It was about 2:15 AM. James was awake for the third time that night and I was holding my crying baby, trying to soothe him in the rocker, tears streaming down my face. Isaac came over, and I just looked up at him and said, “What am I doing wrong?”
All I could think was that somehow I was failing my little boy. Why couldn’t I – his mother – calm him down? When people talked about sleep regressions, leaps, babies who wouldn’t nap and sleep deprivation, I thought that would never be me. But there I was, holding my almost 4 month old baby, feeling inadequate and wishing I could go back to those blissful nights where I slept for 8 hours straight.
I was tired.
Tired of a crying baby.
Tired of spending hours every day trying to get him to nap.
Tired of praying “Lord please let him sleep” to only hear his cries from the nursery a few minutes later.
So that night as I held James, I remember thinking “Why can’t I be like all the other moms I see on Facebook whose babies sleep through the entire night? Why can’t James be like that? What am I doing wrong? Why am I failing?”
And I cried. Angry, frustrated tears at myself. Desperate sobs for my baby who was SO tired, but wouldn’t sleep.
The next morning I woke up grouchy. I don’t do well on not much sleep, and I’ve been sporadically sleeping for the past six months. It’s definitely started taking a toll. James woke up happy and chatty, which always warms my heart and makes me smile.
But then he started rubbing his eyes, yawning and getting fussy, which meant it was time to take a nap. So I went through our routine and got him to sleep easily. I walked out of his room smiling – I DID IT – and sat down to get some work done.
Then ten minutes later I heard his cries coming through the monitor. I set my computer aside, went in to calm him down and get back to sleep, then returned to keep editing pictures. Twenty minutes passed before I heard him cry again. And so we went through our routine again. This time, though, it took a little longer to calm him down. But he fell asleep and I went back to my computer. But the minute I picked it up, he started crying. Again. So I went to get him. Again.
The pit in my stomach was back. What was I doing wrong?!
I picked James up and tried to calm him, but he kept screaming. I tried nursing him, but he didn’t want to eat. His diaper was clean. There was nothing wrong.
Except that he was sleepy and didn’t want to sleep.
So I put him in his crib – crying – and walked away. I went to our room and into our closet where I shut the door to muffle his screams. And I sobbed. Y’all… I totally lost it.
I had finally reached my breaking point. After almost three straight weeks of the same thing over and over again, I was at my wits end. I had done everything I knew to do. I was trying to do it all the right way. But still somehow I failed.
And for someone who got a 4.0 in college, that’s hard to swallow.
After a few deep breaths in the closet, I went to get my baby boy. He was still screaming, but I breathed deep and said “I can do this”. Finally he calmed down enough to nurse, and that’s when I called Isaac.
The poor guy… He’s had to endure some pretty pathetic phone calls the past few weeks. But he’s my rock, and always seems to help me, even if he doesn’t say anything at all.
And it was during that phone call that something finally clicked in my mind. Something I had heard, read and even said to myself before that I never understood until then.
Comparison is the thief of joy.
That’s a quote from Theodore Roosevelt that you’ve probably read dozens of times, just like I have. And its so true.
I had lost the joy of motherhood because I was too busy comparing James to other babies. Other moms had babies that slept amazing from the get-go and I didn’t. Other moms had babies who were babbling and cooing weeks before James did. Other moms were showing videos of their babies rolling over and sitting up when James isn’t doing any of those things yet. And I wondered what I was doing wrong since my baby wasn’t doing those things.
How horrible is that?!
It seemed like every other mom’s life was perfect and in order when mine was falling apart (which is one of the dangers of social media, but I’m not going to get into that today). I became too busy comparing my life to others that I lost sight of what really mattered.
I have a baby who loves me and absolutely needs me.
I have a husband who is so supportive, understanding and patient.
And I have a “village” of other amazing mommas who can help me.
So that day my heart changed a little. Instead of trying to do everything “right” I had to realize that I just need to do what James needs. If that means holding him so he can fall asleep, then I will. If that means staying up late to edit pictures so I can be present with him when he needs me, then I will. And if that means throwing him in a sling so I can get dinner on the table, I will.
I started talking to other moms, and asking for help. I had to set aside my pride and admit that I was struggling. It wasn’t easy, but y’all. I am so. glad. I. did.
The saying “it takes a village” is so true. I have never been more thankful for the community of women around me who have cheered me on as a mom when I needed it most. Because let me tell you… behind the cute smiles and coos you may see on Facebook and Instagram, there are lots of tears, poopy diapers and sleepless nights.
If you’re in the same boat I was, then take heart. Eventually it will get better (at least that’s what everyone keeps telling me), but in the meantime remember that your baby needs you, and you need to meet them where they are. If they need extra snuggles one day, then screw teaching them to nap in the crib – SNUGGLE THEM. If you are struggling, reach out for help. If your baby is crying, it’s okay to cry with them, but don’t tell yourself you can’t do it. Because you can! You are not the first mom to need help, and someday you’ll be on the other side helping another new mom.
And most of all, stop comparing your journey with someone else’s. Because comparison is the thief of joy. Motherhood is difficult, messy, scary, frustrating and just plain hard. But it’s also the most fulfilling, amazing, beautiful and joyful thing I’ve ever experienced.