Originally published Monday, 31 March 2014.
Do not be fooled. These smiles are a lie. We are deep in the midst of sleep training up in here, my friends. My deceptively "happy" twin baby girls have been fighting naps and waking at all hours. That makes for one tired mama.
(I'm seriously considering putting an ad in Craigslist. "Tired Mama in search of a good night's sleep. Name your price." Except... Not really any price. I mean, I'm kind of on a budget. Twins are expensive, ya'll.)
What's most difficult about this season of sleeplessness is the horrible bait and switch. We will have a couple amazing days with 3 solid naps and only one night nursing session. Just enough rest and relaxation to get our hopes up, lulling us into a false sense of security.
Little to no sleep. All that effort with no reward.
Side note: If I absolutely MUST nurse these children all the hours of the day, I may as well binge watch Dexter, LOST, The Good Wife, Downton Abbey, Dr. Who, The Hour, and pretty much anything else from the BBC. Praise Jesus for Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Instant Video. Seriously. Praise Him.
Every naptime, I feel like I'm taking part in some sort of insanely intricate ritual.
Truth be told, parents with tiny babes could probably rival any devoted sports fan in our list of superstitions. Sitting in a certain chair, rocking them a certain way, wrapping them in a certain swaddle (our much beloved HALO SleepSack Swaddle), playing certain sleep sounds or music, blocking out every speck of sunshine, and the list goes on. We complete these tasks over and over, dedicated to the rituals, afraid to leave any one step out for fear of failure.
When I hear that unexpected cry when they should be sleeping, my first thought is, "WHY?! I did everything I was supposed to!!!" I completed every specific step perfectly. Why aren't I getting the expected response? Why can't I control you? Why won't you bend to my will?
Unfortunately, this allegiance to rote repetition reminds me of my relationship with God.
All too often, I slip into a series of steps. Attending church. Attending Bible Study. Listening to Christian music. Praying before meals. Praying before bed. I get so dedicated to the routine, that I begin to worship it, putting my trust in the repetition of these steps rather than my Lord. If I do these things over and over, each week the same as before, God will be forced to... what? Bend to my will?
No frustration. No unmet expectations. No pain, discomfort, or inconvenience. Because I plugged in all the right numbers, repeated every step in sequence.
As I swaddle and sway my tiny ones, the purpose of this bedtime checklist stretches beyond my desire for a few hours of rest (though I still pray with every sway for just one extra hour. Please, Jesus, Please?!). I see these daily duties of motherhood with new eyes.
Each step in the sequence is an opportunity for connection, not just try to manipulate an outcome.
Diaper changing, rocking in chairs, swaddling tight, dimming the lights. Each one is an act of love, a watering and tending of a budding relationship between mother and child.
Just as my "religious" rituals should be. Worship service, bible study discussion, singing songs, praying prayers. Each one an act of love, a watering and tending of the growing relationship between child and Father God.
I'm challenged to complete these tasks out of desire for relationship rather than just trying to manipulate another for personal benefit.
Reaching out and drawing near, not just going through the motions.
I just put my girls down a few minutes ago, and I'm praying that they stay asleep, that I completed every step in this choreographed sleepy-time dance just right. I'm bracing myself for the possibility of unexpected and unwelcome cries. But I'm also preparing my heart for the opportunity to water and tend our mother-child relationship once more when they wake.
I can't control my babies, and I certainly can't control my Lord.
I'm learning through the madness of motherhood that each step of my daily rituals can be used to train my heart, open it up and soften it. As I reflect on how I interact with God, I must confess a desire to control Him with ritual. I'm forced to ask Him for a new start, a friendship that's raw and organic and free, not rigid and rote and ritualistic.
I want to use every step of every ritual of every part of every day as an opportunity to reach out and draw nearer to my Friend, remaining in Him, rather than just going through the motions, attempting to manipulate this life.
As I change these diapers, I stop.... and thank Him for forgiving me my filth and wiping the slate clean through His sacrifice.
As I carefully clothe my little one, I stop... and thank Him for his provisions, that He cares for me more than the birds of the air and the lilies of the field.
As I securely swaddle these babes, I stop... and thank Him for His never ending, ever sustaining comfort and grace. That His arms are always lovingly, securely wrapped around me.
As I carefully lay these little girls down, I stop... and thank Him for seeing me through this sleepless insanity, and of course, I pray rest over them and over myself, both supernatural and physical.
I'm laying my rituals at His feet, working to release any sense of entitlement. Hands held high in worship rather than held open in expectation of earthly reward. Hands busy serving my family and my God out of gratitude rather than trying to manipulate others for my own personal gain.
This tired twin mama is doing her best to seek relationship first, and personal comfort second.
(...But I'm gonna keep praying they sleep through the night, anyway. I mean.)
I'm super excited to be giving away a HALO Sleepsack! We have used HALO Sleepsacks for years. It's the only swaddle sack that has worked with all three of our kids, keeping them warm and cozy, keeping those crazy little arms swaddled.
HALO has so many sizes and fabrics. My girls absolutely lived in their preemie HALO Sleepsack Swaddles when they were under 5 lbs. each, and now that they're each over 13 lbs., they love their Small Micro-fleece Sleepsack Swaddles. All the fabrics are so soft and durable. We are reusing some of my son's swaddles with my twin girls, and I will gladly pass these same swaddles and sleepsacks when we are done, knowing they will continue to maintain the same softness and durability for years to come. Truly a fabulous investment.
I have also found them to be super versatile. When the girls were sick, we had to have them sleep in their bouncy chairs, but still needed to swaddle them. The zipper at the bottom of the HALO allows you to unzip your baby's legs while leaving their arms swaddled, so I could strap them into bouncy chairs while still swaddled! (Though the picture below shows a moment of freedom for those pesky arms.)
PLUS, HALO is just a product I feel good about. HALO SleepSack Swaddle has been deemed “hip healthy” by the International Hip Dysplasia Institute. HALO Innovation’s SleepSack® wearable blankets have also become the standard for hospital nurseries and parents alike. In fact, 1,000 hospital nurseries use the HALO SleepSack Swaddle instead of blankets through the HALO Safer Way to Sleep Initiative. HALO Innovations also offers free Safe Sleep Practices kits to childbirth educators to help further the cause of SIDS prevention. Good stuff all around.
HALO Sleep products are absolutely one of my must-haves for baby mamas. I give this product 5 enthusiastic stars, and highly recommend it based on years of use.
**Disclosure: I received two HALO SleepSack Swaddles for review purposes. Amazon affiliate link is included.**