To The Moms Silently Struggling Through Another Late Night
You might be reading this letter in a sleep-deprived haze. It may be midnight — or 3:00am — but the hour doesn’t matter. The time of day doesn’t matter. What matters is that you are awake. You are sitting in your rocker, in your bed, on a chair, or on your couch alone … and in the dark.
To say you are tired is an understatement. Your breasts burn. Your body aches, and everything feels heavy. You feel faint, feverish and like you have the flu.
Your mind is hazy. Things blur together — the words of this article may be blurring together — and you are forgetful. You may not be able to remember your newborn babe’s name, or your own. And your emotions are in overdrive.
You may be delighted and depressed at the same time.
I get it and understand how you’re feeling because I am you. It is 2:00 a.m. The streets are silent. My house is dark, and the only thing which stirs is my 16-week-old baby. He is snuggled against my chest, suckling ever so lightly at my breast.
Make no mistake: my son is a blessing. He is an angelic bundle of joy who completes my family — and my heart — but right now, I’m struggling. I am worn and weary. I am scared and lonely, and I am embarrassed for feeling this way.
He is happy. He is healthy, and I should be overjoyed. I should be savoring every moment, right?
Well, yes … and no. Because while the years go by fast — before I know it, my baby boy will be walking, talking and running, away from his childhood and from me — these nights do not. They are hard. They are painful, and they are long. Very long. And sometimes, I find it difficult to make it to the morning.
When I’m up in the wee hours of the night, tending to a fussy baby, a hungry baby, or a crying baby, I go to dark places.
I become short-tempered, irritable and angry — at God, at my spouse, and my life. I become horribly anxious. Every whimper, coo, or cry puts me on edge, and I wonder if I’ve made a mistake.
I wonder if I’m a bad mom.
Of course, things are clearer in the light of day, and I know my feelings are normal. I know my baby’s habits are normal. Young children need to wake in the middle of the night, as frequent feedings are imperative to their development and growth. My thoughts and emotions make a bit more sense. I know my baby needs me: for food, for warmth, for shelter, comfort, and life. And that? That makes me grateful. I know and believe I am #blessed. I also know this phase does not — and will not — last forever. I already have a bright, beautiful, and energetic little girl, one who sleeps 10-plus hours every night. But right now that doesn’t matter. Future casting will not help me, nor will it help you, and rational thoughts will not make you any less tired.
Night feedings still suck.
So while I won’t tell you “it gets better,” I will tell you this: it’s okay to be sad — and mad. It’s okay to feel scared, lost, disoriented, and dismayed, and it’s okay to feel frustrated and angry. These thoughts do not make you a lousy person, or a shitty parent. They do not make you an inept parent, and they do not make you a “bad mom.”
You’re just tired: tired and overwhelmed.
So how do you make it? How do you push through? By loving yourself. By forgiving yourself. By reminding yourself everything is normal. Newborn babies do not sleep through the night. And by remembering the importance of grace.
So take a nap, even if it’s the middle of the day. Let the sink fill up, and the laundry basket overflow. Buy paper plates and cups because they are cheap and easy — and, right now, you need easy. Order takeout, delivery, and/or GrubHub. Cry when you want to. Scream when you need to, and ask friends, neighbors, and family for help because you can’t do everything. You don’t need to do everything. In fact, all you need to care for your baby, your body, and your mind.
That’s it, the rest can wait.
So hang in there, sweet mama. The days (and nights) will pass: one second, one minute, and one hour at a time.
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