Beautiful Sleep

Sleep.  Beautiful, blissful, blessed sleep.  How I love it so . . . how I miss it so!  Homer tells us that “the gift of sleep” is “sweet” and that sleep will “speedily free [us] from toilsome weariness.”  Jeremiah says “. . . my sleep was pleasant to me.”  (Jer 31, 26.)  Mine was, too, back in the days B.C. (“Before Children”).

We big people love sleep; we can’t get enough of it.  Our problem is trying to wake up in the morning.  We want to keep on sleeping and sleeping.  There was a guy in college who just couldn’t wake up.  He set an alarm in vain.  He would routinely turn off his alarm without ever waking up.  And he slept in a loft.  In his sleep he would climb down, turn off the alarm, and climb back into bed.  He had to start putting his alarm in the corner on the other side of the room, and array an obstacle course between his bed and the clock.  He blocked the path with his bike, a skateboard, a basketball, golf clubs, etc., and at the end of this trail of perils he put his laundry basket over the alarm clock.  All in the hopes that he would wake up in the process of negotiating his way through these hazards (hopefully without breaking a leg).  It still didn’t work all the time.  One morning I heard him yelling, but not from banging his shins.  He had dreamed that he was defusing a bomb.  The good news was that in his dream he successfully averted an explosion.  The bad news was that he successfully defused his alarm clock and overslept a class.

Our daughter was born eight months ago and I can count the number of times I’ve slept through the night since then:  once.  I know, because my wife won’t let me forget.  I woke up in the morning after that one blissful night of uninterrupted slumber feeling refreshed, with a sparkle in my eye and a spring in my step.

“That was amazing,” I told my wife.  “Liz slept all night without waking up.”

My wife looked at me through bleary, blood-shot eyes and answered:  “No, you slept all night without waking up.”

Sorry, Honey.  But it was nice.

Most nights I feel like my sister Rachel did back when we were kids.  One night, when she was seven, Rachel walked into the room shared by my brothers John and Mark.  John and Mark were 17 and 16 at the time, and they were blaring rock music and lifting weights at 1 a.m. (who doesn’t want to lift weights to loud rock music at 1 a.m.?).  I was there, too, because of course as a little brother I thought John and Mark were about as cool as you could get (and they are, really).

Rachel walked in and asked:  “Could you turn the music up please?”

John paused with a barbell half-hoisted.

“What?” he asked.  “You want me to turn it up?”

“Yeah,” Rachel said sweetly in a sleepy little voice.  “I don’t think they can hear it in Japan yet.”

Well, our daughter must be on the road to being as cool as John and Mark, because she thinks the wee small hours of the night are a great time to be up and active.  I think that as a new parent, that is the hardest thing of all:  getting up at 1 am . . .  and 3 am . . . and 5 am.  Then pacing the floor in the dark, hour after hour, trying to induce somnolence in our progeny.

Mornings after a night like that are brutal.  First, there’s no respite the next day.  The world doesn’t stop or give you a pass because you have kids (and therefore don’t sleep).  All the normal day-to-day demands are still there.  You’ve got to get up and get to work, you’ve got to feed Liz when she wakes up, etc.  Plus, everything takes so much more effort when you’re exhausted.  Moving through the day is like trying to run underwater:  everything is twice as hard, but for all the effort you’re moving in slow motion.  Your office mate tells a joke, and its ten minutes later before you finally get it and start laughing while sitting alone in your cube.  And those morning meetings are perilous.  You hope the boss doesn’t turn the lights down for a power point presentation, for fear you’ll break up the meeting with your snoring.

I know Jesus tells us we have to sacrifice for others:  “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.  He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”  (Jn 12, 24-25).  I don’t want to be alone.  I’m glad that I have my wife and child, and I know I’m blessed.

But couldn’t I sacrifice something I don’t mind doing without?  How about sports?  I like watching sports, but I wouldn’t mind giving that up.  I mean, I’m willing to sacrifice, if we can just agree on what the sacrifice ought to be.  Is there any room for negotiation here?

How about money?  I don’t mind giving that up.  I’ll spring for the new stroller, or the fancy car seat.  No problem.

But sleep . . .

I really like sleep.

I need it.

I don’t want to give up my sleep.

I recently realized, while sitting in a rocking chair with a little bundle of joy in my arms and plenty of time to think between the hours of 1 am and 2 am, that my attitude was more akin to that of the rich donors in the Bible story of the poor widow’s sacrifice, Mk 12, 41-44, when as a father I’m called to be like the poor widow.  Jesus watched in the temple as many rich people contributed large sums, and then saw a poor widow who put in only two small coins worth a few cents.  Jesus said:  “‘Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury.  For they all contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, her whole living.”  (Mk 12, 43-44).

That’s the call of fatherhood.  Raising kids takes more than just those things we don’t mind parting with.  Our kids need more than a few hours on the weekend, they need more than money.  Our kids need us; all of us.  Everything we can give them.  Jesus told us:  “‘Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.’”  (Jn, 15, 13).  Jesus said:  “‘If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.’”  (Mt 16, 24).

