I’ve had a headache for two weeks straight now.
You think that’s an exaggeration. I can assure you it is not. *Here’s where all the moms nod their heads in unison*
My sweet, perfect, amazing baby boy with a huge smile and scrunchy nose is not so perfect at night sometimes. Especially lately, he just wants mommy so close that I can literally feel him breathing in my face, that sour milk smell. The stuff dreams are made of, of course. *sarcasm*
Coupled with sleep regression, he is constantly hungry too. Like constantly. I get it–he’s a growing boy and loves to nurse for food and for comfort equally, but this mom’s bags under the eyes seriously can’t get worse.
I won’t even get into the other things keeping me awake at night and force me to sprint through my days. The never-ending laundry (where does it all come from?!), the bills that have to be paid, the full time job and the side job that demand so much attention and 7 am wake up times. The baby weight I’m really trying to get off. The parenting plan with my step daughter that never fails to make me a nervous wreck since consistency is not the name of the game there and let’s not get into the plethora of other emotional train wreck aspects of it all. Seriously–don’t ask.
As a mom and furthermore a step-mom, I have stepped into the greatest miracle and the greatest headache (literally) I have ever witnessed or been part of.
I love it. Sometimes I don’t. I cherish it. Sometimes I don’t. And sometimes I legitimately just ask my husband to hold me real quick so I can have two seconds of comfort.
But it last night when something sung to my soul in such a way that I had to write it down. Maybe a revelation caused from sleep deprivation mixed with dehydration mixed with weird dreams in between breast feedings. Who knows, but it spoke to me.
This darling boy beside me needs me, loves me, and reaches for me in the night just as much as the day. If anything, nighttime is when he treasures mommy the most. It’s dark, sometimes he has a tummy ache, he’s tired, and he wants to smell me. To feel my heart beat. To grab at my hair as he eats and get his back patted when he coughs. It doesn’t matter that my head aches and my alarm will go off in a few hours. What matters is that mommy cares, even in the night. What matters is that I’m there–awake, as alert as I can be, and as full of grace and that unending forgiveness for this little one that is simply needing me.
These nights won’t go on forever, but I think the lesson will. When the thought came to me, I felt a surge of guilt. Not just about River, but about the people in my life who need my attention the most–even strangers.
I think it’s important that we always love–even in the night when we don’t feel necessarily equipped.
The impact this had on my heart had me shameful for the times when I extend very little grace. That one time a babysitter slept in and totally forgot she had to watch the baby and I snapped, not thinking about the sleep deprivation she also faces with her baby or the million other events that led up to her pressing snooze on the clock. That one time someone cut me off in traffic and I laid on my horn, not realizing that maybe that person was having a horrible day and just needed to be given a little slack. That one time my boss barked at me and I realized later his wife was sick. That one time I totally judged the mom in the store with a screaming little boy. Ugh. I’ve had my own toddler have a tantrum in an aisle since then, much to my embarrassment.
The little times, one by one, where I didn’t extend the grace that I would want extended back to me.
I’ve been reading self-help books lately to motivate me when I honestly go through those selfish phases of pitying myself when times get rough. And the biggest things I’ve taken out of all of them are a common theme. When people are asked what they want the most in life or what they’re lacking the most, the majority of people say the same thing:
A friend. That’s what people lack the most. I find that tragic yet so understandable at the same time. I’m at the back end of my twenties, and I can honestly say it’s so hard to make and keep friends who are there when I need it, reach out to me without me reaching first, and who stick around when I’m just really in need for someone to stick around. I’ve never really been a girl’s girl. If anything, I get major anxiety around other girls lots of the time. From past experiences of judgmental and altogether cruel girls in school, to those who flirt and intrude in my relationships and have little respect for me, to those who simply didn’t find me as part of their “pack”, I was never very successful at the whole “girl pack” thing.
So it makes absolute sense, in my mind at least, how that would be our biggest craving.
Friendship. The underlying need?
And it has motivated me to open my eyes to the fact that there are hundreds–thousands-of people who not only need my actions to be kind toward them, but my thoughts. People need to be given wiggle room without me jumping to assumptions in my head. People deserve to be loved–not judged. People deserve to have me reach out and help, even when it’s hard for me or inconvenient. Because we’re all in our own stages of night, struggling with addiction or sleep deprivation or alienation or job loss or marital issues–or simply having a tough morning with grumpy kids and spilled coffee in the car.
I think about my sweet baby in the night, grabbing at me with his sharp little fingernails (that I try to cut, I swear!)–simply wanting my warmth. And I want to be better. For him, for my husband, for my co-workers. For the stranger who just needs a smile. A friend. Even if my head hurts and all I want is to not deal with it. Even if I need comfort myself.
Even when I’m at the end of my rope, at least I’m still hanging on and can maybe help catch someone else who has let go.
I still love my baby in the night. I still love him when he cries and kicks me in the ribs. I still love him when he’s feverish and sad the same way I love him when he belly laughs and hugs my neck. I love him unending and cater to the attention he craves.
I want to love like that for others too, because we’re all infants in the night when the dark comes and we have no one.
Let’s be the type of people who say nothing before we decide to say something hurtful. Let’s be the type of women other women can trust and rely on and feel comfortable around. The type of women who don’t shame other women for being different.
Let’s be the type of person who shrugs and says it’s okay when someone falls short. Let’s take it a step further, and try to train our thoughts to extend that grace as well.
Let’s take a breath before laying on the horn. Let’s dig deeper before assuming a life story. Let’s be a safe place for others.
Let’s always offer connection, even when it’s rejected.
Looking into my baby’s big charcoal gray eyes I see his need for every portion of my love. I see his joy when I give it. We all have that need, don’t we?
And I’ll give it each time.
Even in the night.