A Lesson Learned…

Okay, so maybe I was wrong. (Yes, men, sometimes women do admit these things. Ask Hubby, I do readily admit when I’m wrong. The fact that it simply doesn’t happen very often isn’t my fault.)

No, let me amend that. As a mother, I am learning. I am learning new things about being a parent and I am learning new things about Monkey every single day. Yesterday I learned two things:
1. There will be times when your child is sick and it is a little scary. It is scarier when he has developed an all-over rash with small blisters that two doctors and a pharmacist cannot identify.
2. Sometimes you need to take a risk. Because every so often it will pay off.

Here’s what I mean:

I was (note the past tense!) so tired of being tired. Just when Hubby and I had accepted our crappy sleep situation with relatively open arms (ok, they were bent at the elbow, I’ll admit), things got worse. And worse. And worse. I was okay with having Monkey start the night in his crib then move into our room somewhere between midnight and two to snuggle and co-sleep the rest of the night. But two nights ago I hit my breaking point when he was in bed with me at 8:50 (WHAT?!) and we tossed and turned together until starting our day dark and early at 5:50am. During one of our night wakings where I was patting his little bum with increasing frustration and increasing pressure, I wondered what the hell I was doing. I was so sure that I couldn’t let him “cry it out” to get to sleep. Positive that that was a wrong move for him and for us. Certain it wouldn’t work. But how was this better? How was I doing any of us a favour by having him wake so often in the night? Were those little spurts of crying 10 times a night any better than just letting him get it all out at the start of the night? I didn’t know. I still don’t. I probably never will because obviously he can’t tell me. Hubby hasn’t spent many nights at home since the end of the summer so this night waking thing is all on me.

I was dead set against cry it out (again, note the past tense). I have talked to a million people about it who all say the same thing, “It will work”. I never doubted that, to be honest, I just didn’t want to do it. To picture his tiny face all screwed up with big tears rolling down his soft, pink cheeks, was more than I could handle. It made me feel guilty.

Then two things happened (I’m going to list them because I like lists):
1. I read some things online (again. I’m addicted. There are worse vices.) One of them hit home: “Doing what’s right for your child doesn’t always mean doing what makes him happy”. Hm. Damn. That’s a good point.
2. I talked to Aunt S, my best friend’s Mom. In yet another discussion about Monkey’s sleep I casually said, “Everyone has told me to let him cry it out.”. Her: “Everyone?”. Me: “Everyone.” Her: “Seems pretty cut and dry then, doesn’t it?”. Damn. Another good point. She appealed to the teacher in me by saying, “You’re a teacher. You need to TEACH Monkey how to sleep. He doesn’t know”.

I’m staying with my parents right now so I talked the idea over with them because obviously his night wakings and potentially long drawn out crying sessions would impact them, too. They know how tired I am so they readily hopped on board (one with a little more zest than the other, but still, both on board).

I decided that the plain old Cry-It-Out approach still wasn’t quite for me so decided on the middle road of the Ferber Method. I decided to give it a try with the self-understanding that this was MY choice and there was no one holding a gun to my head so I could abandon it whenever I wanted if I felt it was too hard.

So we began. After Monkey had his warm bath, his new antibiotic cream applied to his medical mystery rash, new jammies on, book, bottle, and snuggles. I gently put him in his crib. I explained to him how the night would go (you never know, he might just understand) and left the room. I set the timer on my shiny new iPhone for 2 minutes. Of course he cried the minute I walked away. I went into my room next door, closed the door, turned on the TV and distracted myself by puttering around online. The timer dinged, I went in, pat his back (he was standing), kissed his head, told him I loved him and left. He cried harder. The timer dinged, I repeated the process. I set the timer for 5 minutes but when it dinged all was quiet. Oh Holy Sweet Mother of Jesus my child was actually asleep. I felt euphoric. We had done it. Together Monkey and I made it through the first attempt. No hours and hours of crying for either of us. No vomit. We did it.

Instead of writing what would likely end up being a little novel, I’ll summarise the rest of the night by saying he cried out 4 mores times. Two of those times he went back to sleep in less than two minutes. One of them was a little drawn out around 3:15am (half an hour til he was back asleep). At 5:50 am, the time we have been getting up and starting our day for the past several weeks, I brought him into bed figuring he was hungry so I would nurse him and we’d get up. We both fell asleep until 7:45am.

Oh. My. God.

