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Getting Over My “Not Enough” Syndrome

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“Please God, help me sleep!” That was my prayer, my urgent plea, while lying in bed wide awake three days after the birth of my son. I was beyond exhausted and I knew I only had a short window before I’d have to wake up again to feed him. My baby boy had just fallen asleep after his middle of the night feeding, and I desperately wanted to fall back asleep before he woke up again. My body ached with exhaustion and the pains of a still-healing episiotomy.

The problem was, I was wide awake. And in this state of being wide awake, I found myself contemplating the worthiness of bothering God with my desperate plea to sleep. I’ve asked for, and received, a lot of things over the years, big and small: a good job; a husband; a short line at the airport so I don’t miss my connecting flight; warm weather for my week of holidays. I had prayed like crazy for a child. At the age of 38, there was no way I took for granted a healthy pregnancy and now, the arrival of a healthy, eight pound baby boy.

I admit that over the years I have suffered from what I like to call the “not enough” syndrome. I’m not pretty enough; I’m not talented enough; I’m not ambitious enough; I’m not spontaneous enough; I don’t earn enough. There are even competing “not enough’s” such as: I don’t work hard enough and I don’t spend enough time with my family. I relate to this as a syndrome that disproportionately affects Jews, kind of like lactose intolerance (yes, I am lactose intolerant) although I’m sure we Jews haven’t cornered the market on feelings of inadequacy (or on lactose intolerance, for that matter).

Lying awake in the middle of the night, I took stock of everything I have in my life, from a loving husband to a compelling and dynamic professional career (albeit one that was on hold for the moment), from clean drinking water to a beautiful baby boy, and I realized for the first time in my life that I had everything I’d ever asked for.

I can’t promise that I won’t ever ask for more. I’ve already made a few requests just today: please keep my son healthy, and please help me remember the tune for my Torah chanting in two weeks when we do a baby blessing ceremony at our synagogue. But I hope I will keep in mind that I no longer need to feel that I don’t have enough.

So in the middle of begging for sleep with my 3-day-old son sleeping soundly next to me, I switched my prayer. Thank you, I whispered. Thank you for everything.


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