in the midst of this

August 21, 2011

You’ve gotta teach ’em to self soothe, you know.

You can’t tip-toe around or they’ll never sleep with noise.

Babies know how to get you to pick them up–just let her cry.

:::

I know which floorboards squawk under pressure. I avoid them. I am up on the balls of my feet, lightly stepping a dance out the door, gently turning the knob to make a silent shut.  I so badly want these quiet moments to last, more for her than for me.

Minutes later, it’s as if some unknown force with a foot has forgotten the dance and stepped on her. She squawks first, then she screams. A loud train has gone by and shook her from her light and always tummy-disturbed sleep. I rush back in, no longer careful just quick.  Her face is beet red and crinkled with pain, her body making little sounds of too much air.

I pick her up and she lets a little of it out, a tiny little urp and I say, There you go, you did it, but I know there’s so much more. She looks up with ocean eyes and makes her sour face, tasting acid and thrusting her tongue in and out and in and out.  If she could talk her big sigh past puffy eyes would be followed with a, Can’t sleep, Mama…just can’t sleep.

I am here to take care of her, to soothe her. To help her back to a sleep that comes slowly past the discomfort in fits and spurts.

I was thinking, as I was watching myself as if in a movie last night, absolutely losing my mind over the sleep deprivation, that I want to quit. Wave my white flag. I was filled with anxiety and something bordering on rage. Not toward her, but toward It.  The parts of me that were showing were the deepest shades of red and black.

No one is capable of keeping this up. I can’t do this. I can’t do this…

Ryan is out of town and I’m just one me and the boys need me too and all I can do is try to keep them quiet all the time so the fits and spurts of sleep can last past moments. Because the discomfort brings the only words she knows and those are cries, anytime she’s awake.

I suppose this is when we start to wonder, in our sleep-deprived desperation, if these little human beings should be programmed as quickly as possible. As if they were robots and not individuals with all different needs. I get that, I just can’t do that and that’s my story.

:::

In the middle of the night I cried (again) please help me, please help me, please help me. I begged. She wasn’t going back to sleep and on wake up number two of four and two hours later, there I was, still swaying from side to side and shushing and her eyes were wide open, startled. Her eyes have shock in them sometimes, like she just can’t believe what’s happening in her little body. And then she dozes and wakes just as I start to doze with a toot-toot-toot that hurts and the cries start again.

I have no choice but Surrender. Sacrifice. Service. On the hardest days, when there just isn’t enough Mommy to go around.

Right now everything is closing in on me and my fists are clenching and so there is no gentle about much of anything. But I’m here and I’m up and down and up and down and I’m getting meals with one hand and I’m tucking and wiping and instructing and reminding. They will be okay, but right now okay feels really far away.

This is when we lose ourselves, I suppose. Somewhere in the start. And maybe later we come back, we mothers. Because traces of us are always running through all of it, in between the clenching and the floorboard dancing. Those traces are why I sit here writing instead of showering or sweeping the floor, while I have this early morning moment where I should be sleeping.

Well, you’re not any good to anyone if you don’t care for yourself.

You HAVE to get some sleep.

I know. And some days I do. Most days I don’t. I know that no one is capable of keeping this up but I’m finally willing to see that as a gift. A horribly difficult gift meant just for me. Because when I am at the end of myself like this and like last night, I am so sifted that I am left with nothing; nothing but tears in the dark, eyes wide open like I can’t believe what’s happening inside me.

It is at the end of myself, I see the beginning, where faith starts. Where humility exists. I am all poured out and I lay my body down so carefully so as not to wake her and I look around and over the ugly ugly ways that I’ve been dealing with this sacrifice and I have no choice but surrender; to take a good look at the humanity in me that needs Grace and, oh please have mercy. I am a stubborn one and so motherhood is one of the only ways I’ll allow a holy kind of soul cleansing thing to happen in me.  I am otherwise so occupied with myself that I pay that kind of change no mind at all.

So I answer to her when she cries and it is an honor to serve her. No matter what kind of ugly I am when I’m at the end of myself at the never-end of the days, it is an honor. One day, when the pain is gone, she will learn to sleep with our help, just as she learns to eat solids and take her first steps.

In the midst of this, all the days and nights like a loss of myself, God is tip-toe-ing around my messy heart and mind, holding gently all my needs. Not forcing me to get it, but simply loving me while I slowly learn.

