An urge awakens my bladder from peaceful winter slumber. I roll onto my side, hoping a change in position will lessen the pressure enough to fall back asleep without having to slip out of my warm cocoon of blankets. A few heartbeats later it is clear there will be no more comfort until I’m relieved.
Stumbling to the bathroom in the night preceding the longest night of the year, I consider the surrounding lack of darkness. The lights from the cell phone chargers, perpetually plugged in; the cable box and router, blinking somberly at me from the dresser; the dull yellow street lamp light pouring in through our thin curtains. The light follows me to the toilet where the sweet relief smells of dehydration.
Eyes closed, elbows on knees, I imagine the day ahead. I’ve requested four hours off in the morning for spiritual renewal. Oh how I need renewal. The rush of being a pastor preparing for Christmas Eve has warranted the need for stillness and contemplation.
I imagine the ritual of hot coffee, flavored with peppermint. I try to place my journal in my mind’s eye to limit fruitless searching when the daylight comes. I imagine myself in prayerful posture, immersed in scripture, journaling my every insight in a positively pious picture of perfect devotion. But even my daydreaming is quickly dashed by images of changing diapers, scolding overly affectionate dogs, wiping up flung oatmeal from every surface imaginable, and generally keeping the baby from killing herself.
Crawling back into my nest my internal clock alerts me that I won’t be there long. There’s no need to glance at the blue of my cell phone, faithfully charging on my nightstand, to tell me the time. I can feel the stirrings of my baby in my bones from across the house. I can sense her slight bodily rousing, the small rustlings of 10 month old slumber coming to a close. I know without a doubt the time is 4:30.
I’ve just closed my eyes against the inevitable and snuggled up to the warm back of my partner when I begin to hear them, the murmurs of my daughter slowly becoming aware of her alone-ness. She is not afraid. She is simply speaking to the darkness of her nursery as if it’s a friend. The mumbles filter through the monitor at my side, a comfort and a sleep deterrent. The long night is over.
I sigh away my warmth and dreams and rise to the chilly house, blue with the early dawn. I enter her nursery and am greeted with a toothy grin as my toddler (toddler?) stands in her crib, ready to greet the day. My arms instinctively wrap around her as I pull her close, breathing her in. She smells of sweet sleep and her own deep natural musk that I can’t describe but could identify anywhere.
We begin our morning ritual of rocking and talking as she points to everything and nothing, saying “Da. Dat. Da,” over and over, revealing her kingdom to me with the abandon of perfect trust. While my body continues to ache for rest, my spirit is renewed.
And I realize motherhood is my daily devotion.