I thought it was teething. First one tooth, then two. Then three, and four. Then maybe it was a cold. Stuffy nose. He can't sleep because he's congested. And then it started to downward spiral. No predicable naps. Bouncing him on a yoga ball for up to forty-five minutes only to have him wake up twenty three minutes later. Put him in the boba, wear him around the house until my back wants to break from juggling a nearly twenty-five pound 9 month old around. Nurse to sleep? More like nurse to bite. He was up so much during the night, that some nights it wasn't even worth trying to go back to sleep. All of my tricks and crutches and props that used to work like magic.... poof, done bar. He wanted nothing to do with any of them.
The straw the broke the tired Mama camel's back
My breaking point was a Monday night. He hadn't ate well all day, thanks to tooth number five. So genius me thought I should dream feed him at 9:30pm to top him off, and then I'll hit the sack. Really Stephanie? Really? Dumbest. Idea. Ever. I rocked him. Nothing. Nursed him. Pursed lips, head turned, no thanks Mom I'm full. Wore him. Ah fun! I can see the world! Covered his head with a blanket while wearing him to block out the world. No problem Mom, I can rip that blanket off and play peek-a-boo. Take blanket away. *insert melt-down here* I WANTED TO PLAY PEEK-A-BOO. Clutch him as he nearly back flips out of my boba. Roll my eyes and remind myself that I wanted children. Alright, next trick. Bounced and bounced and bounced on the yoga ball until my lower back felt like it was going to break.
I've got Katy Perry on my hands. It's 12:30 in the morning and he's wide awake. I put him down on our bed out of sheer frustration and my husband and I stare at our giggling son who is ready to rock and roll and we have no idea what to do now. My child wants to play, and there is NO damn way I'm putting him down on the floor to play for only God knows how long with his toys in the middle of the bloody night. So I pick up my mini Kim Jong-un. Full of resentment and anger that was fueled by the last three months that I had been deprived of sleep, I stomped downstairs, turned on my PVR to watch the Apprentice while I wore and bounced that little dictator into la-la land. It was past one o'clock and they were already in the board room before he finally passed out.
I tip-toe my zombie ass to his crib to enter phase two of this hellish ordeal to play the game of j-j-j-janga of trying to put him down. You take a hand from his bottom and you try to pull it out. You take your hand from his head and hope he doesn't shout. You stand there for a minute and pray he doesn't pout. Shhhhhh. Shhhhhhh. Shhhhhhh. (I'm now fluent in parsel-tongue with the amount I shush my son.) I tip toe backwards out of the room with my hands up like I'm ready to jump double dutch rope as I meander carefully through the landmind that is the hardwood floor, praying the floor doesn't squeak because if he wakes up I might just die from exhaustion. Shhhhhhh. Shhhhhhhh. Shhhhhhhh. As gentle as I can, close the door--- careful to keep the knob fully turned as I cushion the sound of the door closing. Slooooowly release the handle. Shhhhhhhh. Shhhhh--what? Why am I still shushing in the hallway? Ok, it's 1:30. Time to drag my ass to bed.
A New Day
Six in the morning comes quick when you're completely exhausted. Time to start the day again. Except I'm done. I can't do it anymore. I'm so freaking tired that tears are streaming down my face as I stare at my smiling little boy that I barely have the energy to pick up let alone play with. So here I am. Finally defeated. Pushed into the corner like a rabid raccoon desperately trying to find a way out. I have no other choice. I shall train this little dictator to sleep.
Now I've read lots of books on making a baby sleep. Ok I'm lying, I've read two. Alright fine, I'm being generous with the word read -- I've perused two. (What mother has the time to read anyways...) But neither of them worked for me. My son would not be pigeoned holed into their methods, because there is nothing E.A.S.Y. about my head strong little son and while I'm sure he's healthy there's nothing happy about this child when he goes to sleep. Then thanks to the heavens for a wonderful fellow Mama who posted the pdf of Sleep Sense on this life-saving group of local Moms I belong to on Facebook. I bounced my little tirant to sleep for his morning nap for the last time, and quickly read up on torturing, I mean sleep training, my son. I had just enough time to read the important points before he was up and ready to go again. Then I figured with the first eye-rub in the afternoon, it's game on. Nothing else works, what have we got to lose?
