I have suffered from insomnia for most of my adult life and parts of my childhood. There is nothing worse than being tired but unable to sleep and knowing that in x amount of hours, you have to get up and go to work/go to school/face the day. I would typically lie in bed and check the clock every so often, doing the math in my head. "If I fall asleep right now, I will get 5 hours and be able to semi-function." And when the possible hours of sleep reduced into minutes, I would beg God to put me to sleep and let me feel rested, even if I wasn't. This has gone on for years and because of it, I started hating nighttime long ago.
Pregnancy was a wondrous time for me and my body. I never slept so hard than in the first 7 months while carrying Beatrice. I could sleep on the couch, I could sleep in the car (not driving, of course), I could sleep pretty much anywhere. And then go to bed and sleep some more. It was great. But sometime during the last 2 months, I couldn't sleep anymore. It was a combination of having to pee every 2 hours and being so big and uncomfortable that my body just couldn't settle down. My sister in law swears it's God's way of preparing you for getting up with a newborn every 2 hours. I kinda wished God just let me sleep those last 2 months and let me deal with being up all night once I had the baby, but whatever. I started dreading the night once the dark settled in because I knew that I would be spending it lying in bed, not sleeping. I have to admit, the insomnia has provided for some great opportunities for thinking though. I have often thought my best thoughts in the middle of the night.
Once Beatrice was born, I really got acquainted with the dark. For several days, she had her days and nights mixed up so JD and I spent a lot of time bumping around in the dark feeding, changing and singing. And sometimes crying. As she got older and started sleeping better, I still dreaded the night. I never knew how much sleep we would get (or not get) and the looming darkness was a constant reminder that our lives were different and that we would be very tired. Eventually, the 3 nighttime feedings became 2, and then I was only getting up once before morning. I would sit in the dark of the nursery with the glow of the nightlight thinking my thoughts. I would size up the day and decide what worked for us and what I failed at. I would often cry and think that I would never get used to caring for someone all day and in the middle of the night, and that I must be a horrible mother to think like this.
Beatrice has been sleeping through the night for many months now. I am usually so exhausted by bedtime that insomnia is not a problem anymore and I can fall asleep within minutes. But last night around midnight as I rocked Beatrice back to sleep (she must've had a nightmare because she woke up screaming), I realized that I became a mother somewhere in the dark hours of our house. I have learned to put aside my selfishness in the dark. I have learned to nurture in the dark. I have learned to nurse and change diapers in the dark. I have learned to pray for my daughter's future in the dark. And my marriage. People say some stupid stuff in the middle of the night when a baby is crying and no one can figure out why or how to make it stop. While the dark has been a lonely place for me for most of my life, I realized last night that God taught me how to be a mother while everyone else has been sleeping.
I have very few moments like last night with Beatrice anymore. And as frustrating as it was (it took an hour to get her back down after lots of crying and rocking), I know that sometimes being up in the middle of the night is apart of the gig when you're a parent. Knowing that you have the ability to calm a bad dream or help a baby fall back asleep is a powerful thing. While the dark of night has been an isolated and exhausting place for me, it has also been a place of learning and triumph. Somewhere during these dark nights, I became a mother.