Somewhere between the fourth and fifth week of motherhood, I lost my sense of humor. The sleep deprivation, the constant screaming of an inexplicably colicky infant, the continued pain in trying to nurse her: all of these had stripped the emotional myelin off my nerve endings. I was raw. Everything hurt.
Each day brought a relentless onslaught of hours. Screaming, swaddling, soothing, nursing, rocking: a two-hour routine in total before she’d finally sleep, and then I’d claw my way to my pillow and to try to lie down – all the while dreading the knowledge that she never slept for longer than forty minutes, and then I would be on my Mommy-hamster-treadmill again.
She screamed less when we walked. So we walked, and walked, and walked. We watched the leaves turn, and then fall in turn. We listened to them crunch beneath the stroller as its wheels collected the scratches of authentication.
Strangers would stop us as we walked, cooing over the wide-eyed infant tucked beneath the hood. “She’s so alert!” they would say as they cooed over her. “You must be so happy.”
“Yes, she most certainly is alert” I’d concede, while screaming beneath my breath: But she NEVER bloody sleeps! And as for happy… well, I hadn’t felt that for a while.
I suppressed a scream for weeks, allowing myself only desperate tears as I winced through feedings. She would fight sleep: eyes flickering open ten, twenty times just as they seemed leaden. I imagined my joy, leached from me and lying in a pool around the rocker glider.
Finally, she was asleep: quite literally “more than a handful” as she sprawled across my lap. “God, I just can’t,” I breathed. “I just can’t do this. Motherhood was not supposed to feel this way.”
My little one stirred, arched, and released some wind. A tiny sleep grin curved onto her rosebud lips. I smiled, in spite of myself, marveling at her littleness, her complete dependency, her implicit trust. Something in me broke, and for a moment I imagined myself, collapsed and curled into God’s arms, as he rocked me through the exhausted sleep at the end of yet another bout of endless screaming.
See? I sensed Him nudge. Even when you’re at your most dependent, most frustrating, least able – I hold you tight. Even if you have nothing to contribute and spend all day crying, still I will hold you when you are exhausted. This thing you’re feeling, kiddo: it’s a glimpse into the tenacious love I have for you.
I watched my girl and felt him watching Me. I rocked, and rocked, holding my baby in my arms. I drifted off to sleep, just vaguely aware of a sleep grin on my own lips, just vaguely aware of the smile it would bring to the Father holding me in that hour.
Bronwyn Lea is a South African born writer-mama, raising three littles in California. Each of her beloved babies has taught her afresh what it means to be a beloved daughter of God. Her writing has appeared at Momastery, Christianity Today and the Huffington Post. She blogs about faith and motherhood at bronlea.com, and you can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.