tried it. In which case I, in spite of having five children and 21 grandchildren, am just as clueless as to what to do as you are. You’re right, you will just have to endure until this passes, as it surely will, and with God’s help, make the best of it.

  • As I started reading, my first thought was how brave you are, because certainly a post like this will bring out all sorts of unsolicited advice. 😉 but seriously, a beautiful post. My youngest child is 12 now… so far past the night watch age. Yet the balance between power and powerlessness has never been more real. Hugs a prayers as we learn and grow in every season.

  • Leigh

    This is so lovely. As the mom of teenagers, I will not tell you to enjoy every moment; 3 am is not the time to enjoy anything, ever ever ever. But I will tell you from the other side that, just like with childbirth, the hard parts fade somewhat out of your memory and you’re left with sweet memories of soft baby hair and neck kisses. Sending up prayers that it gets better for you!

    • I believe that to be true, Leigh – thank you for that perspective!

  • I love this post. I’ve had two terrible sleepers. I’ve tried all sorts of things to finesse the situation. Few of them except my presence worked, and I also feel like the last four years has been “one very long day broken by naps”. It is just now getting better on some level, but our two year old shows up every night to climb into our bed where he squirms and kicks and reaches out to touch us, making sure his people are there. And while I, too, would love more sleep I don’t resent sharing the bed, because it is indeed a holy thing to know that for one small being, at least, your presence is all they need to right their world.

    I hope Maggie starts sleeping beyond the two hour mark soon–that’s brutal. And in the meantime, may your naps be plentiful and restorative!

  • Thank you for this – it is so what I needed to hear today, this afternoon, right now. We have a six-month-old, and while she’s not a bad sleeper, she’s six months. And I’m tired. And we have a three-year-old who has never been a great sleeper. And I’m tired. And it so resonated with me that, while I’m frustrated and tired and wish for some alone time, I wouldn’t be anywhere else. Such complex feelings for this time of life. Thanks for your honesty and for saying it so beautifully.

  • Lyrici

    You have touched my heart with this piece, Sarah! It’s so beautiful, and I’m glad to know there is another soul awake at nights along with me (although I’d prefer we could both get sleep, too)! I absolutely love how you describe your little girl asleep on your chest. It makes it worthwhile, doesn’t it, to kiss that soft hair and feel the warm body against yours, to hear the gentle breathing, to know that you’re the one helping to give them peace and rest… And I love how you spend time with God in the quiet. I am learning to just pray through these times, too, soaking in God’s presence and thinking about how we works through the difficult times. I have a big 10 month old boy who has not slept well at all since he was born, and I’m still in his room 3 or 4 times a night most nights, rocking him or nursing him back to sleep. It is hard, but holy, and there’s a bit of heaven in it, for sure. Although, I definitely agree that a bed, all alone in a dark room for hours would be sublime!!! Hugs, sweet momma!

  • Aye, Sarah. As a fellow mom of a non-sleeping baby (toddler, really – she’s 18 months old in two days!) I feel you. I thought, “Someone will suggest something, and she will have already tried it.” I know because we’ve tried everything, too! Just… just everything.

    I hate the 2 am wakeups and I love them, too. I hate them for the way I drag into work the next day, for how I just can’t seem to recover from them… but i love them for the sort of dead quiet of night where it’s just she and I.

  • Lauren

    Yes. We have an absolutely delightful eight-month-old daughter who does not sleep longer than 40 minutes during the day or two hours at night. Coming after twins who slept through the night at four months and napped like they might never sleep again, this beautiful baby has bruised my mother ego. I thought my kids slept because I was doing everything right. I was so, so wrong! But as much as I’d rather not get out of bed in the middle of the night, I also use that time to cuddle my gorgeous girl who I prayed for for so long, and to pray for the mums out there who would give anything to be in my safe, warm house with a sleepless baby the biggest of their troubles. I feel your tired and I love your perspective. And know when you get up in the middle of the night, there’s another mum on the other side of the world praying just as hard for every mother and their precious children who aren’t safe as you are. Thanks so much for sharing.

  • Kristin Whitwam

    My youngest was like that! She sleeps now so there’s hope! You and your little one will be in my prayers for sure!