The Horrible, Awful, Nauseating, First Attempt
He rubs his eye, gives me a little yawn, and I pounce on him to commence the afternoon nap of hell. Seventy-five minutes of screaming. Like, blood curdling I'm about to get murdered by Freddy Krugar screaming. Seventy-five excruitiating minutes filled with self-doubt and horrible guilt. As I hold my child's chest so he can't roll over and stand up to do his best impression of the Ultimate Warrior, I'm convinced that I'm emotionally scaring my son for life and that if anyone walks by my house they're certainly calling Child Protective Services on me for torturing my wee-child. I stayed in the room, because I didn't want my child to feel abandoned but he still cried so hard that he vomited like the girl in the exorcist. Calmly I cleaned the mess, changed my furious and very tired son, and put him back down in his crib. Time has never moved slower than those seventy-five emotionally exhausting minutes. During which I knew I had to persevere or all of this horribliness would be for nothing and that wasn't fair to my sweet boy. Then it happened. Like a light switch. Eyes closed. Done. I walked out of the room feeling like the worst mother in the world and I cried. There was nothing else to do but cry.
But I made a commitment, and my husband was on board so night time came and it was time to go at it again. I warned my husband of the emotional strain it would cause but we both assured ourselves that we needed to do this. We had to teach our son how to fall asleep. Perhaps a better idea would have been to shut off the baby monitor upstairs because the bellowing just echoed in our house making me feel all the more guiltier for our choices. When he reached for me, I had to place him back to lying down and a peice of me died each time with those sad eyes looking up at me. Tears silently streamed down my face as my husband and I took turns standing over his crib just lying him back down each time he tried to roll over to stand up. Forty-five minutes pass, and something magical happened. His eyes closed, and he slept. Our child for the first time since January slept through the entire night.
It's only been a week of consistently placing him in bed after changing him, nursing him, and reading him a story whether it be for a nap or for bedtime and he able to sleep like a champ. The next day he literally cried for only 15 minutes, but not full out crying just I'm tired and I can't quite figure out how to fall asleep crying. And for the last two days, I put him in his crib and he just closed he eyes and magically fell asleep until morning. Peaceful as can be. To a mother who hasn't had a full nights sleep in over three months and has dreaded bedtime for the battle royal that it had become, let me tell you that there is really nothing more beautiful.
I never thought I'd say this but sleep training was the smartest thing I ever did with him. I judged it. Convinced it was damaging the child. Scoffed at the fictional people who could just place their children down in bed and they fell asleep. Thought now's not the right time, a thousands times. I'm not strong enough today. I'm not rested enough today. I just can't do it today. But when pushed up against the wall I learned a few things. I am a parent and my son only knows what I have shown him how to do. If the only way he fell asleep his whole life was by being bounced, then how on earth would he know how to fall asleep otherwise? And, it's okay if he cries. It really is. I know that he's fed and clean, and really is just protesting going to bed. And if he cried like that when I take my car keys out of his mouth, do I give in and give him my keys because he's crying? Nope. He has to learn that keys don't go in the mouth. So why is it any different when I'm teaching him about sleep?
It's only been a week since I started this, and I feel like a brand new woman. He naps at regular times and just today actually fell asleep on my shoulder as I was leaving a friends house. Now you need to understand that two weeks ago my child would have had a bloody tantrum that only ended in damaged ear drums when he was over tired. Today he knew how to fall asleep, so, because he was tired, he did. Short term unhappiness for a lifetime of gain. It's my real first encounter with tough love and I don't regret a minute of it.
To put it into perspective -- I know in the future he's not going to like doing his math homework but I'm going to make him do it anyways because he needs acquire that skill. My son didn't know how to fall asleep on his own, so I taught him how when I was ready to. There were tears, on both ends, but he's better off for it and learned far quicker than I thought he would. And as for those "no-cry" sleep training solutions? They were obviously written by childless assholes to make mothers like me feel like a douche when their child cries when you put them down in their crib when they're not completely passed out. Yes, a baby is going to instantly prefer a crib over a mothers warm arms and delicious smelling breasts and put up no fuss EVER when put down. I call bullshit.
Guaranteed gentle solutions to solve all your sleep problems? Nothing in a sleeping baby's life is guaranteed except that his diaper will be full of piss when he wakes up. And unless you're planning on slipping my kid a Lunesta, my head strong little Northern Korean dictator will evilly laugh in your hippie 'go-to-sleep-gently-methods' face. And just because you could 'gently' tell your four children that you're no longer co-sleeping with them, doesn't mean you know how to train everyone else's children how to sleep. So stop claiming you can and stop making me feel like an asshole for finding a way that works for me.
Now I'm sure there will be bumps along the road and we'll have to do a sleep tune-up here and there, but in the end -- I'm happier and so is my son. We're both well rested and I'm getting back to feeling like a human again. I finally feel like I have time again. I made my bed, did some laundry, and I even had time to take a shower and do my hair today. Ah, the things we used to take for granted...
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