Monday, January 11, 2010

A Mother's Sanctification

"But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit."
2 Corinthians 3:18

James is what has been termed a High Need Baby. He doesn't sleep for more than an hour at a time. Ever. He needs to nurse every two hours. He has little to no interest in solid food and only wants to be breastfed. When he is awake, he rarely will tolerate being set down. Since I have another young child, a home to take care of, a husband to love on, and only two hands, I don't have the luxury of indulging all of James's needs exactly when he wants them. So, that means our little Mister spends a greater amount of time crying each day than anyone in our household would like.

When I tell people these things, I wonder if they pity me. I wonder if they worry for my sanity or my health. Do they think that I will spoil him? Do they worry that, because I say these things, I do not love my son or I wish he was different?

Sometimes, I do feel worn to the bone, poured out completely, and meanwhile James is still screaming for more, more of me. Always me. He is a Mama's boy through and through, as High Need babies are. Sometimes, I beg God to let him sleep for just a few hours, for just a few minutes, for some peace. Sometimes, yes, I wish he was different, and I used to pray for this. But, in the past month or so, I have learned to change my prayer.

I have come to the realization that James is probably not going to change, at least not anytime soon. This is not because I don't believe God has the power to help my son sleep through the night; I'm sure He does. Rather, I am beginning to understand that God chose to make my son exactly as he is: needy and snuggly and intense and squirmy and sleepless. I love my son. I love him just as God made him, and this means I have needed to change how I pray.

My prayer now is God, thank you for the gift of my son. Help me to be truly and completely grateful for every day you give us together. Help me to be a good mother to him. Grant that whatever rest I receive will be enough to give me the strength I need to care for my family. Use my son to sanctify me. Help me to serve this little one as I would serve You. Take this sacrifice of myself, and teach me holiness.

Slowly, slowly, I am experiencing grace under fire.

Will I go out of my way to keep my body in shape and better nourished than I wouldotherwise have to to meet my son's needs? Can I smile as I pop him into the sling again while I make dinner, even though my back is killing me and I've been holding him all day? Will I sacrifice this opportunity or that night out with friends to ensure that James will have the comfort of my arms, my devoted nearness without which he seems totally lost? Can I keep myself from screaming back at him while he wails and wails and nothing I do helps at all?

It is humbling how often I fail, and I have had to ask everyone I know for forgiveness of my temper, my forgetfulness, my lateness since James was born. Often, I have to ask James for forgiveness. He doesn't say anything, but I like to think that he understands my contrite heart and the yearning I have to be a better mother for him, every moment of every day.

I stop for a moment, when the house is still and I am alone, and I think how gracious a God I serve that He would choose to sanctify me through service to my sweet, sweet, screaming, sleepless son. There are worse ways to learn holiness.


  1. A beautiful post. I'm not a mom, but my mom said I went through a period as a baby when I cried and wanted to be held. So she went ahead and held me, even though some books said that would spoil me. (This was in the late sixties.) She was also pregnant with my brother at the time.

    Anyway, fast forward many years later, and I certainly have my quirky issues like anyone else, but I've never been accused of being spoiled or dependent. (If anything, I was sometimes too independent.)

    Not a statistically significant sample of course, but just an anecdote for what it's worth.

    P.S. One of my friends said it would calm her baby to be put securely on a warm, running dryer in a car seat. Of course, this technique would not work so well in a laundromat!

  2. I can completely relate to your situation. My firstborn (who is now 10) was also high need and I had NO idea what I was doing. Came home to recover from a C-Section and had a baby I didn't even know how to nurse well and I could not sleep because she wouldn't either. My mom gave me the best advice - take her to bed with you. She nursed when she wanted to and was at peace and I got to sleep while she stayed in constant 'touch'. I also carried her in a sling and nursed her whenever she wanted. I gave her all I could, in turn she broke me of my selfishness. Some called her spoiled but I just saw her as needing me, and now she is as caring and loving to her 3 younger siblings as I was to her when she was a baby (though she does NOT nurse them). God BLESS you and baby and your family. -Loretta

  3. I get it. Everything you're saying I understand. I remember the forgetfulness, the short temper, I even struggled with keeping four letter words out of my vocabulary and I wasn't prone to cussing before having kids! I remember kissing my 3rd's cheeks every time he'd start his screaming fit and saying, "Scream all you want I will not stop loving you!!"

    His promises are true. You are a good and godly mother. He really does use this for your good, for your sanctification.

    I never realized how selfish and insecure I was until I had kids. I didn't know how much gunk needed to be cleaned out of my heart until sleep deprivation ripped off every mask. Hang in there! You're on the right road! :o)

  4. What a blessing to read your post today, after an especially long night with my own very needy child. I can relate so much and I agree that it is a blessing to have a child be an instrument of santification and also a terrific reminder of God's grace. But oh, how relentless it can seem at times. I never dreamed I would be dealing with another, more needy baby the second time around (and with a third in the making!) God is faithful to finish the work He began whether I like it or not. Anyway, thank you for finding the time to post this. It was just what I needed to restart the day.