I want to do the same for Elsie. I want to do the same for my boys. This is what being their mother looks like…Messy failures and grace gifts combined, so I can teach them what I would otherwise never know.

 

Everything in life that we really accept undergoes a change. So suffering must become love. That is the mystery. – Karen Mansfield

{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

tracy August 21, 2011 at 10:20 am

This is beautiful Heather. It is an honor. No matter how hard..it is an honor. When my two year old is having her 14th fit of the day and I need to walk out of the room to count to 200 before going back in and picking her up and kissing away her tears – I remind myself…it is an honor.

Love you sweet friend. You are so beautiful and full of grace is every way.
xoxo
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LoveFeast Table August 21, 2011 at 10:24 am

Absolutely beautiful picture of the early months of motherhood and truth about the grace that gets us through. I often joke, sleep deprivation is just a state of being for us mamas. Hang in there, it will get better.
Kristin
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Kate August 21, 2011 at 10:25 am

“surrender. sacrifice. service.”

motherhood is certainly a rigorous program.

and they are all different. and you know her needs, and the boys’, best. managing all three at once, alone? the only reward for that is internal growth.

Thanks for both reminders.
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Frelle August 21, 2011 at 10:28 am

if i had been blogging when I was going through the worst of the sleep deprivation, depression, self loathing, and overwhelm between 2005 and 2008, I might have written a far less eloquent blog post that pretty much said this same thing. It resonates in a very deep place that I dont and never did talk much about. It heals me a little bit to read your words. Thank you. Continuing to send you endurance of the physical and emotional kind. *HUG*
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Arianne August 21, 2011 at 10:30 am

I can say I understand because I have been there. I had a baby like this. Two, in fact. It feels like hell on earth until you step back, as you did, and see a bigger picture. Somewhere, anywhere, to get perspective.

I’m sure you’ve been doing all the troubleshooting in the world to help her tummy, so I won’t sit here and list a bunch of advice you haven’t asked for. But I have some things that helped us and I’m here, if you ever want to chat about them. <3

I ache to be able to come give you a break, to just hold her a while so you can rest and someone can share the burden. Not the burden of HER but the burden of momma, the burden on our hearts and souls all.the.time. to do right by these little ones. So that when they're not so little they find a place within them that is so bright and magical that they shine like gold, glistening in the pitch of a mountain and everyone can't help but be enamored by their true heart.

I love you. <3
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Heather August 21, 2011 at 10:56 am

Hi you,
Thank you. I love you back.
This is our second round with The Fuss, The Gas, The Reflux, THE EVERYTHING (okay, I’m being dramatic).
I wrote a post about everything we do and have done, with both Elsie and Asher – http://extraordinary-ordinary.net/2011/08/14/living-the-scream/
Not that you have time to read all of that, but if you skim it and find you know of more things that I could try, I’m always willing to hear about them.

I hope you’re finding rest in these final weeks, my friend. x’s and o’s to you and yours…

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Ann August 21, 2011 at 10:31 am

Thank God you have your writing and we have your writing. It is the purest prayer, and the way through.

Praying praying for you and Elsie and all of you, but especially for you. For strength, but mainly for relief.
Ann recently posted..Rant’s little instruction book (part deux)

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pgoodness August 21, 2011 at 11:05 am

How you can be so eloquent and write so beautifully while you’re so very sleep deprived is beyond me, but wow. I remember those days – when you would do anything for them to just get a little sleep; the lump in the throat when it seemed like just too much.

My first born had reflux so bad and it hurt me, even though I knew it wasn’t my fault. On this, his 8th birthday, I remember those nights (and days) and take heart in the fact that my memories of that pain have faded and he doesn’t remember at all. And to be honest, while I wouldn’t want to relive the pain and sleeplessness, I would love to be able to sleep with him sleeping on my chest, reclined in my bed or chair, just once more.
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deb August 21, 2011 at 12:50 pm

I don’t really want to say anything to ruin the sacred space of your words here, Heather.
Truly truly beautiful.

earlier in the spring my eldest daughter , 20 now 21, called at 1:30 am from school to cry to me. she has never done anything like this from university or otherwise. but the pain of what would turn out to be severe ear infection and bronchitis brought her to a place where she knew she could count on me I guess, to want to hear my soothing voice she said. she was much like your Elsie as a baby and it was so so hard…. and perhaps in her darkest moments she knew my love . that’s all I can hope for … all we can sometimes.
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Erin August 21, 2011 at 1:43 pm

None of my children have EVER experienced anything like Elsie is dealing with now. I was a big proponent of cry-it-out, teach-’em-to-sleep-early parenting when my first son was born. And he did sleep early, and well. But I can still hear him crying. I regret the hours I lost with him when he was tiny. And I don’t regret a single time getting up with my youngest, because my parenting ideals have changed through the years. It is good for her to know I am there. Never once has God told me “go to your bed and cry until you fall asleep, I’m too busy right now.”

