Tag Archives: Parnethood

Sleep-Deprivation and Free-Will: A Tired Mom’s Viewpoint

Since becoming a mom, “sleep” has not been my BFF. My first-born, Hudson, didn’t sleep through the night until he was 15 months old. At that point, I was in my 2nd trimester with Cooper, who didn’t sleep through the night until he was 20 months old. At which point, I was in my 2nd trimester with twins. Now that they’re 3 months old, you can guess how hard it can be to get any sleep while nursing two babies through the night. So far, my years of mommy-hood have been a time of delirium and coffee-addiction.

If you’re anything like me, you may have spent many nights crying out to God that your babies would fall back to sleep. My husband and I have tried everything. Books, videos, crying-it-out, Ferberizing, occupational therapy, keeping the baby on a schedule, keeping the baby off a schedule, using a weighted blanket, swinging before bed, praying over the kids’ rooms, and anything else we could think of. Still, they didn’t want to sleep. Take last night, for example. I counted 31 times that I awoke to put a pacifier in little Knox’s mouth (afraid that his wailing would wake up his twin sister). I also nursed them each three times (that’s 6 nursing sessions, if you count both babies). So many times, I have gotten offended at God over this silly, yet crucial issue: SLEEP! Over the years of sleep deprivation, I’ve begun to grow tired of finding the TV remote in the refrigerator, mistaking my earrings for car keys, and completely forgetting my children’s names and birthdates (yes, that happens daily). Each night, I could feel the brain cells in my head slowly dying with each hour of nighttime wakefulness.

But, this morning, as I guzzled my 4th cup of coffee, I recalled an incident that gave me a little perspective on this whole sleep issue (or lack there of).

A few years ago, my husband and I made the long trip from Northern California to Texas with our 8 month old and 2 year old. This trip included waking them up at 3:00am, driving 2.5 hours to the airport, taking several flights (including a horrendous lay-over in which we almost lost Hudson about 6 times, as he’d repeatedly wiggle his hand from mine and take off down the crowded airport hallway), rocked a crying baby to sleep for an hour on the plane (yes, we were THAT family), and finally made it to Texas at 10:00pm. We had a wonderful visit with family, but I caught a nasty cold in the process. Meanwhile, little Cooper (8 months old) couldn’t seem to adapt to his new surroundings and would wake up 6 or more times each night. Not wanting to wake the house full of relatives, I would nurse him each time he awakened, just to try to get him to fall back to sleep. As every mom knows, I couldn’t just take a sick day. It didn’t matter that I felt like a family of bees had taken up residence in my face, like I’d swallowed a set of Cutco knives, and that I was sweating like a wrestler and freezing like a popsicle. I had a crying baby to tend to. So, I was awake all night.

One night, I’d nursed Cooper many times through the night, rocked him, sung to him (though I could barely make a sound due to the aforementioned knives in my throat), and swung him in my arms until they’d lost all sensation, and yet, he still wouldn’t fall back to sleep. All night, I prayed and prayed. At 6:00 AM, Cooper was awake again.

“Please, God.” I begged. “If you love me at all, you will help Cooper go back to sleep. I am sick, tired, and angry after a long night of trying to console my child back to sleep.”

Cooper stirred again.

Maybe I’m being too selfish. Let me try this. “God, you know, it’s actually best for Cooper if he gets a good night’s sleep. His poor little body needs rest. Please make him fall asleep.”

Cooper started to whimper.

Hmmm….ok, I will quote a scripture. “He gives sleep to his beloved,” Psalm 127:2. “You love me, right, God? Now give me some sleep!”

Now, Cooper was full-on crying.

I started whipping out every tool I had in my belt. I made declarations and blessed his spirit. I released peace and grace over him and over the room he was sleeping in.

Cooper was now wailing.

It was way too early. I had a fever and had barely slept, but I knew I’d better get him up, or else I’d wake the whole house. In a near-rage, I sat on my sister-in-law’s couch, silently yelling at God. “I don’t understand. Why didn’t you listen to my prayers? Don’t you care about me at all?” And, for the rest of the day, I was mad. Worse than that, after years of praying for my kids to fall asleep, and yet I remained sleep-deprived, I was disappointed in God.

That night, as I nursed Cooper and put him down in his crib, crossing my fingers that he’d stay asleep for at least a few hours, I angrily asked God again why he’d forsaken me the night before. The Bible says ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, and yet all my asking and seeking were in vain, it seemed.

