I’ll be honest – I have no idea how I’ll look back and remember the early years of our marriage and child-rearing. I’m guessing, like many others I have spoken to, I will remember the highs and a few lows. The details the highs will get bigger and brighter and the details of the lows will get less and less clear. But I don’t know – I’m only three years in over here.
But I can tell you that right now, day-to-day, we’re all over the place. Up, down, up again, but not too far before we crash, hit the bottom, swoop up, and then flop. Sometimes before noon. Sometimes before daylight.
And I think that most people would feel like this stuff always happens all at once – husband works a 50 hours week, with weird hours, so I don’t even feel like I saw him let alone connected with him between midwife appointments and bible study and meeting a few friends, all while baby was sick, dripping nose, horrible nap schedule, then I finally decide to go to bed early and make up for some of the week and fight off whatever I’m feeling in my throat and wouldn’t you know, the baby is up all night (seriously, 1 to 6!) and we’re both too tired to do anything but bring her to bed with us which she thinks is a playground and just gives us kisses for an hour until she thinks the coast is clear to do whatever she wants, which lands her back in her crib, screaming, and needing held.
And it’s in these early morning hours with kids crying and screaming and needing you while you need sleep that respect may not even be in your dictionary, much less your vocabulary.
And that’s what happened last night.
After bringing our 19-month-old to our bed when she started crying, my husband rolled over to his more comfortable sleeping position. Unfortunately his most comfortable sleeping position is away from the middle of the bed, as is mine, especially while I’m pregnant. But that doesn’t work with our darling little girl there so that means I didn’t sleep. When she started using the pillows as a trampoline for her face, I drew the line and took her back to her crib. And she screamed. And screamed. And screamed.
Now I don’t know about you, but I can tell you when my husband and I don’t go to bed at the same time, I already feel off. I don’t fall asleep as deeply. I feel angry. I toss and turn. Even if there is nothing wrong, no fight, I perceive trouble by the simple fact that we didn’t go to bed together and it ruins my night. So even though it makes no practical sense, I almost always wait up for him. Eyes barely open, I sit with him in his office till he’s ready for bed, then I get up with the baby in the morning. I sleep on average one to two hours less than he does a day. But I sleep better so I guess I’ll take it.
So there I was, already not sleeping and especially grumpy. I remember when our daughter was a newborn and I would be up three or four times and I knew sometimes, she just needed to be held and I didn’t have any energy left, so I’d ask my husband to go, and I would be SO hurt by how he responded to me. And in the morning, my eyes glimmering with tears from exhaustion and hurt, he’d look at me and say that he didn’t even remember me waking him up, let alone what he said to me and then he’d ask how he was supposed to be nicer in his sleep? And in my head I would think that he could certainly try to be nicer in his sleep, how hard could it be?
But last night, I was not nice. Not even a little a bit. 2 am is no time to have a conversation but it’s certainly no time for anger either. But with both of us at the end of our rope, and of course me thinking I had it so much worse than him, I snapped and told him to go pick her up and hold her. And he did. For five hours.
He came back to bed this morning about the same time the sun was coming up. He had kindly turned off the baby monitor at some point so I wouldn’t hear them and I got some real, honest-to-goodness sleep.
But let me tell you how horrible I feel this morning. Besides feeling the sick that I was trying to ward off by going to bed early, I feel guilty. I feel upset. I feel alone. Because I know I messed up. I know that I had the opportunity to show my husband respect last night.
He was certainly trying to serve me – he encouraged me to go to bed early to get extra sleep – even after not seeing him much this week. He jumped up with her at the first sign of trouble. And he wanted to know what to do with her when she kept crying.
And I was mad, hurt, tired – and I answered in a way which left him feeling like the only choice he had was to sit up all night with our daughter, without even asking for help.
I slipped out of bed this morning, so as not to wake him, and to make sure I was the first one to our daughter if she cries so that he can sleep more.
I told this whole story (even though it’s lengthy and full of emotion – I’m crying over this as if it’s the biggest thing to happen to me) because I know you, like me, are in the throes of this. Maybe you weren’t blessed with a sleeper from the beginning so this is more like a nightly occurrence for you than something out of the ordinary. Maybe your husband travels and you do the nightly wakings by yourself all the time. Maybe you have twins or your kids are closer together in age. But I know, like me, you wonder if how you feel in the morning is normal and how something which you probably won’t even remember in 10 years can hurt so bad and how to restart with your husband after being disrespectful when he was being so loving.
22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
Here’s the good news: just like with any other behavior, we have the opportunity to start over again. This morning, when my husband wakes up, I will apologize to him. I will speak respectfully. I will try to talk to him about last night and learn how to approach it better in the future. I will have the opportunity to be better today than yesterday. I know that this will not consume me. God’s grace will show me how to do better each day. How to grow in respect. And when I fail, God’s grace will heal me and show me how to heal the pains I’ve caused.
Today will not be an easy day. I will have open wounds and will have to work hard not to sit around in pity and lick them and feel sorry for myself. I will also feel like I need to pay penance to my husband. But neither of these activities will move us forward.
I need to trust in the faithfulness of God.
I dare you to pray this verse in the mornings – especially if you had a bad day with a new behavior you are working on, like respect. Ask God to heal the hurts, and be sure to keep working on the new habits.
How do you feel the morning after a sleepless night? And how do you proceed? What are your favorite comfort verses during hard days?