I am trying now to be gentler.
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lynsey August 21, 2011 at 1:49 pm

my first child was all of this and more–with seizures on top of it to boot. my second was what you describe. the screaming that seemed endless and many times felt that i was being pushed to the brink of insanity. my best friend–who has NOT had a baby that has experienced this–still sometimes looks at me with disbelief of what i describe and has been known to say to me “all babies have fussy times” and i just wanted her to spend one hour with my leah at 2 weeks-8 wks old. just ONE HOUR. and then talk to me about “fussy times.”

i remember having moments of clarity through the screaming, like you have said so beautifully, that it is still an honor to serve her. my moment of clarity came when my firstborn son, who had put me through even more than my current colicky newborn, and was now 3 1/2, came up to me and burped out of nowhere. on his own! without hours and hours of endless rocking, and bouncing, and swaddling, and comforting! i looked at him with my mouth open, amazed. remembering. that at one point with him, i felt that i was in the endless woe like i was currently feeling with his sister. and that just like he did, she would grow and one day be content, and ONE DAY burp and poop on her own without being in so much pain.

i know you have this perspective. i know you know that she’ll outgrow it. but i also know that when you’re IN IT, the term “treading water” doesn’t even come close. keep holding on, keep writing, and i just need to THANK YOU for putting into words what i have felt and been through and relate to so well.

and also, the only thing that really worked for leah?? i stopped nursing after holding on to it for 8 weeks–changed to soy formula–and she was a different baby within one feeding. she was actually awake without screaming! she went to sleep without screaming! she woke up without screaming! i cried and cried and thanked god. i know that answer isn’t for everyone. i just know after changing my diet, and using gripe water like it was going out of style, and everything else, and this worked? i stopped pumping, and gave myself permission to surrender. changed to soy formula until she was 5 months old. and it worked for both of us.
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Megan at SortaCrunchy August 21, 2011 at 4:15 pm

“In the middle of the night I cried (again) please help me, please help me, please help me.”

This is where my eyes filled with tears. Oh, I have prayed it. Like a mantra, like a lifeline. There’s a certain kind of despair that comes with losing sleep that is truly like no other.

Your heart here … this is the heart of our message and you speak it with such precision and such power here. Your openness, your vulnerability, your testimony to how He sustains – it is all a grace to me and I am thankful for it. Thankful for you.
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Carrie August 21, 2011 at 7:24 pm

I bawled through this whole post – my little Davey (my third baby) is almost 4 weeks old, and we had just a couple of nights like this this week – I so understand the desperation of ‘please please please go back to sleep’ after hrs of being up with them & knowing the older kids will be up soon, oh, so hard. I will pray for you when I’m up in the night!!!
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Carrie August 21, 2011 at 7:25 pm

I meant to say also that the worst part is the guilt, the anger, that comes with the sleep deprivation, about just wanting to sleep… then I feel terrible that I am not instead being thankful for my little blessing…
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Klz August 21, 2011 at 7:39 pm

There are some moments when “this too shall pass” doesn’t mean much.

God speed. You’ve all been on my mind. I’m adding my prayers to yours.

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Allison Zapata August 21, 2011 at 7:39 pm

Oh this is beautiful!! And I could have written every word of it. You are not alone. I am floorboard dancing and pushing the car seat stroller back and forth back and forth back and forth all night long. And crying silently.

It will get better.

Thanks for giving me something to look forward to in my inbox. Your words truly help.

xoxo
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MidnightCafe August 21, 2011 at 7:56 pm

Oh, Heather!! My heart is with you. This is so hard. And you are so amazing.
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Jamie August 21, 2011 at 10:25 pm

Wow. This is my most favorite post. You are such an amazing writer. AND MOTHER. Praying for you…and wishing I was close enough to help you somehow…
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Tracie August 22, 2011 at 2:48 am

I’m crying, reading this.

It is an honor.

Yes. Such an honor. And you are making it through this with more grace than you realize.

