waking up :: sarah bessey

Our littlest baby started her night life, sleeping right beside our bed in the same white bassinette as her brother and sisters and cousins. But now she is four months old and, like all Bessey babies, she’s a tall girl plus she rolls over like it’s her job so we moved her white crib into our room.

She goes to sleep for the night at about 7 o’clock in that crib. I’m a softie of a mum in many regards but I hold the line on a few things: sleep and routine being the two biggest, I think. So she nurses in bed with me and then I lay her down in her crib where she sleeps steady until the middle of the night. A few times she’s slept right through the night and I sing hallelujah. Usually though, I can hear her stirring before she even fully wakes up sometimes and, while nearly asleep myself, I rise from our bed and move to her, settling her back to sleep. If the soother won’t do, I lift her out of bed and bring her into our warm bed to nurse. I find sleeping with babies more intuitive and restful than fighting to keep a lonely baby in her own crib all night long. I need my sleep, too.

Inevitably, we will fall asleep together in my bed during the wee hours and then in the morning, we will wake up together.

This might be my favourite moment of the day. If she wakes first, she never cries, she lays there quietly watching my face and then she begins to paw at me with her not-yet-coordinated hands, reaching for me in her own way. Her firm little body is chubby and warm, zipped into her little sleeper.  I feel the light scratches and pushes but when my eyes blearily open and I look right at her, she breaks into the wide open smile of a happy baby, all baby gums and delight and squeals.

It’s a good way to start the day, to make someone so happy just by being awake and paying attention.

I want to laugh out loud at the sight of her grinning up at me. It almost makes up for the 5:30 a.m. wake-up call. (Almost.)

Our life is pretty full here. Throughout the day, Maggie Love is just along for the ride and that’s as it should be. The big kids adore her but they are busy and loud and demanding, too. She is woken up from naps more than I would like, the doors are slamming as everyone is in-and-out-and-in-and-out with the summertime ease. I work from home and so often she sits in her swing or plays on her little baby-mat while I cram in a few minutes of work here and there.

But at night, we sleep together and then we wake up together.

This is our time. While the rest of the house sleeps, we are breathing each other in.

My attention might be fractured during the day but we do find our moments – thanks to nursing, babywearing, or if we go visit my parents and then my mother sits and holds her for her late afternoon nap, patting her bum in the rhythm that has been passed down through the ages while rocking slowly. The night is the most sacred: the way our bodies fit together, I curl around her, she presses into me, her little tummy is full, we breathe together and rest at last.

We’re well-practiced by now, my husband and me, at this and now we know how quickly it goes, how soon they grow up and sleep in their own little beds and the earth continues to spin us around the sun. The babies who used to sleep in our beds are nearly nine and nearly seven and four. We will blink again and it will be first jobs and first dates.

So he always says that it’s one of the favourite sights of his life, the sight of the little babies we’ve made pressed against me in the morning, laying in white cotton sheets, my shirt all askew, and he wraps his arms around us both. The day will launch ahead quickly – he’s off to work, the tinies will tumble into the day, and away we all go.

We had thought we were done with this stage of life, so we are savouring every moment of the last little baby together. Store it up, we say, carry it in your heart. This will have to last us a lifetime. Someday our bed will be empty again at the right time, it will be just us two. I imagine us, grey and wrinkled, and he will say “do you know what the favourite sight of my life was?” and I will know the answer.

But for another little while, this is what it feels like to sleep with your sweet littlest babe, this is what it feels like to wake up to your own life, this is what it feels like to be in love.

photo by Sharalee Prang

I used to think God wanted a lot from me.
To the young women reading "Jesus Feminist"
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  • Sandy Palmer Perry

    My daughter is now 15 and learning to drive. I remember those sweet morning bed times. It goes so fast.

  • Sandy Hay

    I regret that routine took up so much of my young mom years. Now with grandchildren who spent many nights with me, I had the best of those mornings…not the nursing part of course ;), but those waking, touching, smiling, laughing moments in bed. So glad God allowed me to experience this joy . Especially now that they’re 14, 12, and 10.

  • We do the exact same thing. Although my babe doesn’t always sleep steadily until the middle of the night. She’s been waking before midnight these last few weeks. Maybe teething? Who knows. But I love waking up to her little sweet face too.

