If it’s true that when it comes to prayer, there are no coincidences, then last night was very much an answer to prayer.
We experienced the first night in which neither Anna nor myself went to check on Sofie. We can’t say for sure that Sofie slept through the night–though it seems like she did–but she never once woke enough to spend more than just a few moments crying.
When Sofie was first born, the adjustment to daytime wakefulness and nighttime sleeping was, for us firsttime parents, a brutal experience. I didn’t know you could be so sleep-deprived and not lose your mind. But once Sofie’s sleep rhythms resembled less a vampiric one and more a human one, the nighttime wakings and feedings were almost as regular as clockwork.
Then came the Christmas holidays. And while she stayed on her sleep cycle for most of our two weeks with family, by the time we returned home, things had begun to get out of sync. We were home five days, and then we went to San Diego for about a week. Then once we got home from San Diego, the very next day Anna and Sofie flew home to see Anna’s brother, Delane. Then it was three weeks all day at the babysitter’s, and so it went.
Needless to say, by February, Sofie had lost pretty much all semblance of a regular sleep pattern. Gone the eleven-one-three-thirty-five wakings, with naps at seven-thirty, ten, and one. When Sofie went to sleep, other than the six-thirty to eight-thirty window in the evening, was anybody’s guess.
So we were getting pretty desparate. Neither of us could stomach the “let her cry it out” method, so Anna read up on a lot of stuff on childhood sleep. That of course, made us feel more guilty. Sofie was overtired, which only exacerbated the problem and slowed down cognitive development.
And with all the reading came umpteen methods of teaching Sofie to fall asleep. Everything from the Ferber (sp?) method to the “let her cry it out” method. And we tried all of them. None of them seemed to work. So we sort of morphed the “let her cry it out” method into the “let her cry it out whenever you can stand it and it doesn’t feel like someone is pushing a large sword through your heart and the rest of the time do what your instincts tell you” method.
With that last method, we finally began to see some regular patterns, and some progress. We’ve gotten almost completely away from all nighttime feedings, and Sofie is only waking about twice during the night. Sometime around one, and then again somewhere in the window of three-thirty to five-thirty. And her naps were much more regular. A morning nap sometime about an hour and a half to two hours after she wakes. A mid-day nap. And a nap near three in the afternoon.
So we come to last night.
Sofie was on a tear. She hadn’t slept very well the previous night, and her daytime naps were almost non-existent. Her last semblance of a nap had been at two. When we tried to feed her supper at her normal time, she fought me every step of the way. Temper tantrums came in steady outbursts. So we threw in the towel. Foregone was the nighttime bath, the rubdown with lotion, the story, even the Lord’s Prayer. It was: change the diaper, get a onesie on her, and put her down.
But while I was changing her diaper, I said to Anna, “Honey, bring me the holy water from the icon shelf. I’m going to anoint Sofie with it.” Anna did so, and I poured a bit on Sofie’s head. My prayers were something of a combination of ad hoc liturgy and extemporaneous arrow prayers. “By Thy baptism in the Jordan, O Lord, Thou didst sanctify the waters of the earth. I anoint Sofie with this water, for her wholeness of body and soul. Grant her peaceful rest this night, and heal her of her infirmities.” And: “O Lord, I commend to You the body and soul of Sofie, do Thou bless her, have mercy on her and grant her life eternal.” With: “Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for my daughter Sofie so that she will get the rest and sleep she needs this night.” I then lay Sofie on her back (on the changing table where I had been changing her) so I could close the bottle of holy water. I signed the cross on her forehead and prayed, “The Lord bless you and keep you, make His face shine upon you and grant you peace.”
Okay, so a liturgist I’m not, and my memory of the Church’s prayers is a bit sketchy at best. But if the key to effective prayer is a cry from the heart, then I had a ringful of them. We really needed Sofie to sleep!
Well, Anna nursed her and put her down. And she cried for half-an-hour. It was heart-wrenching, of course, as it always is. Just when you think you’ve begun to get a bit hardened to the cries and the hiccoughing, your little daughter starts to babble. And add words like “Babaa bo yie ma dee” to some crying, or to hear sobbing that comes out “Yie ya yee ya ya”–well, that’s the red-hot sword through the heart bit. I tear up even now recalling that.
But after a half hour Sofie went to sleep. I was awake till midnight, and heard her cry twice, but neither time for more than a few seconds.
Anna went to bed early, about seven-thirty. She was one exhausted momma! But as you can guess, since Anna didn’t hear anything from the nursery, she was awake just about every hour on the hour, listening. And then, at five-thirty, when she hadn’t heard Sofie wake at her normal time, she went back to check on her . . . and woke her up.
But as I type this, Sofie has been cheerfully babbling and playing. She’s clearly rested.
And we are grateful to God and the Theotokos for answers to prayers.