The Longest Night

2am, the alarm rings.

When you’ve got yourself a baby with boundless energy and a little girl with endless questions, 2am is sometimes your magic hour of silence, of writing, of work. While the two littles are tucked safely in their beds, I pad into the dining room for cinnamon tea and words.

It is, unapologetically, my favorite part of the morning.

But not this morning.

This morning, the baby is wide awake. (Wide.)

I warm a bottle. I change a diaper. I adjust his socks, stroke his forehead, offer a pacifier. I rock and rock and rock, and I think he’s fallen asleep until his small hand creeps up to my mouth and he wiggles his fingers past my teeth. Baby laughter. Happy kicks. Vague chatter.

Awake.

And so, we play on the living room floor and I resist the temptation to quietly stew over the hours I’m missing, the emails in need of sending, the paragraphs I so badly want to write – the ones I know will leave me by sunrise. We race cars. We read books. We stack blocks, peek-a-boo. I wait for an eye rub or fussiness, some sort of sign that he’s tiring.

Nothing.

We practice walking, make wide loops around the kitchen island. We play airplane. I offer teething tablets. We roll the ball back and forth, back and forth, and I take breaks to peek at the clock.

4am.

Surely he’s tired by now, I think, and I warm another bottle, change another diaper, rock and rock and rock and rock, and his small, dimpled hand has found his way to my mouth – again – and he’s a fit of giggles.

I am not.

Back to the living room, only this time, my patience is far thinner. I watch as he plays with cabinet doors in the dark – open/shut, open/shut – I wait for him to tire. I make mental lists, form email responses in my brain. I refill my tea, calculating how much time I have until Bee wakes for the day, too.

It is 5am.

I hear the birds chirping outside and scoop him up for some fresh air. We see the last of the night stars begin to fade and I cradle his head as his eyelashes rise to watch the black sky grow brighter. We hear blue jays and locusts, a pine warbler far away. It sounds like magic.

But I am thinking of my lists, and I begin rocking and swaying and bouncing, praying he will sleep so I can start my work day, or at least what’s left of it.

And that’s right when I hear it, that still voice within that reminds me of what I’ve forgotten:

This is your work.

The comforting of a baby, the forgoing of my needs.

This is your work.

The peeling of the apples, the detangling of the hair, the remembering of the sunscreen.

This is your work.

The kissing of the scrapes, the biting of the tongue, the pumping of the bike tire.

This is your work.

The buyer of the sneakers, the folder of the whites.

This is your work.

The raising of the souls.

And I begin to repeat it, almost mantra-like. Over and over, surrendering to the idea that if nothing is finished (nor started) for the day, if my emails go unchecked and unanswered, if I write nothing, if I claim zero productivity, I will have accomplished much.

I will have done my work.

The idea settles into my mind and I feel a familiar weight on my chest as Scout’s head lowers to my heartbeat. The sun is rising; his eyelids are closing.

Sleep.

He has surrendered, finally.

As have I.

 

 

  • Oh, Erin! I love this post so much. “This is your work” on repeat – the most beautiful reminder – from this moment forward. Thank you x

  • Oh my goodness Erin I needed this. I’m expecting my first little one in December and going back to work after is already on my mind. Thank you, thank you. This will be my mantra too.

  • Thank you! I needed this today. It will be more than my mantra, it will be my prayer!

  • I love this. I read it while rocking my 13 day old little girl to sleep. I also have 5 and 6 year old boys, so this rocking a new baby for hours thing has been a relearning process. It’s so nice to remember that this is this (comparatively short) season’s real work– not the laundry or the dishes or etc., etc. Thank you for the gentle reminder.

  • My mantra was always “this is the life you chose to create” when I was in that place of providing for everyone but myself, and trying not to dwell on the things I wasn’t getting done. A gentle reminder that “this (too) is your work” will be looping now, too. hugs!

  • Oh Erin this is beautiful and so true!! I am having a baby in August and wondering how I will keep up with all my work with a 7 year old and 4 year old but, this new baby will be my work, and how quickly babies grow right? Sometimes it seems so slow but then poof, they become big!

  • I am in love with this. Surrendering can be so difficult for us, and once we allow it to happen, we know it was the right decision, the right action.

  • “the paragraphs I so badly want to write – the ones I know will leave me by sunrise.” – Man, this feeling. It’s almost like it’s smoke, right? Fresh into existence and it feels like you have all the time in the world to get it down before it fades, and then once you realize it’s fleeting, you can’t grab hold again.
    I love this. I’ve been here so many times, & it’s the greatest feeling to see your own similar thoughts and experiences reflected :)

  • Such a lovely and useful message, dear Erin. Your words bring so much warmth to tired and frazzled minds. This is indeed our work.

  • Absolute truth. Beautifully shared. Even now, with three teens, my husband must sometimes remind me of this powerful reality.

  • Love this.
    So true – again.
    And I love how beautifully the words go with the picture while scrolling down.
    Also a good reminder, because the nights have been tricky lately, I’m tired and our daughter just won’t go to bed anymore, crawls out of her bed a million times, and I think, it’s time for me/us/the dishes now, after a long day at work…

  • Beautiful message, beautifully written. It gave me goosebumps and a lump in my throat to read such a heartfelt post about surrendering. I was right there with you as the hours ticked by and felt relief right along with you as you let go and accepted.

  • I’m at my office desk – my 9-5 office desk – and just wrote out, “Mothering – This is your work”, on a post it which now holds center stage on my computer monitor. Just a gentle reminder to myself that my 9-5 is never #1, can never be the reason for my being short or unfocused with my son. A reminder to surrender to motherhood and this special time in his life and mine.

  • I love this so much. And now that my two are 12 and 8 and independent, being on the sidelines, present and participating and cheering them on is still my work. Not time to tune out. Check the phone. Send one more little email. It can all wait. We got to 12 and 8 in a flash. Everything else can wait. It will all be there later. These two hearts will not.

  • Oh, this can be such a hard reminder sometimes, especially if you’re a writer/artist/creative who is wired to always be thinking + doing. Little ones have a way of teaching us that the true work is to be present (and often the hardest!). Thanks for the reminder; we had a week of sickness last week and I had to acknowledge this too.

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