Thursday, October 23, 2008


If I stir, if I twitch, if I cough or clear my throat, if the phone rings, if the birds outside our window start up again with all that maddening, infuriating, cruel and incessant chirping, he will open his eyes and I will vomit on the floor. It’s been eight days since I’ve slept for more than an hour or two consecutively, eight days since I delivered that crimson bundle of skin and hair now swaddled and lying still at my side, save for his frail and spastic breathing heightening the tension like ominous music foreshadowing danger and doom; he scares me.

Why, oh mercy, can’t I shut out the noise of my half-baked thoughts and lose consciousness? Stand me up, sit me down and I’ll drift off like a narcoleptic but here, in my bed, all reclined and covered with blankets, there’s too much pressure to take advantage of this fleeting opportunity to achieve sanity via quiescence, to make up for those nights void of any relief from exhaustion - my exhaustion putting a strangle hold on the normalcy I took for granted before my life imploded. I am suffocating.

You don’t ease yourself into motherhood, pausing between each new responsibility to catch your breath, slowly adjust to the changes, become acclimated. It’s more a jump off a cliff into the ocean then sink or swim sort of deal. A fair amount of flailing and panic, those first few months, are to be expected. The sleep issue (or more specifically, how new moms don’t get any) was a big one for me. I’d hear women complaining about their surly, sometimes lazy adolescents and I’d find myself pining for the season when I’d be frustrated by a son who’d moan and groan when told repeatedly to “wake up and get a move on!” I swore to myself that if I somehow survived his infancy, I would revel and rejoice in Elijah’s addiction to his pillow and blue cotton sheets. In fact, I’d crawl in right beside him and he and I would snore, drool, dream away the mornings. The two of us would finally, after all those trying years, refuel and refuse to greet the day until we were good and darn ready to. I’ve made many such vows as a mom too ridiculous, too impractical to keep.

Of course, I have to shake him now and turn the lights on and announce LOUDLY a dozen times over that it is, “time, young man, to get down here for breakfast!” I made it through, somehow, to that next stage of parenting where the nights are uneventful and the days are but a blur of classes and clubs, errands and meal preparing. Rarely, anymore, am I jolted from out of a deep and heavy slumber by crying or the urgent needs of fitful little ones. When I retire for the evening, I can expect, for the most part, to make it all the way through to dawn without interruption. And yet, silly me, I’ve been fighting a fog of fatigue, lately - one I’ve managed to stumble into all on my own, by way of dawdling. I’m beat, I’m telling you, and it’s nobody’s fault but mine.

We read a lot in home school, which is lovely but sometimes painful in a “I was up until 3:00 am studying and now this 8:00 am Western Civilization class is practically forcing my eyelids to close” kind of way. The subject matter is interesting but also quiet and scholarly, and nothing at all like a cold shower. “Break time,” I declare every fifteen minutes or so to stretch my legs, refill my mug and keep from passing out cold on the couch. “But too much coffee,” I once complained to my brother, “makes me jittery and even more tired later on.” To which he replied,

“You know what the cure for that is, don’t you? More coffee.”

I had an epiphany last week while sitting back down to continue on with that day’s assignment: More than half of my current frustrations, including my sluggishness, lack of productivity and my irritability, would decrease dramatically if I…brace yourselves for this…went to bed earlier. I wasn’t helpless. I could decide not to send out yet another e-mail or put down my novel. It’s just so much more convenient to pour some Espresso on the problem than to organize my life and make room for the actual solution. It takes discipline to set boundaries, to pry your attention away from the task or distraction at hand and make surrendering to the source for true refreshment and well-being a priority.

“He promised to send the Holy Spirit,” I read to my children, between yawns, from Barbara Pappas’s excellent book, God’s Bubbly, Gurgly, Overwhelming, Overflowing Love, “The Holy Spirit would be with them always! The Holy Spirit would give them power to do everything God wanted them to do. The Holy Spirit would fill their hearts with as much of God’s Bubbly, Gurgly, Overwhelming, Overflowing Love as they would let in.” And then I paused, I read that final sentence again, struck even in my sleepy state by the significance of those last five words. How many of us still picture in our heads a God that comes and goes, depending on our worthiness? How awesome would it be to help our kids absorb early on that His promises are constant, consistent, and unbreakable? It is tempting to make things more complicated than they need be when we cannot wrap our minds around a Love that’s not dependent on our actions or intentions or ability to reciprocate with the same degree of steadiness and deified perfection. It requires restraint to ignore our doubts and take Christ at His word.

If I wander, if I forget, if I concentrate on only the warning signs or spend all of my waning energy on treating the symptoms and not the cause of my agitation; if I run in the opposite direction of where calm and rejuvenation originate and perpetually generate in the form Christ and His plan for our Salvation, God will nevertheless keep His arms open wide and I will only be hurting myself by choosing, by preferring the coldness and the darkness of my own egotism to His warmth and brightness. It’s been too long since I last yielded to my cravings for wholeness and rest. It’s up to me to change direction, to slow down, to turn around - to accept the incomprehensible and be satisfied.


H and S said...

Oh, sleep deprivation... I know it so well. And yet I am in the same boat as you... check the email, check a few blogs, read some stuff, and I'm half an hour late for bed. Then I think that I'm too tired to pray. Silly, silly me.

Fr. James Early said...

I'm glad I'm not the only. It is too true that no amount of coffee can really make up for getting enough sleep.

Kelleylynn said...

"O Father, light up the small duties of this day's life: May they shine with the beauty of Your countenance. May we believe that glory can dwell in the most common task of every day."

Blessed Augustine of Hippo

Anonymous said...


I just wanted to say thank you when I allow worldly things to get in the way time and time agin your voice and your words help turn my heart agin towards the Lord and our Church and the blessings for me that lie within you have a true gift and I just wanted to let you know you are a blessing in my life I am so thakful for thank you agin for all you do God bless you and your wonderful family. Katherine

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Sounds all too familiar! I, too, need just to get to bed at some reasonable hour, and there's really no excuse for my not doing it.

Marsha said...

Oh, how often I've crocheted another row, read another chapter, checked on my emails and so on, and couldn't keep my eyes open and settled for the Trisagion Prayer and the "Into thy hands, OH Lord,....."!!