So let’s learn a lesson from the poor widow, and the grain of wheat.  If we don’t want to be alone, and if we want to follow Jesus to eternal life, we’ve got to give fatherhood our all and give everything we have.  After all, that’s why the good Lord gave us double cappuccinos.  Let’s use them!

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  • peanutbutter

    Have you tried spending a hour with her– letting her crawl on the lawn at the park or in the yard, tossing her a ball, rocking her at a decent hour. That baby loves having you all to herself, and who can blame her! Your the best!

  • khan47

    So, so true! You write many of the thoughts I’ve had since our second child was born almost six months ago. The lack of sleep and getting up again and again is such a sacrifice, and one we as parents get to make over and over again. It’s tough keeping patience with an older child during such sleep deprivation too.

  • sheiladarisse

    *rubbing sleep from my own eyes so I can type* 🙂 Hello brothers and sisters! Just a quick hint to help those of you with new babies 2 months or older. Put a little baby cereal in their bedtime bottle, if they’re drinking more than 2 ounces you can put about a teaspoon of baby cereal flakes in the milk, stir it well and maybe use the nipple with an “x” in it because the milk with be thicker. Be sure too that the baby is in recline and not laying flat, and burp them well. 🙂 Too many times we let our babies nap between 6 and 9 pm because it’s nice to have “alone” time with your spouse at the end of the day but if you can keep the baby awake during that time and give them a nice warm bath about 8 pm with a little cereal in their milk they’re likely to start sleeping all night long. 🙂 Please let me know if any of you try that, it worked for me. Email me at sheila_d46atyahoodotcom. *kiss of peace* ~Sheila

  • Great idea, Sheila; I did that years ago with mine — I had forgotten about that.
    The cereal thing does work, but please start with rice cereal — lowest chance of allergy. If you are nursing, you can express milk and mix with that — keep it very thin at first. You will want to mix the rice cereal with a bit of very hot water first so it cooks, then mix in milk. BTW, you can make yor own rice cereal for baby by powdering converted (Uncle Ben’s) rice in your blender.

  • Terri Kimmel

    We started co-sleeping with our third child. The first few days are still a little rough because the baby is still learning to latch on for nursing, but after that I’d always get a decent night’s sleep. Of course, co-sleeping usually last an average of three years in our family. I also practice prolonged lactation, which means the babies wean themselves between ages two and three. They nurse on demand, which includes at night. (It gets less frequent as they get older.) It’s no biggie to roll over and offer the breast, though. It’s nothing like getting up and preparing a bottle.

    Nighttime nursing is one of the fundamentals of ecological breastfeeding, an effective method of natural family planning.

    This page explains the basics of attachment parenting:

    I didn’t miss the message of sacrificing for loved ones, by the way. Parenthood is probably the best way for a person to learn to be selfless and generous. I say it’s the best job training for any career. :0D

  • Claire

    But if they’re nursing that much during the night, don’t you have to get up and change their diapers? My son (bottle-fed, because he was adopted) was a great sleeper, but in the early days when he did get up once or twice a night for a feeding, I always changed him as well. Since I had to get up to change him anyway, it was no big deal to mix a bottle right before or after the diaper change.

  • Terri Kimmel

    No. I use cloth diapers and they’re fine until morning. If they dirty them, I’ll get up to change, but that’s not very frequent.

  • Claire

    My son’s diapers probably would have been okay till morning in terms of not leaking, but I can’t imagine leaving him all night long in a diaper that contained two feedings worth of urine. But anyway, while I would have like to have nursed him, mixing up a bottle once or twice/night was no big deal, especially since it was for so short a time since he was such a great sleeper.

  • Lori Watson

    I enjoyed reading all the comments on this one. I wanted to share a little story…one time when our oldest son was a baby and was up (again!) in the night, I sleepily went in to see what was wrong. He needed a change, so I (still sleepily) took him to the changing table, changed his wet diaper in the dim room , and (groggily) threw him up over my shoulder to carry him back to his bed. It wasn’t until he started crying and I tried to pat him on his back to comfort him that I realized I was patting his legs instead–I had been holding him upside down! Poor kid with the overtired momma!

    Claire, I don’t know how it works with all families, but we kept our oldest in his own bed but almost totally coslept with ours by the time we had our third baby (because I am not as good on less sleep, either!) I am trying to remember how the diapers worked out, because I was big on changing frequently. Terri, is it possible that maybe the feedings tend to be smaller and sleepier when the baby is snuggled next to Mom in the bed? I know that our little ones always tended to get sleepy when I did (HUGE blessing!). God bless you all!

  • Claire

    Maybe that’s it. Not that my son took huge feedings (he’s never been a big eater), but it might be that the his volume was greater. When he was still eating during the night, I think he would take 2-4 ounces at a time.