    • Yes, all bets are off for teething! Looooong nights….

  • Jamie

    So good that you’re savoring the moments. And that is such a sweet vision of you and your husband and how you’re loving each other in this.

  • Yes. Us too. A beautiful piece, thank you.

  • Amanda M.

    Oh I miss that – babies nursing in bed and the slow wake-ups together. It was one of the best things of that phase of life. Love my new phase, but miss those sweet moments.

  • Michelle Luck

    Yes, yes. You capture life so beautifully, and help me to appreciate the beauty of our life through your words. Third time around I am enjoying those quiet night and early morning cuddles because I know what wonderful chaos and noise the day will bring. I love that our little girl is so surrounded by life and love in its many forms, as I know your sweet bubba is too.

  • Oh I do love your mothering posts, Sarah. Such sweetness and joy and, as Madeleine l’Engle encouraged, such ontological living to savor her is-ness like this. Thank you for making my bed time reading sweet tonight.

  • What a beautiful scene. Reminds me of my own mornings years ago, and yes, they pass in a blink but stay with you forever.

  • Jory Micah

    Cannot wait! Hubby and I will be trying for our first baby in the fall!!! 🙂

  • BritW

    Your posts so often make me cry! But in a good way…they wake my heart up. 🙂

  • Katrina

    I am within days of having our 4th (surprise miracle!) baby and am so looking forward to these treasured moments that I didn’t think would happen again…Good reminder to savour them within all the chaos and busyness that will be an inevitable part of our lives as well 🙂

  • So so beautiful. A great reminder to truly savour the little moments, because circumstances and experiences come and go so fleetingly. Thanks Sarah.

  • Mimi Butz-Myrick

    Thats exactly where we are at the moment and I have to tell myself to savor it all – but the 5.30am wake up call is hard sometimes even with a beautiful gummy smile!

  • I woke up this morning with a sweet smiling one cuddled against me. Drinking this in so deeply now. (Including the times she wakes me up by sticking a finger up my nose.)

  • Beth Anne

    Sarah, being alongside you in this journey, reading the words you write that feel as though they could be my own…it’s such a gift. I’ve hung up my writing hat for now & still the heart of where I am is being shared by you, capturing with words & memories that are so similar to my own. Thank you for that.

    & that gummy smile, up on his elbows in the early daylight, even when I just saw him three hours ago for soothing & feeding…it is what it feels like to be in love.

  • Taylor

    I cried reading this. I have said for a long time that I don’t think I want to be a mother, but this may have just changed that.

  • JoMae Spoelhof

    Thanks for this! Been there; Done that – 5 times over and now am watching as old familiar faces appear reflected in the looks and mannerisms of great grand children. Glad you take the time to cherish and record these moments. And especially, that you share them! This reflection is like looking at an old photograph evoking memories of my own warm and wonderful ‘newborn’ moments. Thanks!

  • All the love here. I’m so glad you’ve stored up these words to be treasured later when the dates, and jobs, and college all begin to loom large. My youngest is 19 months old and I still remember curling my body next to hers, and next to her brothers before her. It is nice that with four, there’s a bit of sense about the fleetingness of it all.

  • You did it again, Bessey. Made my uterus ache. How i remember those mornings—with my last, it was twins! I always brought my babies into bed with me. It just felt right, I guess. But yes, those mornings with smiles and coos of delight and sometimes the happy giggle…..those are pure gold. My littlest are 7 now. Hard to believe. But reading your words brings all the memories flooding back. And I’m so thankful you write how you do. Thank you. XO.

  • Nisha Varghese

    Beautiful. There’s no love quite as deep as the love of our parents . I know that the love our parents have for us is just a fraction of the love that God has for us which is scary (in a good way)

  • I’m still waking up with my 5th. Though now he talks and knows he’s not going to get milk except at nap time and just before sleeping as we progress with weaning, so he turns and snuggles into me saying, “Oatmeal mama. Down stairs.” Other times he brings me a book and nods seriously as he summarizes them for me before I read them. “Airplane. Trip. Seatbelt, mama.”

    In 6 months, and to our great surprise, he will be supplanted by baby number 6. I’m weary of feeding 3 humans at once. But I don’t want to rush him away. My time with him like this in the early morning feels like it’s been far too short. So we substitute stories and tickles and kisses for milk, and it’s been good.