This is the point in the old cartoons when the character who’d challenged God would be struck by lightning or fall through a gigantic cavern as the earth opened up and swallowed her. But, God’s mercy always amazes me. He gently spoke to angry little me and said, “Did you ask me why Cooper didn’t sleep last night?” It took me off-guard. Interestingly, in all of my praying, declaring, scripture quoting, and begging, I’d failed to ask God why my little guy wasn’t sleeping. Again, I heard the gentle voice of God say, “It’s because he has a free-will. Just as I don’t force you to do anything, I don’t force him to do anything either.”

I was instantly convicted. God had given little Cooper, though only 8 months old, a free-will. All this time, I’d blamed God for not making my kids fall asleep, but I’d forgotten a fundamental characteristic about God. He doesn’t force us to do anything. That’s not the way true love works. If my husband had tried to “make” me marry him, I’d have run a million miles away, wanting nothing to do with him. Conversely, I’d feel no pleasure from my kids’ hugs and kisses if I forced them to show me affection. Love without choice is not real love.

I’ve tried so often to control what my kids do. I think, “If only they’d do this_____, they’d be so much better off. But it doesn’t take long to realize that you really can’t force anyone to do anything, whether it benefits them or not. Take the sleeping thing for example. Try as I may, I can’t make my kids sleep through the night, just as I can’t make them grow teeth or hair.

Think of how much easier it would’ve been on God if he’d forced Eve not to eat the apple in the Garden of Eden. Sin never would’ve entered the world. No one would’ve known famine, loss, murder, anger, destruction, or any other evils. But, God didn’t do it that way. He valued freedom and free-will so much that he allowed Eve to make the biggest mistake of all time. Freedom didn’t scare God. Mistakes didn’t scare God. Sin and all manner of evil didn’t scare God. He had another trick up his sleeve—redemption.

When I beg God to “make” my kids do something, or when I’m frustrated at them for not making the best choice, I guess I’m missing the whole point. Just as God celebrates my freedom to make decisions, I want to celebrate my kids’ wills. I want to celebrate their differences and the fact that they are passionate about things (even if their passions make me deliriously tired). Don’t I want my kids to learn to think creatively and independently—so that they can eventually make decisions without my help? I guess God knows what he’s doing with this whole free-will thing. And, after all, with the hope of ultimate redemption, what am I so afraid of?

So for now, drinking 4 cups of coffee a day seems like a small price to pay in exchange for the greater good—raising kids who know the freedom that God has intended for them to walk in. Not trying to control them. Not getting offended at God when my kids don’t do exactly what I think they should do. Not getting scared when they exercise their free-will, which is actually one of the greatest gifts that God has given them.

Thank God for freedom—and that I’m free to get another cup of coffee right now. Oops. That makes 5 cups today. But, right or wrong, drinking that much caffeine is my decision. And I celebrate it. Yum.


The Power of Vulnerability: Being Beautiful Means Being You!

It’s 11:00 AM, and I hear the doorbell ring.  In a moment of sheer terror, I try to decide if the person ringing the bell has already seen me through the window, or if I could possibly get away with not answering, pretending like I’m not at home.  A lump in my throat arises as I see my friend, Alex, waving at me through the window.

“This is a nightmare.  She knows I’m here,” I think to myself.

I approach the front door, still in my pajamas, thinking, “will she believe that I’ve actually been busy since the moment a crying baby woke me up this morning?  Just because I’m still in my fuzzy pink PJ pants doesn’t mean that I’ve been online shopping or checking Facebook.”

As I approach the door, I catch a glimpse of my unkempt hair in the hall mirror.  I slept on my hair while it was wet because I didn’t get a chance to take a shower until 10:00 PM last night, and Lord knows I didn’t have time to dry it before my twins were hungry, and then I collapsed into bed.  So my hair is now about the size of San Francisco, and just as wild.

My four-year-old and two-year-old  boys are sitting on the couch, glued to cartoons on TV.  Cooper only has a shirt and diaper on (in the 40 degree weather) and Hudson’s hair-do looks like a cross between Elvis and a Dr. Suess character.  My twins are lying on the sullied carpet floor, right next to several dirty diapers that I failed to throw away after their last diaper change, because I had to stop everything to reassemble the fichus tree that Cooper knocked over and managed to de-leaf.

“Hi, Alex,” I say with a fake smile as I open the door and greet her.

Entering my house, she steps over the three baskets of dirty laundry that I left there two hours ago.  I got distracted on my way to the washing machine by a crying baby who needed to be diapered, and then my 4-year-old who had an accident on his way to the bathroom.  She walks to the kitchen, where cheerios have been dumped on the floor.  I was trying to sweep those up as I heard the doorbell ring.  I see her eyes glance at a Tupperware container with soiled pants and underwear soaking in it (after Hudson’s early morning accident) and then at last night’s dirty dishes, which are still in the sink.

