I was the crazy-sleep-deprived first time mom who found herself Googling things like "how to get babies on a schedule" and "1 week old sleep schedule" with a nursing newborn at 2 a.m. Of course, I couldn't find what I wanted: all I could find was reality: babies this little don't really have schedules; follow their cues; a schedule will come. Darn it. I didn't want to wait 6 or 16 weeks. That was an eternity! I wanted it my terms!
Well, fine. Whatevs. Then at least tell me how to get my kid to fall asleep, 'cause what I'm doing ain't working! (My anger gets grammatically incorrect in the wee hours of the morning.) But none of those things seemed to be working for us either.
Finally, I read something that actually made sense, and I found it in a real-live book my mother-in-law had given me, Your Labor of Love: A Spiritual Companion for Expectant Mothers.
[A]lthough you may not have time to sit and meditate, you can at least offer your work each day, your discomfort, your tiredness, to Our Lord. (pg 104)Somehow, those words made it all click. Not just my own discontent at not being able to predict my baby's wakings and feedings. Not just my shock at how hard postpartum recover really was, despite the number of people who "told me what no one else will." Not just feeling inadequate in this new walk of life. Not just the overwhelming joy and love I felt toward my baby daughter.
All of these vague, spiritual notions about sacrifice, about offering my sufferings as prayers, about doing "little things with great love," (thanks Therese), about service in the home came to light. I can't articulate the fullness of spiritual awakening, so insert your own thoughts/experiences/whatevers here. However, it helped me focus on serving my family, the way they are, right now.
So, I (mostly) put Google aside, started offering up my suffering -- often for those who long for motherhood and are deprived for whatever reason -- and started focusing on what works now for me and my family. Sometimes, the "right" answer worked, sometimes it needed tweaking, sometimes, we needed to do things our way, or the doctor's way, or Little's way.
For example, the sleep thing: Little rarely likes to be put to sleep, especially since we've moved her out of the swing (yep, the swing -- I embraced survival in those early weeks) and into her crib. At 3.5 months, we learned (well, I accepted) that usually, 5 minutes of crying (the horror! at less than 6 months no less! but always with a full belly and clean diaper!) results in much better sleep than the hours of singing and rocking and snuggling and walking and overtired crying and mounting frustration that weren't working. Is that right for every baby or every family? No. It probably won't even be right for the next baby when (s)he comes along, but for us, it changed our days and our nights. It was the first step on the road to a rhythm to carry us through the day.
Suddenly, 17 weeks have passed, and my day feels like it has a rhythm to it. Maybe not a to-the-minute schedule, but enough predictability to keep me sane.
I'm not so naive as to think that my life is suddenly perfect. I know that tomorrow, or next week or next month, something will happen and my happily-somewhat-predictable day will go terribly wrong. I do, however, think I'm better equipped to weather that storm, offer up some self-sacrifice, and find my new rhythm.