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The Midnight Prayers of a Sleep-Deprived Mother

The Midnight Prayers of a Sleep-Deprived Mother

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Crink. Crank. Crink. Crank.

The cradle whines as I slide it back and forth. Crink. Crank. The story of my life.

My baby is two weeks old and now, and at 4:02 a.m., I am lost somewhere in the mind-numbing muddle of severe sleep deprivation.

Believe me, I am the first to wax about the joys of pregnancy and birth, the thrill, that quivering bubble of magic! Even now, at 4:02 a.m., I can feel the embers of joy stirring tiredly in my chest. But still, I am unprepared for this unending exhaustion, for this thick, soupy, lead-like feeling cloaking my limbs.

I am unprepared for this unending exhaustion

I shouldn’t complain; he’s a good baby. He only wakes me once during the night, and the second feeding extravaganza usually takes place sometime between dawn and early morning. It's just that each feeding takes forever.

Baby's agitated cries make me pry my eyes open, and he sucks happily for 10 minutes. Then he starts to doze off. I'd love to sit and watch his teeny button nose and rosebud lips, trace my fingers over his still-fuzzy skin as his eyelids flutter and I know he's sleeping, sweet dreams tip-toeing across his long lashes. But I can't, because Baby has this tendency to wet himself entirely.

So, I lay him on my bed and he promptly starts to wail. I clamber out of bed and hurry to fetch a new diaper, undershirt, stretchie, blanket. I hastily change him, while he kicks those tiny, angry chicken feet, and Husband opens one bleary eye and mumbles, "Is everything okay?"

Yes, everything is okay. Finally, Baby is fresh and cozy. By now I'm wide awake, and I feed him for another couple of minutes. I gaze at him, awestruck, and I fancy I can see rays of the dearest, most tender love vibrating between us. When Baby's had enough, I snuggle him, wrapped in darling velour, into his cute, little cradle. And this is where the fun begins.

Crink. Crank. Crink. Crank.

As long as I'm rocking the cradle, Baby is serene. The moment I stop, though, he starts fussing and whimpering, and eventually hollering. And so, I continue to rock.

This goes on day after day. I rock and I rock and I rock, as my mind blanks, my shoulders crumble, and my eyes glaze. I dare not be lax or Baby will cry. Usually after 45 minutes or so of religious rocking, Baby falls asleep at last. I hope it will get better, but it doesn't. Baby is three weeks old, then four, and every night I rock and rock.

It is 4:58 a.m., and after 33 minutes of rocking my five-week-old baby, I start praying.

G‑d, please, look at my beautiful baby. May he always be this beautiful! Help him stay pure, kind, good! May he be a well-adjusted, happy child and have good friends.

It is rather un-earth-shattering. I have been praying for my baby since way before he was born. And yet, somehow, my prayers since his arrival have always been a few quick, rasped pleas. It is usually when I am running somewhere, and I gaze at this most beautiful baby in the world, snuggled up in the carriage before me, that I find myself whispering, Please G‑d, keep him healthy. Help me raise him well. Or, folding laundry, one eye on the snoozing beauty in the cradle, when the thought crosses my mind, G‑d, please, may he grow up to be a proud Jew. Even the moments at candle-lighting, those twilight minutes when the world hold its breath, the magic of Shabbat kissing the air, are too often squandered. It usually ends up being a few minutes of closed eyes and harmony, savoring the tinkling peace in my soul, before Baby erupts.

Nobody is interrupting me

But now, it is 5:05 a.m., then 5:15, then 5:30. And nobody is interrupting me. I sit and I swish the cradle back and forth, my most fervent dreams leaping off my heart and dancing upwards, along with the endless crink-crank. Although it begins rather plainly, as sleep slowly twinkles across Baby's face, I realize the experience has been downright magical.

So, this is my way to counteract the nightly unnerving crink-crank operation. I can't say I look forward to it now (it will never be fun cranking the cradle back and forth while my whole being cries for sleep), but it definitely has gained meaning.

I sigh and swish the cradle, back and forth, back and forth. My dreams and hopes and worries and wishes roll, like gleaming marbles, off my chest and dance in the air, and I think I can catch a flash of their color in my drooping eyes.

Crink. Crank. Crink. Crank. The subtle whisper of prayers ascending. The story of my life.

Faigy Schonfeld is a wife and mother residing in Boro Park, Brooklyn. She spends her days rocking cradles, offering mashed bananas and singing lullabies—and running off to write some articles so she can also call herself a freelance writer.
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Faigy Brooklyn July 29, 2015

Thanks for your comments! This essay was written a little while ago and my baby is baruch Hashem, over a year old now. And he almost sleeps through the night! Reply

Beverly J Mether-Makela Lewisville July 29, 2015

"The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world." What love teaches the child we raise will impact countless thousands we will never meet on earth!" a Mother and Grand-mother who has prayed for each child since I was 8 years of age! Reply

ester July 28, 2015

No doubt you are sleep deprived! Why on earth do you rock the baby in the cradle? Take her in your arms. All she needs is your heat, the sound of your heart beat, your smell, your body, your presence. Put her next to you on your bed. Believe me, both of you will sleep much better! Reply

Anonymous Israel July 28, 2015

u might want to invest in this... Bounceroo Giraffe Rocker Automatically Rocks Your Baby For You. Reply

sophie california July 22, 2015

i really enjoyed your essay! i feel the same exact way. Reply

Judy Resnick Far Rockaway, NY July 22, 2015

My youngest child is now 25 years old. Those years fly past so quickly. My mother of blessed memory used to say: "The years fly past, but each day is 24 hours (to get through)." Eventually your wonderful little boy will sleep through the night, go to school, become a Bar Mitzvah, and even one day get married. You should always have tons of Yiddishe nachas from him, with G-d's help!! Reply

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