  • Alissa Maxwell

    My non-sleeper is now 6 years old. My memories of that year of wakefulness are still more weary than sweet, but reading these lovely words helps me (even now) to gain a bit better perspective on that hard season. I know some dear friends who are in the wakeful season and know they will be encouraged by your words.

  • Brooke Parler

    I want to get all of this tattooed on my body so I never forget it. Sarah Bessey, you are LIGHT. Thank you for bringing down the kingdom to here. To my life.

  • Beth Anne

    Oh, Sarah. Here I sit 500 miles away from my babies & tomorrow night, I’ll sit in our own creaky chair, looking at my littlest & marveling at his lips & his hair & the way he breathes.

    It’s those moments where I feel God most, the moments of waiting, of frustration, of savoring, of feeling overwhelmingly loved and blessed…sometimes all at the same time. It’s good work that we do.

  • Angela Sartain

    Our little guy is 11 months old in two days time and I was up with him at 1:30am and 6am this morning. My selfish, tired heart was very unhappy this morning as I calculated the 4 hours sleep I got before needing to make my way to work. It hit me just before dropping him off at daycare so I prayed for us and cuddled him up for a moment. There are restful nights to come and you are right, so so many mommas, daddies, and babies to pray for in the awake moments. I shared your post with three friends of mine that are new mommas and know they will be encouraged. Thank you for your transparency and beautiful words!

  • Alethea Allen

    Sarah, what a beautiful witness to the grace we receive at unexpected times and places, especially when we are pushed to the limits by our little ones. I am going to share this with all my weary mamas who come in exhausted because their babies won’t sleep. (And I will refrain from offering any totally useless advice.)

  • Liz

    How I wish I had this to read when my first was an infant. She was up 30-40 minutes most of the night and it often took just as long to sooth her back to sleep. I felt like I was living in a constant fog. I knew I was being nurturing and patient. But this piece about holiness never occurred to me…Its actually really encouraging now to consider that those nights of walking and bouncing and humming her was work that could be considered holy. Thank you for that! I’m back at it with a 3 month old (who thankfully will sleep for a few hours in a row), and will reflect on this when I’m up tonight with him.

  • JoAnn Streeter Shade

    Beautiful. Those nights are only sweet memories now, but were certainly a struggle when I was in the midst of that fog. That restless baby was telling me about being up with his non-sleeping daughter the other night and I just smiled.

  • Jean Sayre

    Omg i have almost the exact same child. Youngest of three, 11 months old, will not sleep more than two hours at a time. I have NOT tried everything, I’m too tired. Instead i kicked my husband into the guest room and brought the baby in the bed with me. I nurse her every two hrs. Thats my survival mode. I miss a lot of morning activities. I dont know how women work and do this. I just keep telling myself, one day she’ll sleep.

  • mothering spirit

    I love your writing, your wisdom. I love how this is not about sleeplessness at all, but about the brokenness we bring to everyday altars and how we are transformed. Thank you for this reminder.

  • lndwhr

    Mine are now 20 and 17. One slept, one didn’t. I would give anything to rock both of their sweet little bodies to sleep one more time. Those sleepless nights were so hard. So so hard. But I love that you are not missing it and the importance. You will remember and you will not regret your nightwatches. Thank you Sarah, for putting heart thoughts into words.

  • Anne Updike

    Mine is 15 months old and I nearly named her Maggie. We call her Jane bright eyes. She never sleeps and we’ve tried every trick. I keep trying to brush off the mascara under my eyes every day and am dismayed to see its not mascara but deep and abiding black circles. Glad to hear I’m not alone and to remember that these little ones are important and refining. Lots of hugs to you.

  • Oh, that’s sooo hard! It sounds like you have a good perspective on it however. Parenthood is always a challenge, isn’t it? Sleepless nights and teething gets traded for exam scores and holding your breath when they’re out too late with their friends. And yet each season has its beautiful moments too. Just yesterday my gorgeous 18yo texted me from his work to say, ‘luv u mum.’ Talk about my heart melting. Hang in there!

