By Caroline Saunders

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At one time in my life, the middle of the night wasn’t anything to dread.

But I’m a new mom, and I’ve discovered that there’s a loneliness that belongs to the middle of the night. At first my baby needed me over and over again, her cries startling against the stillness, shaking me, the only one who can give her what she needs, the one who must navigate the stormy waters alone. Too alone.

She’s been sleeping through the night for a while, but now I’m the one who needs to learn to sleep. Too many thoughts, and tonight they sit heavy upon my chest and keep me awake. Today was like any other day. She’s a good baby, I am told. And I know it. But good babies are still babies, and today, like many other days, she had a spell of crying that I couldn’t diagnose. Sometimes the crying is deep and desperate, and its effect on me is like a punch in the gut. “What’s wrong, baby girl?” She doesn’t have the words to tell me, and my mother’s intuition fails, but eventually we make it through. We always do, of course, but it makes me uneasy. I hope she’s okay. I hope I’m doing okay.

Because what if she’s not? Or what if I’m not? I cannot even formulate these questions without my chest tightening and my hands shaking. I want to throw up. On nights like this I have to get out of bed and shake the words out of my mind and onto a blank page where they can’t haunt me.

This being a mom thing is the scariest thing I have ever done. It has revealed a dark piece of information I was not prepared to deal with: I do not know how to trust God.

My resume says that I should know how to do this. I grew up in church, I’m married to a pastor, I work at a Christian school, I teach a small group. I know the right answers. “We can trust God — He knows what He’s doing.” I hear my own voice saying it, millions of times, but it’s only now that I realize I said it flippantly. Arrogantly. Naively. Not realizing that trust is a thing easier said than done. I hate myself for saying it that way.

Dear God, teach me to trust.

He brings these verses to mind, for likely the hundredth time since she was born:

“I prayed for this child [oh how I prayed!], and the Lord has granted what I asked of him [oh how he did!!!]. So now I give him to the Lord. For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord.” 1 Samuel 1:27-28

And so I pray the verses back to Him, for likely the hundredth time since she was born:

“I give her to you, Lord. For her whole life, she will be yours.”

The problem with my prayer is that I don’t really mean it. Not for long anyway. I keep taking her back. In the middle of the night, I realize my grip is desperate, shaking, and fearful. I am holding on to her with all I have.

But my hands are not strong enough. My grip is too unsteady. I am worried I will drop her. I am worried I cannot give her what she needs. I am worried my arms will give out under the immense weight of this thing we call motherhood.

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In the middle of the night, I realize it: I cannot hold her. I am not supposed to. She needs to be held by someone with much stronger hands — someone with unfailing strength. With infinite wisdom. With the kindest voice, the most tender love.

What tender love my God must have that He thought to create her in the first place! How did He think of those rosebud lips and rubberbanded wrists? How did He know to make her turn towards me when she heard my voice for the first time? How did He know to make her face light up every time her dad walks in the room? His fingerprints are all over her. He didn’t need to give her that giggle, but He did. How did He know to do that?

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He must love me very much. He must be very good.

He brings to mind another verse, the one He set aside in my heart a long time ago. The one I always knew I’d have framed in a nursery someday, now written in gold and fixed to a polka dotted wall:

“He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; He gently leads those that have young.” Isaiah 40:11

Then I see — He holds her, but He holds me, too.

Mothers, you and your babies, me and my baby — we are gently led; we are carried close.

It means the questions lose their power. It means we can be still and finally sleep.

I know this: Motherhood is heavy. Motherhood is hard.

But I know this too: That baby smells fresh of heaven, and I know He is good when I look at her closely enough.

I say it again, but the flippancy is gone: We can trust God — He knows what He’s doing.

Remember it mothers; remember it, Caroline — in the middle of the night when the baby is crying and you don’t know what to do, in the middle of the night when your fears take you captive — He holds you, and He knows what He’s doing.

The middle of the night belongs to Him, and we can trust him in the midst of it.

Caroline Saunders

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