Here In The Darkness

Every night at around 7pm, I have about 20-30 minutes of quiet. In the dark. My 10-month-old has a mattress on the floor in her room and I lay beside her in the stillness. Since we don't do the whole cry-it-out thing, I typically stay with her until she falls asleep.

After bath at 6:45, I put on her monkey pajamas and smooth on some lotion and read her two stories - That's Not My Bear and Goodnight Moon. Usually, her older sister joins us for the book-reading. Then, Big Sister gives me and the baby a kiss on the forehead, says, "Good night. I love you. I'll see you in the morning." She flips out the light and closes the door on her way out...and I hear her say, "Daddy, can you read me a book now?" And he does.

Across the hall, we hear the rhythmic murmurs of his voice as he reads.

Here In The Darkness 1My baby settles down beside me, whimpering a little. She hears the familiar click of my nursing bra strap and I can hear her sigh contentedly as she latches on. If she's not quite sleepy after she's done nursing, she sometimes crawls around the room in the dark, silently exploring...and I let her. Eventually, she crawls right back beside me...and then she reaches her hand up to stroke my face or my arm. With time, I feel her breath and her little body become heavy beside me...and I know that she is dreaming. Sometimes, I get up quickly when I realize she is asleep. Other nights, I sit there for a few minutes longer, squinting in the darkness to make out her features. She is beautiful. So beautiful it makes my heart ache just a bit.

Some people might think it's crazy that I give up 20-30 minutes of MY night every night to lay beside my baby like that. But I view it as a gift. It's a time of silence, reflection, prayer, and thoughtfulness. I come up with the best ideas in those moments of quiet. And, besides, I'm not entirely sure that I can think of anything more precious than having a baby fall asleep beside you, with her hand resting on your face.

Tonight, I thought about Haiti. About Ethiopia. And Somalia and El Salvador. About how there are mothers everywhere out there doing the exact same thing that I am right now - nursing, comforting, praying, thinking, clicking their tongues and saying "Shhhh...Mama's here" in the darkness.

Here In The Darkness 2 Here In The Darkness 3

But their thoughts are different than mine. They think about if they will have any food to give their child tomorrow, if their child will survive the year (the week...the night...). And it shouldn't be that way. Not with all of this wealth and lavishness here. No mother should have to think those thoughts...and no child should have to go to bed hungry.

As I lay in the darkness, I think of these things and I wonder what I can do. So I begin by praying. And then I kiss my baby gently on her forehead and get up.


Here In The Darkness 4You may recall that I have pledged 20% of the proceeds of my book - Bloggertunity: A Mom's Guide to Blogging - to World Vision, a nonprofit humanitarian agency that is dedicated to building a better world for children. A few weeks ago, I gave my 2009 book sales the New Mother and Baby fund. Thank you to everyone that bought my book for being a part of that gift.

* Image of mother + child from Compassion International, another amazing organization that helps kids every day.

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27 comments on “Here In The Darkness”

  1. I shared this sweet story with a friend of mine (who also happens to be my midwife!) who was struggling with getting her little one to sleep and didn't want to do the "cry it out" thing either. She just really loved it and now has a new method to get her baby down! Thanks, Stephanie!

  2. What a lovely post. I think all moms can relate to that feeling of putting a child to bed and some nights wanting to get up and get back to other things right away, and some nights wanting to linger and have the moment last forever. I love how you've tied this universal moment we share with our children to the moms in Haiti, who need our help and good thoughts so much right now.

  3. It breaks my heart to think of mothers who have such difficult paths. Struggling and not knowing how they will care for their little ones. You are such a shining example of how small steps can really change the world.

    I too can't think of any better way to spend 20-30 minutes. Sometimes, though, when it stretches to an hour (which is really every night) I have to remind myself that someday I'll miss it. But, so often I find myself spending a couple extra minutes just looking at him and breathing him in after he's finally drifted off.

  4. I loved reading this. And yes, I too, can't think of anything more beautiful than laying down next to my little one.

    Thinking of all those families in need makes you realize how fortunate most of us are.

  5. Beautiful post, Stephanie. Nursing my baby girl before bed is the most relaxing and peaceful part of my day. She fights off sleep while I'm holding her but drifts off instantly once her head hits the softness of her snuggle pillow. But sometimes I don't care. Sometimes I continue to hold her and together we rock in the rocking chair. I watch her eyelids get heavier and heavier as she desparately tries to keep her gaze on me. With all the chaos that may have happened during the day, it's this sweet, precious time that brings everything back into perspective.