  • jennachatfield

    Story of my life right now! 11 month old just. won’t. sleep. Havent slept more than three consecutive hours …if by some miracle he sleeps over that, I still wake up! Ugh. It’s pretty all consuming and I’m pretty sure everyone is afraid to ask me how things are because it’s all I talk about it. The only comfort is to know there are others in the thick of it too and that acceptance is really the only road to take. Thank you for such a fresh perspective and encouragement. I’ll be meditating on it while I’m doing my night parenting 😉 blessings

  • Sara

    Oh Sarah. May she learn to sleep. May you find rest for the weary. My kindergartener was waking up every two hours or less until she was 10 months and I well remember how awful life without sleep is. (I was researching therapists because I knew I was losing it) Everything seems harder when you are chronically sleep-deprived. As one mama to another, I’m sorry you’re going through this rough stage. May it be over quickly! (My Anne, also named after my favorite literary character, was apparently waking up due to being cold. We put an electric space heater in her room and it immediatelytheveryfirstnight solved the waking up problem. Worth a shot!)

  • Janis

    My baby sounds a lot like yours, and my experience too. I feel like I have met the Holy Spirit in a whole new way alone in the dark at 3am, just the little one and I rocking, in peace and frustration. Glad to hear someone else articulate it. Thank you!

  • Michelle Gunnin

    What I love about this is all the comments from moms with non-sleeping babies! I used to be one of those…and now my house is empty and quiet. Those babynights, as you have so eloquently put, are beautiful and frustrating all at the same time. It appears that you are in good company with so many other zombie moms, but in the midst of this sleepless life God meets you in the night whispers. So glad he does…and so glad you share them with us. 🙂

  • Bethany Lynn Tosh Young

    Reading this was like reading a direct note from the Holy Spirit to me in these challenging times. Thank you so much for writing this beautiful and overwhelmingly true post…I just…everything: yes. The breaking open of who I am is so hard: discovering that I’m not automatically as gracious and loving as I thought I was, but that I’m also way stronger than I ever thought possible…the simultaneous power and powerlessness. I think you have hit upon the real truth here. And as I’m called upstairs even now by one little one’s weeping, I’m overcome again by the gift that is being able to be part God’s comfort for his world…even in the tiniest way.

  • Emmersto

    Today, I received a phone call, setting up my first counseling session…something that terrifies me, and secretly feels a tad bit shameful….this paragraph holds a incredible level of meaning for me tonight….. thank you for your words…”I think that when we are faced with something we cannot fix or control – however small or however big – it can break us wide open and we discover who we were underneath the comfort trappings of answers or affluence or health or even sleep or whatever it is that we’ve lost. And then when the underneath of us is out in the fresh air, I think it’s an opportunity to heal it, to strengthen it, to make beautiful even the reckoning.”

    • I’m glad for that – you made the right decision!

  • KC

    This is beautiful, and with 20 month old twins (my fourth and fifth children), I couldn’t understand more. The very last line is my favorite. I read it again and again, and it resonates in my soul.

  • Christina

    This is beautifully written. I have two sons and my third child is a little girl. She has totally rocked our world! She honestly didn’t sleep through the night consistently until she was 3 1/2. My husband and I moved her into our room after visiting family in Zimbabwe over the summer (of course she slept through tge night every night because we shared a room with her). That was the only logical thing to do after standing my ground for 3 years and not bringing her into our room. Sleep deprivation had taken its toll and I brought out my white flag in surrender! After two nights my husband had the brilliant idea of moving her into her brothers’ room. All I can say is I wish we would have done this sooner because she has slept through the night ever since. I guess she just didn’t like being alone.
    Hope you get some sleep in the very near future… the nights seem so long when they aren’t filled with slumber, but I can say after 6 months of sleeping through the night again, I sometimes wake up and my heart can feel the sting of my baby getting older and needing me a little less.

    • Yes, the co-sleeping thing has always been my ace-in-the-hold until now. It almost always works beautifully! Glad you found something that helped.

  • I needed this so much! My boy is about a month younger and still waking up often. I need to see it as an act of worship!

  • Julie

    Beautiful. Your post was so touching to me. I recently lost my one month old baby boy. Oh what I would do for those sleepless nights! And yet, I know how hard and human those nights are and how easy it is to lose sight of the sweetness. It felt honoring to read your words which acknowledged both the sacrifice and the beauty of this stage of parenting. Also, as the fourth child, it sounds like your little one has found a wonderful way to make sure she gets some special time with mommy!

