Now a few years removed from those early infant stages, it seems barely real; how I functioned through the bleary days after no sleep – night after night – pacing the floor alone with baby while the rest of the world slumbered. My romantic side remembers it with fondness, of course, which is the beauty of motherhood – the forgetfulness. Honestly speaking, those nights were rarely peaceful, especially in the beginning.
I think I clocked six days straight without even a doze – not for lack of trying, not because I hadn’t been offered aid; simply because my baby wouldn’t sleep. It wasn’t a darling snarl against a yawn or a wide-eyed interest in the world that kept her too excited; it was like she was afraid of falling asleep, afraid of drifting away from us. As her eyelids would flutter, her body would suddenly stiffen. She would jerk, then flail and cry out desperately, a screeching cry that couldn’t be ignored.
Motherhood is like extending our very beings, isn’t it? As my baby feared the nights, I became terrified of sleeping. I feared the sleep because I feared the waking; that I might not be able to take one more sleepless night. My nerves frayed and my brain seemingly short-circuited. My thighs and arms ached from the holding, the bouncing and the rocking. The cold December nights seemed endless, and I didn’t know whether to dread or rejoice at the sun rising. When the night finally ended, I was a person who wasn’t whole.
It is hard to define a breaking point. It’s easy to identify far greater pains in the world than losing rest to a healthy, beautiful baby. But on the sixth night, I reached whatever my breaking point was for that season. While my daughter wailed and screamed and thrashed, I felt I’d lost control of my body, certainly my emotions. I snapped; I was no longer afraid of sleeping, but terrified of what I might do if I couldn’t sleep that night.
I laid the baby in her cradle and I crossed the room to the corner. I closed the door careful not to wake my husband or our dreaming toddler. I sat with my face in my hands and I wept, tempted to scream myself above the baby’s yelps. I prayed – for real. Not like passing a note to my maker or demanding something I thought I deserved. This was an aching prayer, a real need from my gut:
I’m approaching the throne, asking with expectation you will answer.
Grant our whole house peaceful rest tonight. Let my little girls sleep. Let them feel safe and not afraid. Let them welcome sleep, let it come easily; let them sleep through the night.
As they rest, please give me sleep too, so that I can wake up refreshed, ready to pour into them the way they deserve.
I believe that you take good care of us. Please give us the rest we need.
No sooner had I uttered the prayer, her body went soft and her head rested to the side, no more flailing, no more fighting. And I’m sure you could say she was finally too tired to battle sleep any more. I choose to say that I watched my prayer immediately answered. Sure, it was just a baby falling asleep; but I felt like I was watching a miracle happen right before my eyes.
I sat in the silence. Silence is worship when we let it be. It was reverent. It felt whole. It felt like peace. I imagined the world long ago, when the whole place was incomplete and desperately searching for rest and answers. I thought about the pains, the groans and the crying out, and I thought about a baby sleeping. I thought about “Silent Night.” As I felt peace in those moments, how hushed and peaceful was the world on the night the savior was born? I climbed into my bed next to the cradle, and I fell into slumber, into wholeness.
Sarah Ann Noel married into a family where she became the fourth Sarah Noel, so in the interest of originality, Sarah Ann Noel it shall be.
Sarah is a wife, a mother, and a prodigious over-thinker, fueled by superfluous amounts of caffeine. She likes to color coordinate her books and leave her hair messy. She and her family travel a lot, which Sarah documents through photos and video. Sarah is a freelance writer and contributes regularly to several magazines and online platforms.
She is working on her first book. Read more at sarahannnoel.com.