  6. sigh....what a simple reminder.
    just today i was rearranging the rooms so that i can set up a mattress on the floor for my 13 month old. now that we are expecting number 4 this will be something we will be easing her into so that the playpen is free for the baby.
    your post reminded me of laying with my older two. i won't be so quick to rush out of the room with this one.

  7. Beautiful. I feel so lucky to live where we live, and have the luxuries we have. Thank you for the reminders.
    Your evenings sound so wonderful and peaceful. Mine are wonderful, but not nearly as peaceful! ha!

  8. It is so important to remember that these precious moments with our little ones go so fast and to enjoy every snuggle, every song, dance, alphabet, repeated question, 'read it again' request. It breaks my heart to think of those that are hurting and longing for moments like these. Thank you for reminding us to embrace these times.

  9. Beautiful post! It completely reminded me to cherish each moment with my 7 month old as it is going way too fast. It also challenged me to once again think of the mamas and babes around the world who don't have what I have.

    Thanks too for sharing your night time routine. I've always wondered how you did it with two as I know in the past you have said you co-sleep. Being a mom of two little girls about the same age as your girls, I love to hear how others do it.

  10. Tears... Beautiful post Stephanie. You always remind me to cherish every sweet moment. Or should I say bittersweet when contemplating what other mommies around the world are going through.

  11. World Vision is such an incredible organization that does those "little things" for kids and families that help them the most. Thank you for supporting them and highlighting what they do.

  12. What a beautiful post. It is so easy to become self-focused and forget about the rest of our suffering world. A little quiet time with our precious babies is a great remedy. Thanks for sharing.

  13. We do the same exact thing every night and I love it. I don't let him crawl around, but that is a great idea. I think I'll try that tonight.

    And I agree with Kristen, I think there is something about motherhood that makes you almost painfully aware of other mothers' pain. I can hardly stand to think about what's happening in Haiti, it is so painful. To not know how you are going to feed your child, or provide a safe and comfortable place for them to play and rest must be absolulety heart-reading.

  14. And I, too, have been thinking about Haiti and the mothers and children there. Something about motherhood makes you more aware to the tragedy of it all.

  15. This sounds like my bedtime routine... minus the nursing anymore. I love it, too. In fact, I love it more now that I am not nursing. Bernard, his favorite stuffed dog, sleeps with us, and I always know that sleep is near when my son starts wrestling HARD with Bernard. At some point, he doesn't get up from the wrestling and is out cold. I love it. This morning, in fact, I just stayed by his side and looked at his little curls around his neck. It is a blessing. I have my moments when I would rather just put him in his room and have him sleep on his own, but 98% of the time, I realize that it's the best thing in the world and I LOVE it.

  16. This is a beautiful post, Stephanie. I rock my little boy to sleep every night, and it is truly a gift to do so. There is nothing I'd rather be doing with my time.
    I often think what a blessed mom I am. How many moms don't even know what they will feed their little children in the morning? I cannot imagine watching your little one starve and not being able to do anything about it. We have so, so much in this country, and the sadness and injustice around the world is just hard to understand.
    Thank you for drawing attention to Compassion and World Vision and for giving a portion of your e-book sales to such a worthy cause. They are both phenomenal organizations and can help us to contribute to the most needy people and places when we don't know what else to do amidst all this tragedy.

  17. So beautiful and so true. Steph, this really articulated much of how I feel. I want to turn away from the images I see - the babies with just 4 little teeth that can't stop crying, covered with dust - because I can't bear it. I pore over adoption websites even though we can't afford it. I pray. I cry. I feel so powerless and I feel the injustice in my bones. Anything I can do, I need to do it. Not just for them but even for my own soul's peace.

  18. This is beautiful, Steph. I do the
    same things. Just getting ivy back to sleep
    right now actually. I hate how imbalanced our world is, how we can have so much, to excess, and others
    have so little. Anything we
    can give means the world, or another night, to them.


  19. ugh. I have a broken heart over Haiti right now. I sponsor a little Haitian girl through Compassion and I can't get her or her family out of my mind.

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