She was in the neighborhood and just wanted to say hello, she says.

Thanks a lot, Alex.  So glad you did.  (Next time, call first, why don’t ya?)  

After the most awkward, briefest, most embarrassing visit known to man, I shuttered as I closed the door behind her.  She just saw me at my absolute worst, I thought.  Then, for the rest of the day, I couldn’t shake the feeling of mortification.  I was exposed.  She saw the truth about the way that mornings often go in my house these days.  I didn’t have time to make myself look good before she showed up.  She saw the real-deal; the down-and-dirty me.

I flashed back to the 4-years-ago me.  The pre-kid me.  The girl with a cute, clean house with nice, non-stained furniture.  The 15-pound-lighter version of me without post-baby tummy-flab, who could afford cute clothes because she wasn’t paying $6 a day to diaper twins.  The girl who seemed somewhat successful; who had a good job, a master’s degree, a clean car, and a social life.

This morning, that girl and the frizzy-haired girl I saw in the mirror seemed to be two completely different people.

It used to be so much easier to look good when I didn’t have kids.  But, once I become a mom, I was just bumbling and fumbling my way through motherhood, learning as I went, making mistakes, losing it sometimes with my kids, getting behind on laundry, running through the drive-through because I didn’t have time to make a healthy dinner, and I felt fruitless and flawed.  It doesn’t matter that I was once successful in many ways.  So, I spent a lot of energy trying to look good in other’s eyes, so that, deep down, I would feel successful.

Even when I only had two kids, I could still manage to fake like I was actually on top of things.  But last spring, I got pregnant with twins, was very ill, and was put on bed rest at 21 weeks.  Suddenly, I was unable to do the things that made me feel more successful.  Bending down to pick up toys, sweeping, vacuuming, cooking, or cleaning could actually prove fatal to the babies I was carrying in utero.  And, to make matters worse, sweet friends and family came to my house every day to help with my kids (I couldn’t have done it without you all!), so many people were daily seeing me at my worst.  I struggled with feeling embarrassed, exposed, like people must think less of me because my house wasn’t in order and my kids looked slightly homeless…but there was literally nothing I could do about it!

It was during this several-month period that I learned something.  First, none of us were meant to carry the burden of being perfect.  Perfectionism is a trap.  It’s like the time I dreamt that I desperately wanted to walk across town to a friend’s house, but after I’d walked for miles and miles and hours and hours, I realized that I was walking on a treadmill, and was no where closer to my desired destination than I was when I started.  It’s one of the most beautiful privileges in life to learn and grow, to sharpen our character by learning from our mistakes.  It’s a beautiful thing to learn to be content with who we are—not continually striving to reach some pinnacle of perfection—not continually trying to look good in front of others.  Perfectionism takes me away from my kids and makes me “me-focused”—worried about what others think about ME, wanting to be the perfect ME.  ME, ME, ME!  I will never be a successful mother when I only think about me.

And most importantly, I learned the power of vulnerability.  While I am still working on totally understanding this, there’s something so liberating when you expose your inner-self to others—because then there’s nothing to hide!  When my friends would come over, and dishes were in the sink, laundry was strewn throughout the house, etc., I would think to myself, “well, here I am.  This is the real me.  I am a work in progress.  Love me or leave me.”  When I adopted that attitude, I found that life was much easier to live!  I didn’t need to rush around every time I knew a friend was coming over, trying to look good in front of her.  Oh, what a joy it is to drop the perfectionistic persona I’d tried so hard to be –and just be me!  Flawed, but growing, little me.

Recently, a friend came clean about a particularly ugly aspect of her past.   She was impressively open and vulnerable about it, and when she was finished, I was aware of one fact—she, though imperfect, was the most beautiful person in the room.  She had exposed her ugliest self to me, and all I could see was beauty.  I was so proud of the person she had become, and the picturesque life she’s managed to form out of malice.

As social-worker and Ph.D., Brene’ Brown, says “what makes you vulnerable makes you beautiful.”

I want to live out loud, warts and all, and not fear what others might think about me, or what might happen if they find out that I am….shocker…not perfect after all!  I don’t want to waste time trying to look good when I could be spending time with my kids or doing something of eternal significance.  Now, that is a beautiful life.

So, thanks, Alex, for this reminder that I am more beautiful today—with my dirty laundry hanging out for all to see (literally)—than I would’ve been had I cleaned everything up and tried to be picture-perfect.

Being vulnerable makes you beautiful.  And you can’t have “beautiful” without the words “be you.”