Driving down M-50, the first small stretch of road on the way to my house from my sister’s, I was listening to Nolan and Jackson play the “No” game. Since “no” is Jack’s current favorite word, he repeated it…over and over again…each time in a different pitch or tone. And, to Nolan’s delight, sometimes he’d work in a funny face or even a spitting noise. The boys laughed, clapped their hands, and kicked their stumpy feet in the backseat for nearly an hour before the lulling sounds of the road put them to sleep.
I was excited for the experience of caring for two children for a week, and even more excited that I was finally getting to “pay back” Sara for all of the time, love, and energy that she has poured into the life of my son. And deep down, I was testing myself as a mother of two kids. I tried not to have any high expectations considering age 1.5 is pretty unpredictable, but I couldn’t help but look forward to dual wagon rides, bubble baths, and ravioli dinners. I wanted to challenge myself, stretch my comfort zone of motherhood, and see how it felt with two munchkins under my care.
Needless to say (and despite the several good photo ops I found), things went South very quickly; and instead of getting the burst of confidence I was looking for, I again found myself in a foggy place, a state of being that is tired, cranky, confused and full of self-doubt. This version of myself is not one I’d recommend interacting with. We had set up Nolan’s Pack’nPlay in the basement. And from previous experience, we knew that he could sleep pretty well just about anywhere. So when we heard screaming and talking from his monitor at 4:55 a.m. the first morning, we were shocked. And that morning set the dragging pace for three days of exhaustion. Nolan was up most mornings before 5 a.m. and spent his days here in horrible pain from the molars that were breaking his gums open. He was fussy, sometimes inconsolable, and as tired as can be. Nothing seemed to help, until Sara came to his little rescue several days earlier than planned.
Although I was frustrated and sad, I tried to not let my security as a mom unravel. Funny how progress with one weakness can quickly become undone. I’ve felt for quite some time (longer than Nolan has even been alive) that I’ve gained a great deal of security in my identity as a mother, in all of it’s complex implications and job descriptions. But as I lay in my bed, watching the clock slowly switch from 4:55 to 4:56 in the morning, I wanted to throw the monitor out the window and go to sleep. It’s no secret that everyone in my family struggles with sleep, rest, and everything that affects the relationship between the two. When we sleep, we can run the world. When we don’t, we barely remember our own names. And on most nights, we don’t have a clue which direction the night could go. Thankfully, I’ve been consistently rested the last several weeks…even months. But it only took a few days of little-to-no sleep to bring out the zombie-like person that tiredness creates in me.
I was short-tempered, unmotivated, irrational, emotional. I was delusional, impulsive, angry, and depressed. I couldn’t believe the effects of sleeplessness in my life. Jackson didn’t sleep through the night until he was one, and this experience brought me back to a dark, chaotic part of my life. And it made me frightened that I could never care for another infant or survive another stage of life of chronic tiredness. I was consumed with fear. And thankfully, I can now see just how irrational my fears really are.
There are babies popping up all over the place these days. I have so many friends whose tummies have been blooming. One, in fact, is past her due date and I’m watching Facebook posts like it’s the lottery! Another friend had her baby a few days ago. And another has been beautifully caring for a newborn son for over a month. I ran into an old friend this weekend who informed me of her pregnancy. It seems like babies are encircling my life. And every time I interact with these amazing friends and their nearly-perfect babes, I can’t help but consider what it’d be like to be at the starting line again. I get so inspired and excited, thinking about the baby gurgles and uncontrolled newborn kicks and twitches. But, as I experienced with Nolan, I quickly grow fearful of the exhaustion. And, as fear tends to do, it devours my excitement and joy.
I’m so thankful for the growing families that are in my life and for all of the babies that have miraculously been given breath. I am so greatly inspired by the moms I know, especially with multiple children. I love to observe their short-cuts and tricks that make life more manageable. I love to watch their families adapt to a new addition. And I love to pray for and dream about an addition to the Bishop family someday…perhaps soon, perhaps quite a ways away. I am putting my fear in it’s place: under my feet. I know expansion will happen at the right time, with the right child who God already knows. For now, I’m pretty satisfied with the two boys that live under our roof:
And, teething or not, I’m so thankful for this little man and for our exhausting, brief, yet love-filled time together:
Here’s to trusting God with our fears, our futures, and the infants that surround us.