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.

Photo by Patrick Hendry on Unsplash

Grace P. Cho
Grace P. Cho / Posts / Blog
Grace P. Cho is a writer, wife, and mama to two littles. She writes and is the managing editor for The Mudroom and GraceTable as well as a contributor for Inheritance Magazine and A Moment to Breathe. Her favorites include walking alongside others, speaking truth through story, coffee of any kind, and desert landscapes. You can follow her on her blog at www.gracepcho.com and on Instagram.
  • dawn

    truly needed this today… with seemingly the only 14 month old who doesn’t sleep through and often feeling like a failure or like i’ve caused this. i can’t ignore her but man is this lonely sometimes. i’ll never forget feeling like i had to give sleep-training a try because i’d tried everything else and nothing was “working”. she was sobbing in her crib, and i was on the other side of her door praying for God to comfort her and clear as day I felt Him whisper inside my chest, “The comfort I’ve given her is you.” it’s hard to remember that most days if i’m being honest.

    thank you for the encouragement.

    February 8th, 2018 9:10
    • Grace P. Cho
      Grace P. Cho

      Hugs and fist bumps to you!! It is the hardest thing to mother in the night, whether that’s comforting or sleep training them, so hang in there. He will meet you, you’re not alone, He is there too in the dark.

      February 8th, 2018 9:30
    • Christy

      Oh I know this struggle. Only for me, it was 10 years ago, and the hard mothering of never-ending (ever!) sleepless nights has now been replaced with the hard mothering of identity and friends and never-ending hard questions. I pray to remember that if it weren’t for the darkness, I couldn’t see the light, and the light draws me near. Praying for you mommas as you journey through these tough stages, that the light be ever visible.

      February 8th, 2018 12:58
      • Grace P. Cho
        Grace P. Cho

        I love the part where you said, “If it weren’t for the darkness, I couldn’t see the light, and the light draws me near.” So, so true, and grace for all of us in different seasons of motherhood!

        February 13th, 2018 1:30
  • Chris

    Oh how close to this I am.
    My son is 20 months old. He sleeps through the night most nights and my wife and I are super thankful for that. It was not to long ago that he would cry and cry what seemed like all night long. Jr, now sleeps mostly soundly through the night.
    I couldn’t be happier to have the joy of my son in my life. Even if it does cost me some very tough days.
    Prayers for all those out there with restless children.

    February 8th, 2018 19:17

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