This past week a good friend asked me this question:
“What’s the biggest thing you have learned since becoming a mum?”
Oh the many things…
I feel like I have learned so much about a million different things since Eleanor came along, but I surprised myself with how quickly I found an answer.
When I was at YWAM Together, I chatted with an amazing friend about being a mum in missions. One thing she said was how much she started reflecting on the “mother heart” of God. I felt challenged by that to try and think that way as I am parenting Eleanor – how does God feel in these times with us, his children?
After starting to think differently and trying to really reflect on God’s mother heart, I had an incredible revelation a few weeks back. When we got home from Townsville, we started to try and get Eleanor on a bit more of a routine and teach her to sleep better, especially during the day. One thing we embarked on was a bit of “cry it out.” Up to this point in her life, we pretty much blocked any and all crying that Eleanor did. If she cried, we found a way to very quickly remedy the situation. No mum likes to hear her baby cry, and I am certainly no exception. However, the more reading I did and the more I observed Eleanor and some potential bad habits we had helped her to have, I realised that perhaps a little crying might be in her best interest.
I have read so, so much in the past month about sleep and feeding and schedules and routines and patterns and props and – I mean I could honestly go on for so long. There are a million and one opinions, and at the end of the day, you have to sort out what is right for your family. One of the big habits we had created in Eleanor, though, was needing to be rocked to fall asleep. This is cute and all in the beginning, but it’s not that realistic as the baby gets older and bigger. MORE than that, though, we weren’t helping Eleanor to learn the skill of falling asleep on her own, which means she wouldn’t know how to resettle herself after sleep cycles, which means she wakes up a lot at night and after 45-minute nap cycles.
I found a plan and one Wednesday night, I just decided to go for it. Robbie was at Public Meeting, and I hadn’t planned to do this earlier that day but rather just decided “it’s now or never”. I read her a book, I wrapped her up, I gave her some kisses and said “I love you,” and then I laid her in her bed and left the room.
My heart broke.
Everything in me wanted to rush back in because that was my own habit. I wanted to rescue her because surely she needs rescuing! I sat outside the door, though, and waited the 3-whole-minutes that my little guide told me to wait the first night. Those 3 minutes felt like a million years.
I went back in, I patted her and whispered in her ear that she was ok, kissed her forehead and walked out again. I sat in the hallway and set my timer for 5 minutes. She continued to cry, and after 5 minutes I went back in and did the same thing. When I returned to the hallway this time, I set my alarm for 10 minutes. Then, something incredible happened.
She stopped crying and fell asleep all by herself.
I was so excited. I did this for the next few nights, and she got better each night. Then in my reading, I realised that I actually should be doing it for every time she sleeps or I am just going to confuse her. So I started doing this for naps, and she didn’t enjoy it one bit.
Then I had this revelation.
I am doing this because I believe it is in her best interest. I know that she doesn’t necessarily like it, but I know that in the long-run, she will be equipped with an incredible skill of falling asleep on her own and will get better sleep, which will affect so many other things. BUT, I don’t like it. I don’t like hearing her cry or even the fact that she has to cry at all. My heart hurts because she has to learn this and it’s not easy. I am doing it, though, because I know it’s good for her.
“My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline,
and do not resent his rebuke,
because the Lord disciplines those he loves,
as a father the son he delights in.”
-Proverbs 3:11-12 (NIV)
I’ve read this verse before, and I know in my head that God will discipline us because He loves us. He wants us to get better, to learn new things, to grow. I’ve never thought about how God must feel through the process, though. When we cry, when we “just want out of it”, when we don’t understand, when we are upset or angry, God still continues because it’s in our best interest. I never thought about how He feels doing that until now. Now going through this with Eleanor, I have a greater respect for the love God has for us because it can’t be easy to watch us go through things.
I really hope I keep learning and discovering more of God’s heart and who He is. I heard someone say once, “If you want to know how selfish you are, get married, and if you really want to know, have kids.” Everyone laughed when they said it. It’s true in a lot of ways. There is an amazing privilege, though, because there are new opportunities to discover other sides of who God is because you are in that same role – a wife, a mum. Wow – what a great privilege!
Also, Eleanor is becoming a pro sleeper now! She has yet to sleep through the night, but she’s having longer naps and hardly cries, if at all, when I put her down. She’s learning and the new skill is helping her! The joy I feel on the other side of the challenge! How God must feel when we see breakthroughs as well.