My youngest child, Ruth Cate, cried out a few nights ago at 1:45AM. As an almost three year old, she still wakes up pretty often in the night. Sometimes she has to use the potty, other times she needs me to wrap her blankets back around her because she gets cold, or on a particularly tragic night, one of her babies falls out of bed and I have to rescue the poor soul before Ruth Cate will return to sleep. On this particular night however, she had a bad dream. I could tell immediately by the way she cried out. It was fear that I detected in her little voice. And it startled me awake.

Most of the time, I sleep right at the edge of completely awake. This is one part of motherhood that no one tells you about. Most moms that I know hear the sound of their children crying in their heads all the time. I remember many times when mine were in their first year of life when I would wake up hearing them cry and rush to their rooms only to find them fast asleep. We are always hearing the sound of their cries even when it is silent. And we are certainly always listening for it. This is why I ran.

My heart was racing and my head was spinning as I felt adrenaline course through my body rendering me fully awake and feeling alive. There she was, sitting up in her little bed in the corner of her bedroom. The pink walls were a soft glow because of the street lights outside mixing with the darkness of the room. This made the entire space look rose gold. I could smell the baby lotion I lathered her in after her bath more than 7 hours ago. Her blonde, curly hair was a disheveled mess around her face. Without thinking, I climbed into her little bed, a space far too small for the both of us. Usually I pick her up and place her in my lap in the chair and rock her back to sleep but something about tonight compelled me to crawl right next to her and get as close to her as I physically could. It is only now looking back on this moment that I wonder about why I did that. Intuition, I guess. As we lie there, I tenderly kissed her little button nose, then both of her cheeks. “I’m right here,” I whispered as if telling her a long kept secret that she’d never heard before. “You don’t have to be afraid.” The truth is, I’d told her these things her entire life. “I am right here. You don’t have to be afraid.” I had said them quietly, as I was now, in dark nights, through sicknesses and real-life fear. I had said them loudly and with as much clarity as I could muster in daylight hours in response to skinned knees and sibling conflicts. She knew they were true, she had heard them on repeat her whole life. But in these moments at 1:45AM, in the aftermath of a bad dream, she needed to hear them again. So I said them to her as I stroked her hair gently away from her face and as I tenderly caressed her eyebrows, forehead and hair line to soothe her back to sleep. “I’m right here. You don’t have to be afraid.”

Once she was sound asleep, I snuck out of her bed and back downstairs to my own, trying desperately not to wake my husband. Oftentimes I have an impossible time falling back to sleep, especially after being startled awake in the middle of the night. After a half an hour had passed, I begin to notice what I was doing. As I lay there in the dark, listening to the hum of the fan and the June bugs crashing full speed ahead into the window and trying to be as still and quiet as I could, I noticed I was soothing myself back to sleep. I was stroking my own hair, gently moving the fallen pieces back away from my face. I noticed how soothing the sensation was. And I breathed in a deep sigh of great pleasure. As the pleasure swept over me, this prayer came to me from a place so deep in my soul, all I can know is that it was from God.

“I’m right here, God said. “And you don’t have to be afraid. There is nothing, hear me, NO thing, you can do to cause me to love you any more or any less than this. Right here, in this moment, you are full and complete, whole and holy, and fully wrapped up in my love. So rest, my child. Breathe in deep the sweet safety of this truth: I’m right here and you don’t have to be afraid.”

I finally dozed off to sleep very aware of how good and holy it felt to be there mothering myself and being mothered by God.