I never thought I’d be filled with so much longing for night wakings and sleepy nursing babies. But now that Ben has decided to suddenly quit, much, much sooner than I was ready for him to, suddenly, I read other mothers’ complaints about frequent night nursings with quite a different feeling. Yes, I’m more than a little jealous.
That’s so petty, isn’t it? Of course, I know how silly it is to compare one trial to another. All are equally terrible when you are in the midst of them. Still, misery sometimes leads us to silly thoughts, especially late at night. The thing is after three children the sleeplessness of frequent wake ups is a familiar trial. Where I am now is new and thus seems much harder to bear.
Late last night—who knows how late—I woke to a small cry from the baby monitor. Ben moaning in his sleep. Once. Twice. Then silence. Asleep again, if indeed he ever really woke at all.
In the dark then, awake, I drifted, unable to fall back to sleep. Almost forgetting what woke me in the first place. Trying to pray.
Meditating word by word on the Nunc dimittis, the canticle of Simeon used in Compline. Lord, now you let your servant go in peace. I spend a short eternity just repeating, Lord… Lord… Lord before I move on to now.
And then I come to My own eyes have seen the salvation… As I often do, I imagine old Simeon taking the baby from Mary’s arms. Holding the baby, old eyes gazing at the ancient, eternal Word. And as I imagine that newborn baby, suddenly I feel him in my arms, cradled near my breast. Warm and soft and sweet. And a pit opens within me and a sword pierces my heart. I feel a baby boy next to me in the bed, a warm little body sleeping next to mine.
Oh, my baby boy, how I miss you! I thought I was ready for you to be all big and sleeping on your own but you have grown up too fast and I feel helpless at your pain when I can’t give you the most basic comfort a mother gives to her baby.
Dear Lord, please let me have one more time with this baby boy in my arms. Let him turn to me once again for that comfort that I long to give him. The give and take and sweet closeness of a nursing child sleeping and sucking in his mother’s arms. Feeding and being fed.
Oh how I hunger to feed. I thirst to give him suck. I feel dry and empty. Forlorn. I mourn the loss of something I took too much for granted. I didn’t realize how precious it was until it was too late.
This afternoon we came back late from the farmer’s market. Long past nap time. At least Ben fell asleep in the car and I was able to put him into his bed. (Sophie didn’t fall asleep and it took forever to get her to calm down and stop fighting the sleep once we got home. I must have sang twenty songs at least.)
But he didn’t sleep long because, of course, I hadn’t given him any medicine for his teething pain. When it wore off he was up and screaming and nothing I could do would calm him. Back arching, clawing at his own face and at mine. Even after I’d administered orajel and ibuprofen, he was overtired and it wasn’t cutting the pain fast enough. Poor miserable baby. Finally, Dom bundled him into the car and they drove around for an hour while I tried to rest.
Ben never did sleep in the car but he calmed down to moaning at least rather than screaming. Something to divert his mind from the pain. Neither of the girls suffered quite like this from teething. And yet I’ve taken him in twice and the pediatrician assures me that’s what this is. We are now on the third week of this. I hate to keep him on pain medication for so long. But today I saw what happens when I don’t give it to him. I guess teething just hits some babies harder than others.
And so he sleeps in the office, soundly all night long and I sleep in my room. I shouldn’t complain. A mother’s dream. And yet now I wish he’d wake and beg me to nurse. I’d hold him and rock him for as long as he wanted to stay there. I know he still needs me. I’m still his mommy (even if he still doesn’t say it) and his home base. More place than person. Just no longer a comfort in quite the way I want to be.
My baby boy who will be one on Friday. Growing up way too fast!
Just so we’re clear, look at the photos. He’s generally a happy little guy except when he’s getting tired and he needs his next dose of painkillers. I’m generally happy too. Except when I’m tired and need to get a better sense of perspective. Writing is my painkiller of choice.
Update, Sunday morning: I missed Mass this morning, staying home with the cranky boy so he could get in his regular nap; but Dom pointed me to this morning’s first reading. Apropos.
Thus says the LORD:
Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad because of her,
all you who love her;
exult, exult with her,
all you who were mourning over her!
Oh, that you may suck fully
of the milk of her comfort,
that you may nurse with delight
at her abundant breasts!
For thus says the LORD:
Lo, I will spread prosperity over Jerusalem like a river,
and the wealth of the nations like an overflowing torrent.
As nurslings, you shall be carried in her arms,
and fondled in her lap;
as a mother comforts her child,
so will I comfort you;
in Jerusalem you shall find your comfort.
When you see this, your heart shall rejoice
and your bodies flourish like the grass;
the LORD’s power shall be known to his servants.
It’s one of my favorite passages anyway; but today it has a special poignancy. Certainly if there is one thing the heartaches of being a mother has done for me, is to help me know how great must our Father’s love be for us.
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