    • Julie, I don’t know what to say but I want you to know that I see you here and I’m so sorry and I am holding a bit of space here for you and for your sweet son. Love to you.

    • Julie, I know that words are just words when it comes to moments like this but I’d like to extend my love and my condolences, for what they are worth. Grief is a wrenching thing, especially when so much the future is grieved, too.

      If I may, and you may have already read it, but a friend of mine lost her baby boy to SIDS at six months and said the book “Empty Arms: Coping With Miscarriage, Stillbirth, and Infant Death” was really helpful for her, especially as she’s had to face the first and soon to be second anniversary of his death.

  • victoria

    I get the honor of holding and rocking and feeding and loving babies at night while their mamas get some rest. It has been the place where I’ve learned to meet God, to pray over these sweet little Tinies, and to pray over all the things that come alive in the darkness and stillness of night. When I lift a little 3 day old, 6 pound baby up when he stirs, snuggle him against my chest, and shoosssh him back to sleep, I am reminded again and again of my own fragility and desire to be held. I’m reminded again and again that I have a God who bears witness, who is with me always (in the darkness, in the cold, in the loneliness…) and who will always lift me and hold me. It’s a job, I get paid, and I get to sleep during the day – so I certainly can’t compare it to the sleepless nights of motherhood and yet, I also get to experience the glory of those quiet nights, rocking a baby in the stillness.

    • You are doing good work, victoria – thank you for it!

  • I remember praying for a friend once who had a baby with reflux who was never asleep at night, and the words that came out of my mouth were, “Thank you God that you are awake before she is… because the one who watches over Israel never slumbers or sleeps.” I had a nightmare sleeper with our 2nd, and the image of God already awake, waiting for me to pick up my crying child has been a huge comfort, even now after he’s been sleeping through for a while. Grace to you, and thank you for your lovely words.

  • Michelle Luck

    What beautiful timing your words are. My children have been quite ‘good’ sleepers by what seems to be most people’s definitions, and yet – perhaps like many of us – I am someone who loves my sleep and feels the need for order and control and to be at my best, which isn’t possible when I feel like I’ve been up all night. I remember many nights of rocking my oldest, praying over her and for our world beyond her as I waited for her to settle. Number three is currently waking for a feed once or twice every night (she’s 9 months old) and while I know that’s not too bad, I know I am blessed by my beautiful, growing, healthy children, my ability to feed her, my wealth and security and good fortune and good health, I too often find myself frustrated and despairing at the broken sleep that will leave me cranky when my big balls of energy are up and demanding at 6am.
    Tonight, if my Esther wakes, I will remember your words, and pray for those who don’t have a quiet, safe, warm house in which to rock their children, and those babies without their mummies to hold them – my heart broke at your words, you are so right! I will change my perspective and thank God for the quiet time He’s helping me carve out – it has too often been my complaint that I find it hard to find peace and time for prayer in my busy days, and it’s right there waiting for me at 4am. And I will rock my baby and know that the time is coming soon that they will all be too big to carry.
    Your words, as always, are a blessing to me – thankyou again.

  • nicki

    Thank you for this brilliant insight. My son is 27..yes 27..and has many additional needs. A whole night of sleep is a thing of the past but thankfully, God isn’t. He is the God of the past, the present and the future and is with us all the time. Thank you for your honesty

  • Bobbie

    This is so beautiful. I have 10 month old twin girls and they simply don’t sleep during the night. On the rare occasion that one sleeps for more than two hours, the other is up every 30 minutes. My other two children were never great sleepers either, but at 6 and 4 they sleep well through the night. So, I’ll embrace this time; for it is fleeting. And I’ll remember that motherhood is exhausting even with sleep; exhausting and exhilarating. And my greatest joy.

  • Nicola

    And can I whisper thank you? I have a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes from reading this. This is hard and real and beautiful, and I know it to be true. Thank you for sharing your gift of words.