  5. I feel like you wrote this just for me! My youngest (of 3)-Anna- is just a few weeks younger than James and I felt like you were writing about Anna and me. I'm so glad to hear from another mother whose 7 month old nurses so frequently. I was beginning to think Anna was the only baby who did that.
    What I'm most thankful for at the moment is co-sleeping and breastfeeding. Without those two dear, dear friends I think I'd be a lot more..."holy"... :)

  6. I get it. My second (I have 3 boys now) was that way. I'll say he is almost three and not high need in the way he was as a baby. I see that need for affection in other ways now...He POURS love on me. He cuddles. He throws his arms around my neck and says "You're CUUUUTE!" or "You're SWEETEST!" He is VERY quick to forgive and move on COMPLETELY. I see all these things as related to his personality in those early, challenging days with him. The reward has been great and I'm so thankful to have this child who so wants to heap his love upon me! Would knowing he would be this way have made that first year easier? Maybe not; it's so hard to surmount that exhaustion, but I'm thankful now and I've learned so much from him. Also, I came away from his babyhood, emerged, if you will, with MUCH more confidence. No, I did not feel this confidence when he wouldn't stop crying or needed only me, but it came and I'm glad for it.

    God bless you and strengthen you in this journey!

  7. Oh bless you. I have six children and three have been like your James, it really does pass, the years are short, but the days can be so long. My current little one (5 months) seems to need me all the time, but reading your post pulled me back in time to remember what it really was like with some of my others - my mind has made hazy the difficulties. My high needs little ones are turning out to be very intense big people, but so loving and affectionate.
    God bless you and strengthen you

  8. I understand. I have had to hold all my children while cooking dinner..not easy as you stated..but after my 4th baby someone introduced to me the Ergo Baby's can carry your baby front, side and on the's ergonically correct for both baby and mama. I love it especially when babies are old enough to support their heads so you can put them on your back. My fifth baby is there right now...sleeping away as I type. It's kind of pricey..but it is worth every penny in my opinion. I love your write so well and you always give me so much to reflect on.

  9. My older boy was very much the same way. But I think because I responded to him and was there for him as much as I could be, he grew to be a very secure little boy. Today, he's a wonderful teen, who is outgoing, friendly, and very responsive and loving to his 10 month-old little brother. My baby is not as high-need, but still much loved. The sling is a wonderful thing--I don't know how I would parent without it!

    Hang in there--it is worth every moment, and they pass so quickly! This too shall pass...and then, you'll miss those moments!

    Beautiful post to remind us about the valuable lessons to learn in the everyday! Thank you!

  10. I can't tell you how much all of your encouragement and anecdotes have brightened my day, ladies! Thank you for sharing, especially you older moms who have been through it and have seen the fruits of all your labors.

    I love that so many of you said your high need babies have become intensely loving children. I can already anticipate that in my James (not that Sophia isn't extremely loving, too!) I always tell him he's a "a lover," it describes him perfectly! It's a good thing I'm an intense person myself; I think it will help to understand him. My moderate-as-Lake-Placid husband on the other hand... I guess daddies need sanctification, too, huh? :)

  11. Hang in there! I'm guessing your son is around 6 or 7 months of age?

    My son recently turned 12 months. He was absolutely "high needs" in the earlier part of his life.

    He wouldn't sleep unless he was held or resting on my chest. It was exhausting.

    He was very particular about sleep, but as he has gotten older, he HAS gotten easier and the crying has lessened substantially.

    I have found that wearing him in a comfortable sling (our absolute favorite is the Baby K'Tan!) has helped.

    Stay the course. He won't always be so high-needs. Sounds like you're doing a great job!

  12. Hang in there. I think you are doing exactly what James needs you to do.

    My daughter is 12 months old. She has for the most part been a good natured child but she's had phases of a month or more-at 3,4, 5, and 7 months especially where she behaved much like James. She needed me constantly during the day and tossed and turned beside me at night. My husband kept telling me she was a coddled brat and I needed to put her alone in a room and let her scream. I would never do that. I think children act that way because they truly need their mother, perhaps for a reason we can't even understand. But they do need us. There were times when I was tempted to take my husbands advice but I never did. Maria still nurses a lot and can be clingy, but she's gotten much better lately. Yesterday she even let me hit the ski slopes for 2 hours at a time while she stayed in the lodge with my mother. No tears, she sat happy as a lark in my mom's lap. I've never left her at all before and I was glad to see she did so well. I think it's proof right there that she's not over coddled. She trusts me and knows I'll come back for her.

    I'm another fan of the ErgoBaby carrier. That thing is the best!


Hello! I'm so glad that you have come here to share your heart and thoughts. One quick word from me before you comment:

I ask all visitors to respect this as a place of peace. Disagreements are welcome, but please refrain from posting any ungracious comments. Thank you, and God bless.