Serenity Now

I haven't written anything in awhile, presumably because my sleep-deprived brain is having trouble rubbing two sentences together to come up with anything more than gibberish. My son, the angel that he is, is still having sleep issues. And when he has sleep issues, I have sleep issues. Two, three, four times a night we're up, sometimes for one or two hours at a time.

The good news is that the last two nights went swimmingly, which is why I'm awake enough at 10 pm to actually update this thing. I'm hoping this is a trend. It's amazing how much better one feels about life after having gotten six whole hours of sleep.

In the middle of the night when Kostyn refuses to sleep, I try EVERYTHING, including but not limited to: nursing; rocking; singing; pointedly not singing; holding his hand; wrestling him into a lying position in his crib; reading to him; putting him in bed with us; praying to God; bargaining with God; allowing him to cry (Kostyn, not God); allowing myself to cry; allowing him to play; pleading with Kostyn; pleading with God; and quiet meditation. And then I get angry. I don't take out my anger on him, of course, but there it is, hanging there in the middle of his darkened nursery over both our heads -- my anger. I'm angry that I've been up for however long, angry that he won't lie down, angry that he's perfectly happy until I put him in his crib. Angry at all the things on my mental 'to do' list for the next day that I know I'll have trouble accomplishing in my exhausted haze.

And as that anger hangs there, I feel like a crummy mom. He is, after all, just a baby. It's not his fault that he isn't sleepy. It isn't his fault that he wants his mommy and gets upset or scared when he senses my displeasure or distance. But I can't seem to help those feelings of anger. A couple times, I've had to just leave the room for a few minutes.

And with that silent anger, for me, came isolation because I felt like I must be the worst mother in the world, the only one who can't seem to muster the patience to soothe their baby to sleep. That fear and shame has been stinging me for quite awhile. Until last week, when I found myself wandering down to the nursery at our church during the Good Friday service, holding a happy but talkative Kostyn who needed to escape the silent confines of the sanctuary. The lights were off but the door was open, so we ventured inside and looked at all the colorful wall hangings, cubbies, games, songs and toys around the room. It was the perfect little classroom for what appeared to be the perfect tiny students, all with trendy names like Ella and Cody marking personalized artwork bins and coat hooks.

And then I saw it, taped over the changing table area, at eye level just for the teachers: The Serenity Prayer. "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference." It made me feel instantly better -- not the words, as I've read them countless times before. But the fact that someone felt the need to hang it there, right at a place where tired, frustrated adults who are perhaps wrestling whiny toddlers with dirty diapers can pause and scan the famous prayer. It was the only thing in the room placed there for people who are not 3 feet tall and with varying abilities to dress themselves.

I sighed when I saw it, inwardly and outwardly. I know other parents and caretakers struggle and get frustrated, but for some reason seeing it there so plainly made it hit home. I no longer felt alone. And that night with Kostyn went much better. Don't get me wrong -- I still had to enter his room four times from midnight to 6:30 a.m. But my anger didn't come with me, and neither did my shame.


Carol said...

Awww, Robyn! I've missed reading your posts recently. This one tugged at my heart and brought tears to my eyes. We don't quite have the same sleep issues going on right now, but I can definitely empathize with the overall sentiment, and that's a great prayer to be reminded of. Thanks for another wonderful post!

Tara said...

Ditto to what Carol said. I had no idea that you were struggling so. If I lived closer, I'd come over and hug you.

Have you read Ask Moxie much? She, too, might have some insights that will help.

Sheila said...

According to my mom, I slept through the night nearly right away. She felt invincible. And then I turned 8 and suddenly I just plain wouldn't fall asleep at all. (That's what an active imagination will do to a kid). I didn't know at the time how traumatic my refusal to sleep was for my mom, but she did tell me later in life how miserable she felt - even worse, she says, than if I had fussed before bed as, say, a normal 9-month old. So just figure that Kostyn is saving you years of future turmoil :)

julia said...

robyn, you made me teary eyed. i know the feeling. all the things you do to get kostyn to sleep are the same ones we've tried with antonio. and then getting angry when all else fails and then the guilt and shame for having gotten angry or frustrated. you've given me a great idea and i am going to hang a copy of the serenity prayer in his room. thanks again for such a wonderful post.