I remember when we first moved back to California, and the nightly nightmares began. He’d scream at the top of his lungs, and I’d jolt awake with my heart racing; anger, frustration, concern beating fast within my chest. I’d rush into his room stressed, wanting to comfort but also curse him back to sleep. My motherly nurture wrestled with my human need for rest. What had happened to the days when he’d sleep through the night? The days and nights when it had been easy, good, peaceful? I longed for that season, wanted to will it back into existence. I was in a long nightmare of sleepless nights again, and I couldn’t see the end of it.
The stress stacked up in my body. My mind could only handle so much. Depression that led to despair shadowed my whole being, and when night came, anxiety held me on the edge of deep sleep but never let me cross into it.
They said it would get better. The moms with older kids, the ones who had been there before. When my kids were babies, moms, grandmas, strangers told me over and over again that the days were long but the years were short. They had known and survived the sleepless nights, so why couldn’t I believe them? It seemed as though they were telling me a fairy tale, a story that had come true for them. But in the thick of our night, their reality was too far from my own, and I couldn’t muster the faith to believe it could one day happen for me.
Last week I sat with my kid at Starbucks, and I remembered the nightmares, the screams, the cries that lasted for a year. I watched as he traced the letter B- his face close to the workbook, his eyes focused on the dotted lines, his little mouth bearing evidence of chocolate croissant around it. He looked older- the way he sat across from me, the way he held his pencil, the way he worked quietly and independently. He looked less like the baby he was nine months prior when he couldn’t sleep through the night, and in that moment, I knew it had happened for me. This kid and I had made it through. We had survived the days and nights that were longer than I could’ve imagined they would have ever been. We had fought. We had misunderstood and hurt each other. We had held each other and had said sorry more times than we could count.
They said it would get better, and they were right. He and I still bear the scars from that time on our hearts, but they aren’t stark white as they once were. The scars are slowly healing, becoming softer and regaining color.
Mothering in the night broke me; it made me die to myself. And though the struggle was outwardly between me and my son, the true wrestling was between me and God. I resisted putting myself and my sleep on the altar. I whisper-shouted angry words, punched the air violently, threw Scripture back in His face. I questioned His love for me as I lost sanity and strength to hold myself together.
Even as I write this, I can still feel the faint aftershocks of that year in my body. The days were long, but the nights were even longer. I didn’t welcome the mornings then because they were reminders that night would come again. But the mornings came anyway. And like a sunrise seen in stop motion, the light came slowly, frame by frame. And it wasn’t until that moment in Starbucks as we shared a chocolate croissant that I realized we had made it out of the dark, hand in hand, and were standing together in the noonday sun.