"God showed me something small, no bigger than a hazelnut, lying in the palm of my hand… and it was round as a ball. I looked at it with the eye of my understanding and thought: 'What can this be?' And it was generally answered thus: 'It is all that was made.' It was so small I thought it might disappear, but I was answered... everything has being through the love of God." --Julian of Norwich
Tuesday, February 7, 2012
In which I read at night by the light from the bathroom door
This short post is a little late, but I wanted to join in the carnival going on at Sarah Bessey's lovely blog-formerly-known-as-Emerging-Mummy. I love, love, love her writing and it has been a light to me on lonely, sleepless nights as a new mum.
My daughter is only seven months old and we're still just feeling out this whole parent-child thing. Some days things feel really good, like I was born to do this (even though, like Sarah, this kind of surprised me). Then there are the other days. The ones where I begin to feel a leetle bit crazy. These usually come on days toward the end of our week when I have been at home by myself a lot. Or even out and about, but just missing Clint a lot--since, he's working three jobs while taking his last three seminary classes so I can be at home with Lucy.
There have especially been a lot of really hard nights. I was a good feminist before Lucy arrived, believing in theory that women must take care of themselves to take care of others and that mothers and daddies must share parenting work. But from the first hours of Lucy's life theory went out the window and was replaced with instinct and reality. That first night I actually thought, "My mom and Clint are so tired out from last night's labour, they need their sleep. I'll stay awake with Lucy a little longer..." Needless to say, I was the one who had been running the marathon of childbirth, but that didn't really occur to me at the time. I just wanted to take care of my own.
And so many nights that logic slips in again. My own needs slip to the bottom of the priority list. Clint has a natural bedtime of 11pm. As in, a switch flips, I turn my head in the middle of a conversation and by the time I turn back, I find him cuddled under his covers in his pjs, practically snoring. So, since I do not turn into a pumpkin until the stroke of 2am, most nights I take the first shift.
Now over at Dinner a Love Story, Jenny recently opined that there are three types of children: Those who won't go to sleep, those who wake for long periods in the middle of the night, and those who wake early. Generally speaking, they aren't mixed. Lucy belongs to the first category. Once we can get her sleeping soundly and gently lie her in her crib, she'll often sleep "through the night" (i.e. 6 hours or more). Not always, but usually. However, it may take 4 hours or more of bouncing with her strapped in the Ergo Baby carrier (often in front of the bathroom door, where the fan provides white noise), then carefully bending over the crib for a gentle transfer-attempt to get her sleeping in her own bed.
After a failed transfer-attempt, she'll wake, her little arms shaking with that "Why in the world are you waking me up?" cry. I pick her up and strap her back in. More bouncing. My thighs are so built from this persistent exercise that I can't find jeans to fit anymore. It often takes up to 30 minutes or so of sleep in the carrier before she's asleep enough to repeat the cycle. It's not the ideal go-to-sleep pattern, but for various reasons (including personal choices) it's what we have to work with right now.
As this gruelling nightly routine drags on through failed transfer after failed transfer, my thinking often goes something like: "She's almost down, just one more try and then I'll wake Clint." A few Saturday nights before Clint had to preach at youth group Sunday morning I stretched myself all the way to 6am, before I broke down and woke Clint. Bad plan. By that time, I'm not sane, I've been feeling sorry for myself (including my lost feminist ideals for egalitarian parenting), and I'm practically shaking from exhaustion.
For a long time in the early months, I spent those hours in the dark, staring at the vibrating green digits on the alarm clock by my bed, wondering how one minute could last such an aching eternity, praying that those numbers would just move a little faster. But that was not very good for my soul. I needed something to fill the time between transfer-attempts a little more pleasantly.
The solution surprised me with it's simplicity. One night, I picked up a book. Luckily the fan and light in our bathroom are all one switch, so I angled the light away from the baby and toward the pages, and I lost myself.
I think I started with the abridged George MacDonald novels. Then Jane Austen. Then a friend lent me some Georgette Heyer (Regency Romance!). I read the Hunger Games and then Ender's Game. I re-read Twilight. Then I dipped into Graham Greene (I was feeling the need to get a little highbrow). Then Charles Williams (THAT was a trip in the wee hours!). Now I'm on Dorothy Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries.
I feel like I'm 14 again, staying up all night just for the pure love of a good story. Which is nice, because most days I'm beginning to realize "OMG, I'm turning into my parents!" You know the signs: I no longer care about how to work new-fangled technological devices, I have no idea what the latest fashion trends are on the streets and buses of this good city because I frequently spend my days in my pjs, etc. It's nice to remember something I love, and have always loved, in the mean time.
More than that, though, reading touches a deep place in my soul. There's something in the quiet and stillness and imagination of reading, especially fiction, that recharges me. I get to take a break from my uptight/chaotic/there-is-no-right-answer existence and just imagine a different place, a different self. It has turned many wee hours from darkness into pure joy. Many failed transfer-attempts from curses into blessings. And it has helped me to embrace and enjoy a challenging time in life. My first practice of grace-filled parenting.