  • Kathy @ Lifereallyblog.com

    I loved this post. Sleep deprivation is so hard. But I agree with you that it doesn’t work to fight it or get mad; that only makes a crappy situation worse. You have a great perspective, seeing your calling right now to be mom through the night. I believe God’s will for us is revealed through daily circumstances and have seen in my life that if I buck against what He allows, I destroy my own peace and joy. I only lose by demanding my own way, especially in parenting. It’s MUCH easier said than done, but the fight is worth it.

  • Lisa N

    Thank you for writing this. I have 3 children and I have never had someone describe my mothering experience so accurately, nor my heart for mothering.
    It has been 5 years of sleep deprivation like this and it has been a very meaningful to hear that I am not the only one. I’ll be in the quiet room one over from you in heaven, see you there.

  • Oh, yes, this. This is my 15-month-old, also my fourth. Only she sleeps in my bed, but she must be touching me at all times or nursing, or she wakes every 2 hours. Deliriously tired for over 2 years (pregnancy was brutal). But leaving this article so encouraged.

  • “…because this place of parenting as simultaneous power and powerlessness is my altar.” This. So much This. <3

  • Absolutely beautiful. Honest, raw, real and beautiful. Thank you.

  • Sharon

    My baby is grown. I am the restless child looking to my Father to come pick me up. To rock me. To cradle me in a way that calms my breathing. To return me to the restfulness that we both know I need. Thank you for sharing this – it exquisitely expresses the feeling deep in me right now.

  • reb

    There are no words that can even begin to come close to relaying how much I can relate to this. I’m in the thick of this as well, as I know many moms are. Thank you for sharing your struggles. And thank you for making those struggles, that myself and so many other mothers share, into a beautiful thing. I will remember this as I’m holding my own daughter in the tiny hours of the night tonight.

  • Missy

    The good news is that when you are in your 60’s, this will be a dim memory. I had one who didnt sleep for almost 2 years. I remember being tired. But now I just want to pray for you tired moms. It is a season and it will pass BUT for now, grab any rest you can. And pretty sure thst most of us Grams out there- would love to snuggle your wee ones for you so that you could sleep.

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  • Sharon

    Hear, hear – thank you for the grace and strength of your spirit evident in this post. I also love the mothers coming together in the comment section of this post. In fact, I’ve been writing quite a bit about sleep deprivation in my blog, and your post has inspired a third one, if you’d like to see: http://sitdaily.blogspot.com/2016/02/sleep-deprivation-part-iii.html

  • Lisa

    My third child (in less than 3 years) did not sleep more than 2 hours at a time for 2 years. He is 6 now and it seems so long ago. I honestly don’t know how I functioned. I am one who needs my sleep. Of all my kids, he is now my best sleeper, and he loves his momma more than anything in world. I attribute it to all the extra love and snuggles he got for those 2 years. Your a great momma, keep it up!
    And I am with you, I hope heaven starts with a long nap 🙂

  • pastordt

    Gorgeous. Hard. True. Thanks.

  • Blessed Unrest

    My eldest boy was a non-sleeper. From birth, he woke every hour on the hour, every night for 14 months. His naps were an epic 6 minutes long after I had rocked him to sleep for an hour. I tried to get him to sleep in a pram. Next to the washing machine (white noise). In a swing chair. I even took him to an osteopath.
    People said he would sleep when he went on a bottle. He didn’t.
    People said he would sleep when he started moving about more. He didn’t.
    People said he would sleep when he started on solids. He didn’t.
    It got to the point where I wouldn’t sleep, but lay awake waiting for him to wake up. I continued to work and study regardless. It was what it was. He was happy and gorgeous, just no good at sleeping. He would be crawling around and would stop and fall asleep on the floor and I would cover him up with a blanket. He didn’t transfer well so I stopped trying. I never disturbed him whenever or wherever he slept. I figured that sleeping was good practice for sleep.
    All of a sudden at 14 months he started sleeping through the night. For no reason. It was a mystery.
    Now he is 14 years old and he sleeps like a champion.

