I want to tell a story about sleep…..or the lack there-of. I have always slept well. Always. I lay down in bed…..and usually I wake up and it is morning with a few exceptions. Early in my marriage, I was working as a hospital RN and when it was my turn to be on-call, I would sometimes get called in to work in the night. No one wanted to call me in because I was so grumpy when I was woken up. I hate to be woken up out of good, restful sleep. Hate it, hate it, hate it. When we were expecting our first child, I had 2 fears. One was that the child would have some chronic health condition. The other was that the child would not sleep well. I was deathly afraid of…….being tired.
Child number 1 was born and had an internal clock that woke her up every 4 hours to nurse, and then would go back to sleep……but not in her bed. She could only sleep well if she was near me. I learned by God’s grace to use that quiet rocking feeding time for prayer and intercession. It became a very sweet time between me and the Lord as I held my baby. Child number 2 came and was a fussy, spitty, unhappy baby who wanted to nurse constantly and could NOT sleep alone. Ever. He spent most of his infancy sleeping between my legs with his head resting on my pubic bone and I kid you….not. In order to have Isaac with me all night every night, Roger, my dear husband, hatched an intervention called “Project No Mercy”. This means dad takes the older kid out of mom’s bed and co-sleeps with this child night after night as child screams for mom and mom tries hard not to go get child……It worked for the first…….and eventually, for child number 2 as well once child number 3 took over the night time mothering. Suffice it to say, I was officially tired. Very little sleep…..with an occasional trip overnight to a hotel with my hubby when grandma could come stay. I nursed all 3 kids into their toddler years and that just requires nighttime parenting most of the time.
We took a small break and activated project no mercy for child number 3 and eventually had no kids in our bed. We were sleeping…..and praying….and being called to adoption. We told ourselves that our adopted infant would be formula fed and not share our DNA and could actually be a child that slept in a crib……..that did not happen. Child number 4 came to us at 10 days old and could NOT sleep anywhere but on my chest. Weeks turned into months and then years. She is now 7 years old and still can only sleep for a few hours alone in her bed before she finds her way to my bed and snuggles in for the rest of the night. Child number 5…….sometimes can do it and sometimes cannot.
We have adjusted our lives so that we can sleep as much as possible. We have a king size bed, a bed for each child and 2 very comfy couches. We are sleeping. I am actually quite rested most of the time. If we have a night (like last night) where a child is up for awhile at night, I just arrange my day to try take a nap or I have an extra diet coke in the afternoon.
Sleep is not the goal in parenting. Investing in children and their needs is the goal. Nurturing them and loving them and providing a stable home for them to grow and dream and thrive……is the goal. Helping each other survive the night time agony as spouses, friends, grandparents…….is a really good idea. Ask adoptive friends how things are going with their child home. If they say the are tired, see if there is a way to help. If you are an adoptive parent struggling at night……ask for help. Once, my friend Jen came over when our child was just a few months old. She came at 11pm after her kids were asleep and gently lifted my baby off of my chest on the couch. She told me to go up to bed and sleep until 3am and then she would come get me and go back home. She did that for me. She took my baby downstairs and snuggled her and prayed for her and for me and just gave me a break from 11pm-3am. These are things we can do for one another. I was not too proud to accept her help.
This story of sleep may be familiar to you or may be your worst nightmare…..but I can stand on the truth that God is faithful. I have been parenting for 17 1/2 years and lack of sleep has not killed me or gotten me fired or divorced or anything. I’m chugging along just fine…..most of the time. Take heart. Hang in there. Sleep is overrated.