I love the thought of God tip-toeing around, loving us while we learn. I hope that I provide that for my daughter, as well.
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Becky (Princess Mikkimoto) August 22, 2011 at 8:13 am

I honestly believe everything in your life has brought you to this moment. You are so strong. A lifetime of bricks and mortar. It’s ridiculously hard but if anyone can do it, YOU can.
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Sara Joy August 22, 2011 at 11:13 am

I hope these beautiful comments bring you comfort. :)
I have been there, in the middle of the advice and ringing ears and deep in the dark with the tears and pleading and desperation and seeking his face with the repetition for mercy, grace, hope, whatever it takes to survive to the next breath and Lord please, please let there be peace.
And one night, in a whisper, he told me I was asking for the wrong thing. My prayers changed, one by one. Lord, let it be enough. Let my milk be enough, let my comfort be enough, let them grow and thrive and get what they need, just let it be enough for them, let whatever sleep I get be enough.
Lord, guard us. Guard their hearts and their minds from the whispers that wake and disturb. Guard my heart from the evil that rings in my head when I can’t see I’m so exhausted, guard my mind and my soul and let me only hear your comfort, your words, the very truth that these days shall pass and these dark moments are so much better than the ones where my arms were empty.
Lord may I wake, whenever that may be, in joy to see my children. May I be happy to see them every.single.time I am called to their side. May I never see them as a chore or a burden, may I be filled with peace that I can be their mother, every chance I have.
And somehow, someway, we made it through. I don’t know if this will help you, but it helped me. And just remembering it now is making me cry. Those nights, those days were so very hard and sad and I am forever changed because I lived through them. I guess I’m not over it yet, but the light shines brighter now, and things are easier.
It gets better.

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molly August 22, 2011 at 12:33 pm

Heather, you will get through this. You WILL. I didn’t believe it during Brigham’s first year. I thought I was on the brink of just melting into the floor at some point because I just.couldn’t.take.it.anymore.

He never slept. He cried a lot. He was so sick the first year.

I got through it and I still have no clue how I came out okay on the other side. Although “okay” is questionable :)

I know my husband and I took turns screaming into our pillows. Just know that you’re trying and you are good enough, okay? Elsie is a lucky lucky baby girl.
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Elaine August 22, 2011 at 12:58 pm

Your outlook is amazing Heather. You are stronger than you know.

I do wish I could take it away and help you rest. Help your sweet baby girl rest and feel better.

Just know that I’m thinking of you often and praying that things get better… xo
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Jo@Mylestones August 22, 2011 at 5:10 pm

Here I go again with the tears. There is so much beauty here in the brokeness. Love to you, my friend.

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Lisa @ Crazy Adventures in Parenting August 22, 2011 at 6:32 pm

Damn it, with the tears and frustration of living so far away, with at-the-ready arms to help ease your sleeplessness and her urps & toots. Wishing for closeby help and peace for both of you, sweetheart. Love you xo
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Sabrina August 23, 2011 at 11:02 am

So wishing I lived closer…. :(
Thinking of you dear.
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Carina August 23, 2011 at 4:05 pm

Sometimes I feel so bad for them: stuck in this tiny mortal body that does weird things and can’t figure anything out. So I hold, rock, nurse, hold, sway, hold, nurse, rock. It won’t be like this forever, and it IS an honor.

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erin from swonderland August 23, 2011 at 10:32 pm

you are handling this so well, just having this kind of step-back perspective. i know it’s probably hard for you to see that when you FEEL so tired and worn-out and done but really, you are DOING IT. you are getting through. you are doing so well. thank you for letting us peek in on you. i never had a reflux baby, but i went through some hellish months with hal’s chronic ear infections. the never sleeping and screaming and rocking and standing up swaying with him the entire night long, only for the sun to come up and say it is a new day. the desperation is real. the crying out. you are doing this, mama. it is hard, so hard, but you are strong and wise and you are getting through. XO.
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melissa August 24, 2011 at 6:46 am

wow. just wow.
inspiring.
hang in there.
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Holly March 25, 2014 at 12:09 pm

Thank-you for writing this. I stumbled upon your post a few days ago in my endless searching to find something to help my little baby girl. Your words are getting me through each day.

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Heather March 25, 2014 at 12:50 pm

Hang in there, Holly. It never seems like it, but we sleep again. We do. It finally happens, all miraculously. It seems so impossible. Peace to you, and thank you for reading.

Heather

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