It’s 2:21 a.m. and I’m wide awake, snug in my bed. My toddler son, who is fighting a cough, finally nodded off an hour ago after a never-ending interlude of cuddling, shushing and patting.
Eyes squeezed shut, I try and will myself to join him in peaceful slumber. But half a dozen worries crowd my mind: Is this a sleep regression or is my son’s cough serious? I forgot to call the pediatrician yesterday. Am I a bad mother? Am I working too much? We are facing a serious family issue this summer. How will we survive this painful chapter? Will it break us?
I am mentally, physically and emotionally exhausted, yet sleep evades me.
So I count breaths. I count sheep. I count to-dos. Nothing works.
I think back to a year ago, when my son was just a baby who battled sleep. Some nights, when he was overtired, no amount of shushing or patting would soothe him. I used to rock him and sing Bing Crosby, “When I’m worried and I can’t sleep, I count my blessings instead of sleep, and I go to sleep counting my blessings.”
It didn’t always help him, but it helped me come back to a place of calm when all I wanted to do was break down and cry myself.
OK, Bing. Back to counting.
1. My son relaxed on our couch in the crook of my arm, his tiny fist stuffed with graham crackers, gaze fixed on the TV screen, head bobbing to the music of Moana. Blessing.
2. How he gobbled up green beans, carrots and ravioli for dinner—from my plate and his—and smiled with contentment. Blessing.
3. His squeals of laughter when I tickle his belly. Blessing.
4. New words and phrases: “bubble, Cheerio, thank you, where’d you go?” Blessing.
5. Generous hugs for dada and mama before bedtime. Blessing.
6, 7, 8, 9 … Dozens upon dozens of ways my son lights up our lives and shines light on the extraordinary gift of each moment on earth. His very existence the most joyful blessing.
Some point during all this counting I fall asleep.
At last, rest for this weary mama. Blessing.
Sometimes when we are overwhelmed and overloaded, taking a step back to give thanks for all that brings us joy can usher peace into our lives.
If you are having trouble with sleep too, try this: Breathe. Notice joy. Give thanks. Rest.