I don’t know what I expected on our first holiday as a 7 person family. I guess I hoped that we might have moved on from our first holiday, 10 years before, as a 3 person family. But no. There I was awake at 4.15am again. Only this time it was not just me and one expectant child, ready to start the day in the dark, it was me and five expectant children ready to start the day in the dark.
The feeling of anger that accompanied the adrenalin was the same. The difference was that older children don’t always beam at you first thing in the morning, like babies. (I myself can’t even grimace until 5am) They also talk and require a response and unfortunately keeping my mouth firmly shut is always best before six. Worst of all they require simultaneous decision making and I struggle with that even in broad daylight.
After too many angry words were said I finally thought to wake my husband. I threw myself on the bed, “Help me please, you have to take over, I’m starting to rant.”
He shooed them all back to bed until 6am and I stayed with the baby, (who was beaming but no longer in that dozy sleepy morning zone). I was soothed by his smiles but still angry, in an ironic sort of way, for getting angry in the first place.
Sleep deprivation has been my nemesis these 10 years.
It’s always the combination of interrupted sleep & hormones that tips me over the edge. And since I have been pregnant or breastfeeding for 9 out of the last 11 years, that’s most of the time. I have good days and bad days. In the last 5 years I have had more good days than bad days. I haven’t necessarily had more sleep just better days.
I am better at managing my expectations. I guess having survived this long I am no longer so frightened of what might happen if I don’t get enough sleep. I am also better at praying before I set my foot on the floor.
10 years ago on that first holiday at the age of 10 months, just as he started walking and eating solids, my first son started waking up for the day at 4.15am. I remember playing silently with him in a tiny bedroom, 4 months pregnant in a freezing holiday apartment, waiting for the sun to rise. At the time I naively thought, “At least this will stop when he gets back home to his own bed.”
But it didn’t stop it continued for 10 months. After that he slept till 5am and generally still does, although now he’s old enough to do his homework or read a book while he waits for the rest of us to wake up.
A 4.15am start is not so bad if you get a full night’s sleep before that. But not when you’re also waking a minimum of 4 times during the night. Even that is not so bad if you’re not also pregnant and breastfeeding. And none of it is so bad if your husband is able to help with some of it, any of it, but mine couldn’t because he had chronic fatigue.
I became a monster. I have never been angrier than I was at that time. I could not say a nice word to my husband. There was no salt it was all pepper out of my mouth. So I was mostly silent. I was struggling to be nice to any body. It took all my strength to be nice to my child.
I prayed a lot of “please make this stop” and “I’m so sorry, again” and “please, please, please help me to be nice” prayers.
It took all my faith to believe it was just a season and this too would pass.
And it did, in its own way. My husband’s health improved just before my second son was born. The 4.15am starts became 5am starts but by then I had finished breastfeeding my first son and was breastfeeding my second son.
What didn’t stop was the waking in the night.
One night I counted 12 times that I got up to somebody. I hardly got into bed.
I had all kinds of great advice thrown my way. Beautiful well meaning advice, from people who wanted the best for me. I also had ridiculously unhelpful comparisons from others who just couldn’t help boasting about how well their kids slept through the night. Either way it didn’t matter to me I would have stabbed them all to death if I’d had the energy.
When you have a non-sleeper it consumes you.
The books I read trying to ‘solve him’ told me he was the one percent, “By now if you have followed our advice, 99% of children will be sleeping through the night.”
I did. I followed that advice to the letter, but not mine.
He was 4 before he got 10 hours sleep in a row.
By then I had three children and had stubbornly breastfed each one for a year. My body had not had even one minute when it wasn’t completely ruled by pregnancy and breastfeeding hormones.
I was exhausted and I had run out of gratitude.
It turned out my son had food sensitivities. That is what kept him awake, gave him nightmares and made him anxious and depressed, (that and the lack of sleep).
When we sorted those out, he slept. I had to wait a few more years.
But I’m not so angry anymore. Occasionally I have a post traumatic reaction like I had on our holiday if I have unrealistic expectations (like having a holiday!!!), and I have to wake up before 5am, but it doesn’t last all day any more.
I worked on my gratitude.
I realised my ingratitude was something I could work through with God. Even without solving the sleep problem. I started blogging privately, like an online journal for myself. I would write 10 things I was grateful for that day. I started taking photos and posting them for myself. Even if I thought I’d had a bad day, I had photographic evidence that there were good moments and I had written evidence that I was grateful even if I didn’t feel it. I would give thanks to God after I had ‘blogged’ each day.
After 6 months of this, we changed churches and I joined a new Connect group. At my first meeting the leader shared a bible study about Gratitude that she had done. Then we prayed. During that prayer time, I gave myself to God and felt the heat as the Holy Spirit released me from ingratitude.
That night when I went home to my husband the thought struck me that we could fall pregnant. I said to my husband, “Would you like to have another child?”
Apparently he’d had a run of conversations with clients who had 4 children. They had all encouraged him to go for it but he hadn’t wanted to say anything to me (his angry, ungrateful wife). “Yes I would,” he said.
So we got to it. Afterwards as we lay there I felt the words, “It will be a girl and her name will be Grace,” come into my head. It felt stupid but I knew I had to say them out loud. I leant over to my husband, “It will be a girl and her name will be Grace,” I said.
And we both knew then and there that we had conceived and we knew it was a girl and we knew she would be Grace.
Grace to do it all again with gratitude.
2) Grace as a baby was a legend sleeper. It was instant. During the pregnancy I had not been able to sleep longer than an hour and a half at a time so when she started doing long stretches straight away I was ecstatic. I finally understood all those boasting Mums, no wonder, 7 solid hours of sleep was amazing! I felt like a million dollars.
However, God had a point to make with me. After a couple of months of catchup he started to wake me himself. It took me a while, a bit like Samuel, to realise it was God waking me up. Even then I was quite annoyed but I knew I was supposed to pray. So I found a quiet place and lifted my arms.
I thanked God and praised him and very gently he rebuked me. On that first night he revealed to me that sleep had become my idol. I longed for sleep more than I longed for him. I talked about it more than I talked about him. I did not invite him into that area of my life anymore. I had let the desire for sleep not only lead to sin. I had made a new God for myself and I was a slave to it.
Funny how when God breaks the altars in your life he doesn’t necessarily break the problem. He says, “Bring the problem to me instead.” He woke me up every night to pray and worship, sometimes for hours.
Every night for months I gave myself to the Lord while all my family slept. He gave me visions and words of knowledge, he brought my bible alive, he put brand new worship songs in my head that I sang just for him and he refreshed me.
It went on like this until I could say, “God is my rest,” and believe it.
Then he let me sleep.
Matthew 11:28 says,
Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
If you are anxious about sleep you may need to read What To Do When We’re Anxious for some practical prayer tips. Or maybe you’ve just had a baby, and you are dealing with marriage issues as well! God, the Baby and Our Sex Life may be some encouragement in this situation.
Whatever you are dealing with today I encourage you ‘Rejoice, The Lord is near!’ Be blessed, be encouraged and may you find God’s true rest today,
Lots of love,
© Lauren Macdonald. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission, from this blog’s author, is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Lauren Macdonald @ http://godhelpmei.com