“It’s 3:45 am. The babies are finally fed and asleep… again. I am exhausted. Hopefully I can fall asleep and get a solid two hours before one of them wakes again. I haven’t slept at all tonight. Tomorrow’s going to be brutal. I’ll just try to settle myself. I’m sure I’ll fall asleep soon. Wait. It’s too quiet. I don’t think I can hear anyone breathing. Are they breathing? They should’ve at least stirred a little. Neither of them has moved. Was that a small breath I heard? I can’t be sure. I’d better check. Ok. They’re fine. They’re both breathing just fine. I seriously need to sleep. It’s been two weeks of this insanity. I can’t function if I don’t sleep. Hold on a sec. I can’t remember if I propped them up enough. What if they spit up and choke because they’re flat on their backs? No, I’m sure they’re ok. I barely checked on them… but I can’t remember for sure. I’d better check again.”
The best advice I ever received as a new mother to my infant twins came from my father and it might not be what you’d expect. Before I divulge this particular piece of advice let me give you a little background as to what was happening in my life during this time.
I was 29 weeks pregnant with the twins when my husband was deployed overseas to Afghanistan for a year. My 18 month old daughter and I hugged him goodbye outside our front door and he left. “Ok. I can do this” I thought. What choice did I have really? Giving up simply wasn’t an option, so I pushed forward the best way I knew how. I called my Mom.
When we first found out my husband was to deploy I reached out to my parents. “Mom?” I asked. “I know this is a huge favor, but is there any chance I can move back home with Alisynne?” Without a moments hesitation on the other end of the phone I heard, “Of course sweetheart! We’ll get the basement ready for you.” This was HUGE for me. Without the help of my family I don’t know if I would’ve fared as well as I did in the long run. So, the very next day after my husband left my father came to collect my very pregnant self and my daughter and drove us and a small trailer of gear back to my childhood home for the year.
Six weeks later the twins were born. They did well considering they were 5 weeks early, but still had to do 2 weeks in the NICU. On the day they were both released they were so tiny. It was frightening. It was exciting. It was overwhelming. The days back at home were great. I had tons of help from my parents, sisters, and brothers, who were all home during the summer. I felt great during the day. Nights were a different story.
With my husband gone the care of my three children was solely mine. Every diaper to be changed, baby to be fed, and toddler to comfort rested squarely on my shoulders, and I was keenly aware of it.
Fear. Exhaustion. Worry. Anxiety. These emotions are very typical for a new mom. I’ve talked to many mothers out there and most would agree that these feelings are all part of infancy, along with unadulterated joy, ridiculous amounts of love, and elation.
During those first few weeks of my twins being home fear would grab me at night and refuse to relent. Fear of my babies dying while I slept. This particular fear is a common one. Many women have confessed to feeling this way. You may have experienced it yourself. I also endured this fear with my first daughter. Perhaps it was the fact that I was the sole caretaker, or that my twins were still so tiny, or the stress of a deployment in general. For whatever reason this fear became amplified.
I couldn’t sleep. I wanted to, desperately, but couldn’t. My brain wouldn’t stop tormenting me. Even through the fog of exhaustion I could come up with several ways my children might not survive til morning. I would be up and down several times in the night checking and rechecking my babies. Each time they were completely safe, but I wouldn’t believe it. My body couldn’t rest nor could my mind. You can imagine the toll this takes on a new mother. If, by some miracle, I did finally fall asleep one of the babies would wake. It was a vicious, horrible cycle.
I didn’t want to tell anyone what was going on. It felt absolutely ridiculous. Here I was, welcomed back into my childhood home with open arms, with several younger siblings helping me daily, and I couldn’t get my act together. Not at night anyway. I wasn’t afraid to tell. I was embarrassed at the level my fear and anxiety had gotten to.
Several weeks of this mental torment continued until one morning my father entered the kitchen.
The end of a particularly bad night found me crying into a bowl of cereal. My father, with his tan briefcase in hand, was on his way out the door to work. He spotted me at the kitchen counter and sat down next to me. As any dutiful and loving father would do, he asked me what was wrong. With tear streaked eyes and an exhausted soul I told my dad everything. I layed out all of my fears and unloaded all of my worry. He hugged me tight for a moment then let me go. He turned to me and gave me this counsel that I’ll never forget.
“Heather. If Heavenly Father decides it’s time to take your babies there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. No amount of worrying or stressing can change that if it’s meant to be. He has entrusted you with three beautiful children to take care of and raise. You cannot do that if you do not sleep. He needs you to sleep. You can only do the best you can. The rest is left to Him.”
Simple. Honest. Truthful. Powerful.
At first the idea seemed a little shocking. Morbid even. What do you mean there’s nothing I can do?! I’m their mother! It’s my job to protect them, but as I dwelled on what my father had said the truth of his statement hit me right in the heart. He was right.
I was not as in control as I wanted to believe. The only thing I truly had control over were my actions in how I take care of and raise my children, and I was truly doing the best I could. The rest is left entirely up to our Heavenly Father.
There is a quote that I love by a man named Boyd K. Packer, which states, “Fear is the opposite of Faith.” I have come to cherish this counsel as well. I had let a runaway imagination and fear grab hold of me at night. I had completely forgotten to have faith. Where there is faith, fear cannot be.
As odd as it may sound, this simple piece of counsel gave me permission to calm my thoughts, permission to breathe, and permission to sleep, which I finally did. My fears were still in the back of my mind, but they ceased their torment. They no longer stole what I needed the most, peace of mind.
To you expecting, new, or seasoned mothers and fathers out there I hope if you find yourself in this very same position, or one similar, you take a moment to consider what my father said. You too have a great responsibility to do your best with your precious gifts that have been entrusted to you and leave the rest for Him to shoulder. Have faith in yourself. You are marvelous. Don’t let fear strip you of your god-given strength to handle all the challenges and joys new babies bring. After all, you are His child too, which basically makes you amazing.
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