My oldest daughter entered the world on a cold, early spring day. In the middle of the grueling work of late labor, I looked up from my hospital bed to gaze out the window.
“It is snowing,” I said.
The gentle, silent snowfall was an appropriate setting for such a girl- intelligent, gentle, creative, and quiet…
Moments later, as the final contractions washed over me, I cried out and brought her into the world. Her first cry was a single, high pitched tone- not weak exactly, but more…reluctant, as if she would rather not be noticed.
They placed her on my chest. As she turned her bright blue eyes up to me, I discovered two important truths that would define the next three months of my life: First of all, she was tiny, weighing in at just over 6 pounds at full term. Secondly, all she wanted was to be in my arms. Consequently, she would nurse every two hours for the first three months of her life and no matter what method we tried, she did not sleep through the night until she was four-years-old.
One night, when she was two weeks old, my head jerked upward with a start as I sat propped in bed by the soft glow of a lamp. The house was utterly silent, blanketed in 2 a.m. stillness.
I shook myself a bit more fully awake and looked down to find my precious infant daughter asleep at my breast. My head felt leaden. I had moved past exhaustion and was hovering somewhere near the state of the walking dead.
Groggily, robotically, I unlatched her and repositioned her on my lap to change her diaper. At the very moment I pulled the soiled diaper free, my dainty daughter erupted like a tiny Mt. Vesuvius. Covered in the carnage, I sat frozen in shock for a moment. Then I began to wail.
My snoring husband jolted awake.
“What’s wrong?” he asked.
“God doesn’t love me anymore!” I sobbed.
“What? Why are you saying that?”
“Because, the Bible says He grants sleep to those He loves!”
Vince Lombardi once famously said that “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.” I don’t think I really appreciated that quote until the moment I encountered Mt. Vesuvius in a onesie.
What a mystery it is that you entrust each and every generation to the next. Fragile life is somehow brought into the world through a woman’s body, and then placed in her arms- utterly dependent on her for survival. While she is still exhausted from giving birth, the next phase of grueling labor begins as You unleash torrents of hormones in her body to prepare it to nourish the child.
It is a very good thing that You place an even more powerful force within a mother to carry her through it all- You give her a mother’s heart.
Have mercy on this weary mother today. Strengthen her body. Calm her mind. Guard her heart with your peace.
Help her husband understand how tired and weak she is in this season and how much she needs him to help her carry the load. Show him that there is no greater expression of his love than to bring her a glass of water as she is nursing and to cover middle of the night diaper changes.
Help her little one know night from day. Keep her from colic and reflux too.
Let this mother witness her baby’s first smile today. Allow her the treasure of watching her little one’s eyes slowly close in peaceful sleep to the rhythm of a rocking chair. Grant her the sweet gift of a warm baby’s cheek snuggled into the crease of her neck.
Empower her for this job. Raise up kind and wise women who have done it all before to show her the way. Help her to rest in their help, understanding that her need doesn’t mean she is in any way inferior. On the contrary, she is simply taking her place in the great circle of motherhood that has been locking arms to raise children since the beginning of the world. Today it is her turn to receive. Someday, she will have the opportunity to guide another.
Grant this mother good friends who will bring her gifts of casseroles, soups and brownies during this sleepless season. If she has older children, remind the neighbors to call them up for play dates from which they return happily exhausted and ready for naptime.
And give her a nap today too, Jesus, because no one needs a nap more than she does.
Sing over her as she sleeps. Let her know how much You love her and how much you value the work she is doing. Remind her that You, the Good Shepherd, have promised to ‘gently lead those who have young’ and to carry her children close to your heart. (Isaiah 40:11)