the silent answer we have been given

Posted by on August 10, 2007

Photo credit: Amber Schley Iragui

union square
Originally uploaded by amber
I have fallen into the bad habit of feeling sorry for myself over the issue of sleep, or lack thereof. So many mothers I know have babies who slept through the night early, while mine, almost eleven months old, still wakes twice to nurse. A quick google search out of desperation tells me that my situation isn’t, in fact, uncommon at all. There are so many discussion threads involving mothers who cite the same situation, and who desire to change it with the least amount of pain, crying, and discomfort, which, unfortunately, appears to be a naive hope.I toy with plans to train Esme out of her night wakings, then cave into them night after night with a tender heart for my sweet girl. But then I’m tired, and when I indulge in self-pity at how my very physiology feels altered, at how my brain chemistry, too, seems altered from what it was before I had a baby, I feel even sulkier.

I woke this morning at 5 a.m. with Esme. Yes, 5 a.m. is a legitimate morning wake-up time for babies and children– there’s no valid parental caveat to insist that a baby stay in her crib longer for the sake of good sleep habits. So, I got up and sat in our rocking chair by the pile of books that Esme had knocked off the shelf last night. I picked up Courage to Pray by Metropolitan Anthony Bloom, another book randomly unearthed by Esme’s daily habit of knocking books off shelves. Several long-overlooked titles have been brought to my recent attention this way.

I leafed through and found this beautiful passage which made me realize that my self-pity, even when I’ve only managed to get four hours of sleep, is a choice that I make. And I can choose to see the morning in another way:

Let us rise in the morning and offer ourselves to God. We have awoken from a sleep which divides us from yesterday. Waking up offers us a new reality, a day which never existed before, an unknown time and space stretching out before us like a field of untrodden snow. Let us ask the Lord to bless this day and bless us in it. And when we have done this, let us take our request seriously and also the silent answer we have been given.

Even the paltry sleep of a infant’s mother is still a sleep which divides one day from another, and I’m beginning to see a trend in what the saints say about mornings and the beginnings of the day. The view of the day may look dismal, but there is a flower blooming over it, tinting it with color. Like in the Morning Prayer of St. Philaret: we accept everything that comes to us throughout the day as sent from God.

  1. Jenny
    August 10, 2007

    Oh Julia,

    This is lovely!


  2. Ser
    August 11, 2007

    This is beautiful, Julia. I really struggled with feelings of resentment when I didn’t get enough sleep for the first year of Luke’s life. Sometimes it feels like all bets are off when sleep deprivation is added into the mix of an already challenging job of mothering an infant. You are a great mom–and a great writer.

  3. Manuela
    August 11, 2007

    Thanks for writing this. I will try to remind myself of it when the feelings of self-pity and resentment overcome me in those early morning hours.

  4. anna j
    August 12, 2007

    ok, so i have no basis for understanding the lack of sleep that all mothers seem to know so well . . . but i must chime in simply to say that i am, as always, enthralled by your prowess with the written word. more so, though, i am touched by this beautiful prayer: thankful to you for sharing it, and blessed to be able to claim you as a friend.

  5. Lucy
    August 13, 2007

    and I, who sleep soundly through the night, am honored that the flower blooming in the window at Union Square, is the image you chose to illustrate this beautiful reflection. I just don’t know how mother’s do it!

  6. Julia
    August 13, 2007

    Thanks, everyone, as always for your feedback. I’m waiting for the day when someone will disagree with me and stir up some controversy around here. I think my readers may be too nice.

    And thanks, Lucy, for letting me use this beautiful image so generously.

  7. anna j
    August 19, 2007

    nope, sorry dear–you’re out of luck in the controversy department. you see, that’s what you get for having a blog that showcases your writing ingenuity and your beautiful soul . . . there’s simply nothing one can do but be in awe 🙂

  8. Jamie
    August 31, 2007

    This is a wonderful reminder to we waking mothers with wakeful children to offer our days to God even if those days begin at ungodly hours. Thanks Julia- once again!