It feels like such a lonely time, but you're surrounded in prayer and understanding.
No matter how many times it happens, it never stops being just a bit painful, does it? There you are, fast asleep in bed, when a persistent little cry wakes you. You stumble around groggily, hardly able to keep your eyes open as you make a bottle or settle into the glider to nurse, or maybe roll over in bed to help baby latch on. After feeding, you gently lay your baby back to sleep … Only to repeat this scenario again. And again. And again. Hopefully only once a night, if you’re lucky; but some nights, your longest stretch of sleep might be 45 minutes.
You probably aren’t thinking of much at all when you’re up in the night with baby. Most of the time, you might be only half-awake. But some nights, you find yourself a lot more awake than you’d like to be: Perhaps you were up late anyway, or baby is waking so often you never fell asleep properly, or it’s taking longer than usual to settle baby back to sleep. In that case, these 3 thoughts may be a comfort to you as you rock and shush and sing in the wee hours.
1You are not alone.
It feels so lonely, doesn’t it? Like there is no one else awake in the vast dark world but you and this tiny adorable person, who would be so much more adorable if she would just fall back to sleep. But the truth is you’re not as alone as you feel. Other parents, all over the world, are keeping watch with their own little ones at the exact same time you are. This is beautifully illustrated in this image from Common Wild:
But for Christians, we are accompanied in the night not only by other parents awake at the same time, but by the Communion of Saints, all those holy men and women, many of them parents, and many of whose names will never be known on this earth. Every holy mother who has kept a nighttime vigil with a baby in her arms is by your side. Their prayers surround you. When we live aware of the invisible supernatural reality, we are never truly alone.
2Your baby's cry is a call from God.
Like monks in a cloister who must drop their work at a moment’s notice if the bells of the monastery ring in summons, a mother of little ones knows all too well that her time is not really her own. It’s God’s time, and answering the “summons” of a crying child is an act of faithful obedience, not only to your vocation, but also to the God who made you and your baby for each other. It is hard to remember in the moment! But all those little acts of obedience, however painful they may be, add up to a sacrifice of immense value.
3You can offer this sacrifice in union with the prayer of the universal Church.
Besides other parents and the saints in Heaven, someone else is keeping watch through the night, although not because of crying babies. The Liturgy of the Hours, the ancient prayer of the whole Church, is offered in the night, in unbroken praise throughout the whole world. Knowing that someone else out there, in your time zone, woke up in the middle of the night to do God’s work is a deeply consoling thought.
If you have the wherewithal, you might join in their prayers: There are apps so you can pray the Divine Office with one hand while rocking a baby with the other. You might also pray the Rosary or converse with God in your heart. Even if all you can manage is an exhausted “I offer up all this to you, Lord!” at the end of a sleepless night, turning to God in a moment of human suffering makes such a difference. Adding your prayers in unity with those of the Church, and lifting your heart toward Heaven, even briefly, are little acts that help reorient you on your journey. Offering up these night wakings brings the flood of God’s grace and the saints’ prayers that will give you the strength to carry on.
Let yourself be won over by night prayer