It was 3am. I was more than sleep deprived; I was going a little bit crazy. Jacob, my new baby boy, was less than a week old, and he was hungry. His screams pierced the darkness and pierced this new mama’s heart.
The pediatrician’s office had called that afternoon to say we needed to supplement his diet with formula, and I was crestfallen. In my mind, nursing was the one thing a mother should be able to do for her child, and I just couldn’t make it work. Faced with his suffering, I caved, offering him as much formula as he would take. He filled his little belly and slept sweetly and deeply for the first time. In my gut, I knew I had made the right decision: the most important thing was for my child to be nourished and rested.
And yet, despite this small victory, when I awoke to his wailing, the word failure was all I heard.
I knew I would be tired, but I had no idea how wrecked I would actually be. I hardly slept because my poor son never stopped crying – unless, of course, he passed out in my arms, waking up if I put him down. During the day I’d hand him off to my husband and sneak in a quick catnap only to be woken by another high-pitched wail. Swaddling helped a little but not much. I gave him a pacifier a lot sooner than I had planned. Even when he couldn’t nurse, I pumped and pumped and pumped, hoping I might still provide him what he needed to grow and sleep well. But it was never enough.
I’m not enough. This is what was screeching, louder than the screams of my newborn, as I frantically swaddled and swung and patted and shushed for those first precious days of life. Aren’t newborns supposed to sleep all the time? Obviously I was doing something (everything?) wrong.
My husband and I, first-time parents across the country from our respective families, decided we needed a little time to bond with our new babe before the grandparents descended. It was a nice idea in theory. In reality, it was isolating, terrifying, and exhausting. We were alone. I didn’t know how to ask for help.
Failure. Not enough. Completely alone. These were the thoughts that consumed me.
That is, until God found me in the fleeting moments of silence.
Late in the night, my precious baby boy would finally settle to sleep in my arms, exhausted from the struggle. I would sit carefully, looking into his peaceful face, wiping the tears that had appeared on my own cheeks as he cried. My heartbeat slowed, my anxiety was replaced by a love beyond anything I’d ever experienced. Glowing, warm, this love would swell up in me and around me, enveloping us both.
And I would know deep in my tired bones: God loves me like this. Even when I squirm and scream and scratch the loving arms that hold me. Even as I refuse comfort and nourishment, he remains. Like a tired mother in the middle of the night, he cradles me and weeps with me and loves me with an overwhelming, healing love.
He is here, and I am not alone. He will get me through this. With him, I will be enough for my child.
My tears falling afresh, I’d thank my Abba for this precious gift of life and ask him to sustain me for another day. To protect my growing boy and to give us both rest. And he did.
The accusations of the world are loud and clamorous, screeching at us that we are not enough, that we will never get it right, that we are alone, that we will never truly be accepted and loved. It’s easy to believe these lies, especially when we are exhausted and overwhelmed.
But our God is not a God of accusation; he is a God of powerful, healing love. And he is there, with open arms, ready for us to lean against him and find rest.
Eventually, Jacob stopped screaming. Eventually, he grew into a happy, healthy, curious baby. These days, as I play with him, crawling and giggling at 8 months old, I think back on those nights that seemed to last a lifetime. I am thankful for a God who exists beyond time, who knows all seasons come to an end, and who sustains us minute by minute.