  • Sleepymummy

    There there there with you at 14 months with number 1. Every time I think about trying to decrease her nightwakings some how I feel too sad to miss them. So I snuggle in closer and tuck her little hand into my face, and sometimes it even accidentally wakes her, and guess what I’m glad!! And yet I am exhausted! But more tired from the feelings of constant criticism. Thank you for sharing the wonder and the agonising. Love X

  • Sleepymummy

    There there there with you at 14 months with number 1. Every time I think about trying to decrease her nightwakings some how I feel too sad to miss them. So I snuggle in closer and tuck her little hand into my face, and sometimes it even accidentally wakes her, and guess what I’m glad!! And yet I am exhausted! But more tired from the feelings of constant criticism. Thank you for sharing the wonder and the agonising. Love X

  • Are we living parallel lives? 🙂

    Same with my 11 month old and my fourth. To be honest, my twins were better sleepers than she is, which, if anyone who has had twins knows, getting two babies to sleep is no walk in the park. Like Maggie, she goes down well and naps great, but is up an average of 4 times a night and sometimes wants to STAY up for an hour or so. I can feel like complaining (and yes I too have tried various things, but at this point of motherhood I know somethings are just personality–you can’t program them!) but as she’s my last I’m trying to remember to soak up the sleep deprived moments.

  • Brandy Shirely DePriest

    I can’t tell you how much I needed to read your words right now. As a fellow mother of four, my 15-month old tests me nightly with her 30-minute to 2-hour stretches of sleep. I think it is those quiet, humble hours before dawn that not only test our strength the most, but offer us the most inspiration and appreciation for shining little ones. After a somewhat less-inspiring sleepless night/week, thank you.

  • I started using the Book of Common Prayer when my second wasn’t sleeping, and got such comfort from the compline opening of the daily devotional: “Behold now, bless the LORD, all you servants of the LORD, *you that stand by night in the house of the LORD. Lift up your hands in the holy place and bless the LORD; the LORD who made heaven and earth bless you out of Zion.” I did not go through sleeplessness with much of any grace or fortitude. Like you, it broke me. But I am grateful that towards the end of enduring it, I started trying to affirm that I was standing in a holy place, that it was an altar, and that I could bless God even as I was losing my mind 🙂

  • Rebecca D. Martin

    Good heavens. Yes. Thank you. “And so maybe I can’t save the world – it isn’t mine to save anyway – and maybe my life is smaller than the world tells me is acceptable, but this is my place, no one else has this spot.” Thank you for voicing this experience and these realizations, which have been very true for me, too, and very recently. I feel less alone in my too-old-for-this-ness and more strong for what you’ve said.

  • Heather

    Love this. Beautiful writing. I never liked the idea of ‘letting babies cry it out.’ I think that we are our children’s first experience of God. And I want my children to know that God is a God who hears them cry, who responds to them when they cry out to Him. I want them to learn to be dependent on Him, to know it is okay – and good- to need Him. And so I always picked them up when they were babies. So I also know that sleepless exhaustion, having four kids who would wake up every two hours on the dot for months and months. But I still picked them up, held and nursed them, even if I spent many nights crying out of exhaustion. Because I wanted them to know that I was always there for them, as God is for us. We are never alone, left crying in the dark by ourselves. (And I also picture heaven as a long nap, in a hammock on the beach by myself. That would be wonderful.) God bless! -Heather at myimpressionisticlife.blogspot.com

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  • Rachel Russell

    Its not selfish to want more sleep and to want the baby to sleep. If I had a magic I would give it to you. Instead maybe I can make you laugh: my then-boss said to me all those years ago when I was pregnant, have you picked yet? “Huh?” I said. “You know, the form,” she said with a sly grin. “Huh?” I said. “Yes, the form,” she continued, “where you have to choose hard to sleep, picky eater, or won’t toilet train.” “I don’t want to pick any of those,” I said in my innocence having never thought any of them were a possibility. “You have to pick one,” she said, “Or you get all three.”

    We got picky eater, by the way and I can laugh now, but there were times…. “just take one bite, please just one…”

  • Maria

    ‘ This is where I learned the holy work of waiting in the darkness’ a beautiful truth TY I needed this today

  • Liz Diaz

    Thank you for this. As a mom of an almost 2-year-old boy who has never really slept more than a few hours at a time through the night, my heart and soul nodded through your words and let the ache of what these past almost 2 years has brought come to the surface. It is exhausting. BUT you’re right, there is so much more going on and what a priviledge it is to be a part of!

