It was one week ago today that Cooper started taking solid afternoon naps. I feel as though I’ve come through a dark fog of sleepless & fussy days and nights, and now I have my life (and arms) back. We’re still in the early stages of establishing a good rhythm, but I think we’ve survived the worst of it (for now, at least).
Though the past few weeks have been humbling & humiliating for me as a mom, I want to write it down. As unthinkable as it may seem right now, I know I’ll forget this season of little ones. I’ll forget what a steep learning curve it was/is for me to have my second baby.
Cooper, dear sweet Cooper, doesn’t like to sleep. His arrival meant the upheaval and reworking of our family’s daily cadence. It’s a lot of work to have a newborn (round the clock feedings, teaching Baby the difference between night and day, changing diapers—sometimes 3 diapers right in a row—nursing every two hours), but it’s extra hard work when my two year old lives with such high energy and exuberance!
Thinking back to Christmas time…yes, it was a magical holiday, but it felt like Cooper was either sleeping or fussing. He couldn’t seem to be happy and awake at the same time. I spent my time holding him, feeding him, changing him, and trying to get him to sleep. How I wish the family could have cuddled him more, but he was just too agitated.
After Christmas, I tried to impose a schedule on him, hoping that would give him more sleep. Instead it resulted in me trying to get a crying/screaming baby to sleep for hours at a time. I walked many laps around this house, singing, bouncing, and turning lights low.
The stress of it all escalated into two nightmarish weeks that ended on Valentine’s Day. The physical and emotional strain Stephen and I were feeling spilled over onto Silas, and he began having sleep interruptions and issues. He would climb out of his toddler bed time after time after time at bedtime. Then he began waking up in the middle of the night and coming into our room. One night he woke up every two hours. All four of us were a mess!
I’ve been in hyper-efficiency mode for weeks, just trying to get the basics accomplished. Things like laundry, cooking, getting myself dressed and presentable, and caring for Silas were squeezed in around Cooper’s needs. It felt like I was in high gear 24/7, and I cried a lot. I would beg God to let Cooper sleep or stay asleep. So many times I would get Baby to drift off, only to have him instantly wake up once his head felt the crib beneath him.
I was embarrassed that I was struggling so much with mothering two children. I would ask Stephen and myself questions like, “What am I doing wrong? There are millions of other mothers who have children two years apart. Why is this so hard for me?” I wanted to be capable, strong, independent, poised, composed, under control, and I hated it that I wasn’t. I couldn’t enjoy my boys like I wanted to since I was constantly bombarded with their neediness.
Finally, in the midst of one tough afternoon, I came to the realization that I absolutely could not do this “mother thing” on my own. I couldn’t make Cooper or Silas sleep. I couldn’t do it. I came to the end of my ability. And that’s when I discovered that that’s exactly where I should be—emptied of myself so God’s grace could shine through.
When I am weak, then am I strong. 2 Corinthians 12:10
All along, I couldn’t do it by myself—even on the days when I thought I had it under control. I needed God to mother my children through me. I began to cry out to God (literally, with tears in my eyes), “Love these children through my heart. Speak your words through my tongue. Care for them through my hands.”
If it sounds a bit desperate, that’s because I was & am desperate for God’s grace and strength. I may not always realize it, but I am. Everything I am able to accomplish is through God’s grace. It’s easy to be aware of grace when I’m sleepless, helpless, and stressed, but I’m writing this so I’ll remember to depend on God on days when I feel like I have it all together. On good days, I tend to pat myself on the back and say, “Elisabeth, look at how amazing you are!” when it’s really God’s grace at work. All is grace.
Throughout these past hard weeks, I’ve had The No More Desperate Moms Resolution posted on my bathroom mirror. Believe me, I needed to read those goals over and over to give myself some perspective. Please, please follow the link and read it for yourself.
So, practically speaking, what helped Cooper turn the corner in his sleep habits? (just in case you’re wondering) I gave up all caffeine…every last bit of it. I had already given up coffee, tea and soda weeks earlier. But by giving up decaf coffee and chocolate, I saw a marked difference in Cooper’s ability to sleep and to stay asleep.
Also, I took my mom’s advice and relaxed about the whole schedule thing. Now I let him wake up when he’s ready, and wait until he gets drowsy before putting him down. If he doesn’t go down, he hangs out in the bouncy seat or glider—just as long as he isn’t screaming. I’m accepting the fact that sometimes he catnaps, sleeping only 45 minutes to an hour at a stretch. The timing of Cooper’s afternoon nap is still unpredictable. He can go down anywhere from 1 to 4pm, but at least he naps!
While I’m sure there are many more sleep struggles and phases in my future, I wanted to record the lessons I’m learning now and to be transparent enough to let other moms know that I’m struggling too. You’re not alone! We’re all in this together.