  • SleepyMom

    My first was like this and to this day needs less sleep than other people and is shall we say a very alert, intense, environment-sensitive soul. God bless you for being able to have perspective already. Over a decade later I still shudder at those endless nights (perhaps because I’ve never been a good sleeper myself and often didn’t fall back asleep before her next awakening).

  • Oh my gosh this is stunning Sarah, bless your dear mother heart and this little blessed ball of energy! Your shine a graceful spotlight on the amazing gift of motherhood — these moments with your dear little one surely are most precious! I’m so warmed by your motherhood journey!

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  • Nicole Spellman

    I was where you are, she is 18 now. Little did I know, until she was nearly 4 she had infant apnea. She snored, which was cute… sort of, and at least I knew she was asleep then. She was a delight, while awake and even in the wee hours, I knew it couldn’t go on forever. As she is preparing for college in the next few months, I’m so glad to have come across your post and reflect on the quickness of life and greatness of the Lord to bless this mama.

  • Sonia Spooner

    What is up with these fourth babies?! My LO is about to turn 2 and she JUST slept through the night recently and still wakes between 2 and 3 am most nights and a few weeks before that was still waking at 12 am and 3 am EVERY night. ~This too… shall pass (hopefully before the 5th is born in August)~

  • Sonia Spooner

    What is up with these fourth babies?! My LO is about to turn 2 and she JUST slept through the night recently and still wakes between 2 and 3 am most nights and a few weeks before that was still waking at 12 am and 3 am EVERY night. ~This too… shall pass (hopefully before the 5th is born in August)~

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  • Sarah, I am sure I am not the first person who has said this to you, but take her into your bed. I have five kids and all but the first spent most of their infancy sleeping in my bed. They are all young adults now, and are all wonderful human beings. Children naturally move from dependence to independence if their dependency needs are met, so it’s not really a worry that co-sleeping with damage them, or spoil them. Not a single one of my kids has any desire to sleep with me any longer, lol! They outgrew it pretty quickly. Meanwhile, I managed to stay well rested and so did they. Love your writing, by the way.

  • Sarah, I am sure I am not the first person who has said this to you, but take her into your bed. I have five kids and all but the first spent most of their infancy sleeping in my bed. They are all young adults now, and are all wonderful human beings. Children naturally move from dependence to independence if their dependency needs are met, so it’s not really a worry that co-sleeping with damage them, or spoil them. Not a single one of my kids has any desire to sleep with me any longer, lol! They outgrew it pretty quickly. Meanwhile, I managed to stay well rested and so did they. Love your writing, by the way.

  • Jill Tilley

    Oh, I remember the days… I mean nights. My fourth (and most fussy nighttime sleeper) is 3 now and sleeps almost all night long… except for the short minutes it takes him to pitter patter to our room in the wee hours of the morning and crawl into bed with us. 🙂 That’s not why I stopped to comment, though.

    Not to detract from the beauty of your post on serving our family and God in those sleepless nights, but I come to you, by way of Jesus Feminist, and my mind is lost in theology right now. To me, then, what stood out the most in this article was the phrase, “If Heaven is an actual place…”? Do you believe Heaven is figurative or were you just being funny?

  • Jill Tilley

    Oh, I remember the days… I mean nights. My fourth (and most fussy nighttime sleeper) is 3 now and sleeps almost all night long… except for the short minutes it takes him to pitter patter to our room in the wee hours of the morning and crawl into bed with us. 🙂 That’s not why I stopped to comment, though.

    Not to detract from the beauty of your post on serving our family and God in those sleepless nights, but I come to you, by way of Jesus Feminist, and my mind is lost in theology right now. To me, then, what stood out the most in this article was the phrase, “If Heaven is an actual place…”? Do you believe Heaven is figurative or were you just being funny?

  • Meri

    Fat, hot tears stung my cheeks as I read this because it so beautifully captures my season right now. My amazing boy is five months old and wakes up usually every hour, sometimes two, and everyone in the world has an opinion about how I should “train” him… but the truth is our Heavenly Father never turns away from our cries and since He is the perfect model of parenthood, why should I try to find any other way for myself? Thank you for putting words to my heart x