Nap time came this morning so I figured we’d try it again. Less than 15 minutes and two visits from me and he was asleep. Famous for his 30 minute naps I wondered how long this one would last. We just came to the 30 minute mark and he startled me with his little “quirk” (not quite a cry”). I will have to go in in a second and visit him. I can hear that he is quiet (normally he plays in his crib instead of crying if he’s actually done sleeping). But even if this nap is only 30 minutes long we are making progress. He went to sleep on his own. Our night was good (ok, good for us, for you maybe not so much, but we’ll get there). *Note: this nap only lasted 30 minutes. I waited a few intervals, going in to visit, but it seemed he was done so I got him up. No harm done. Nap one: success. 

So Oprah might ask me what I’ve learned or am learning from all of this.
I am learning that you have to stick to your guns. I do not regret not doing this sooner. I wasn’t ready. I am proud that Hubby and I tried everything else first. If I were to do it all again I wouldn’t change how we did things, maybe just how long we spent on each thing (some more some less depending on what we’re talking about).
I am learning that sometimes your child will surprise you.
I am learning that parenting is really damn hard. Just when you think you foresee ways in which you will struggle other new and unpredictable ways pop up and you have to deal with them, too.
I am learning that doing what is best for Monkey sometimes means doing what is best for me, too.
I am learning that doing what is best for Monkey also sometimes means he might be unhappy in the process. It’s hard. It’s really, really hard. I am sitting here now, writing and listening to him cry and it isn’t easy, that’s for sure. But our success last night and at the start of his nap is motivating me to keep going.

I know this isn’t the end of this sleep chapter. We will come across bumps along the road, I know that. But I now know that Monkey is more capable than I thought. And more importantly, I am more capable than I thought. I have to listen to my heart, certainly, but I also have to listen to my head. I am ruled by my heart, I always have been, and sometimes I think my feelings, emotions and in this case guilt get in the way of what makes sense on a rational level.

We will see what the future holds. I know Monkey and I (and Hubby when his course is over) are crossing this bridge together, hand in tiny little hand. We are making me proud. This is the first “big” bridge we are crossing, and our small successes in even this short period of time make me feel that we will continue to cross them together in the future, even as that tiny little hand in mine gets bigger and bigger.

I hope that you are able to cross your parenting bridges, too. I hope you find the courage to take risks to do things you feel you may not be able to do, whatever they may be. And I hope you feel as proud of you and your little babe as I do of myself and mine.

Enjoy your sleep tonight!
🙂 Mel

P.S. I just put Monkey down for the night (this Blog sat unfinished for most of the day)….literally 30 seconds of crying and now not a sound for 10 minutes. Way to go, Monkey!!

8 Comments

  • Wow!! What a difference! I really really really hope he keeps it up – Sounds like he was finally ready to do it on his own 🙂 Yay Mommy!

    (So apparently Monkey swapped with my oldest boy? Up 5 times last night and up at 6am for good! I haven't seen 6am since… ever? I really dislike teething.)

  • Woohoo. Go Monkey. Well done you too for trying something new that you really didnt want to do. Hopefully it is the start of many great nights of sleep.

  • That rocks! So glad you found out what works for you and your little man!

    ~Lisa

  • Congrats Mel! I am so proud of you for taking the risk as it ended up with big rewards 🙂 I am not a fan of the "cry it out" method either but I did use it when we took Ella's soother away and after two nights of crying and needing to be calmed down she was gold! She still wakes up sometimes in the night but it is usually just once for a bum change. Except for right now because she is sick (again) and up every 2hrs. Hope for a good night sleep for us tonight <3

  • I am happy that things are better on the sleep front. I know we tried a lot with the girls and after 10 months was when they were ready for more independence at night. I am proud of you for doing what you knew you and your child were ready for. I always say trust your instincts. I am about to embark on getting an almost 4 year old to sleep in her own bed. She sleeps the night, but beside me. Not a big deal during the week when it is just me, but not good on weekends when husband is home. I think it is a Christmas break obstacle.

  • YAY Monkey and Mommy! I'm glad that things are going well. Totally with you on the not letting him cry it out in the beginning. I couldn't do it either. B's a good sleeper usually but now that he is older, he's ready and I'm ready for a little more cry time when necessary. Sounds like it's working for you too!

    ~Ashley

  • I am happy for you all… Monkey you are getting a big boy…

    The best advice I ever rec'd that makes the crying easier to tolerate…note I said tolerate. "a crying baby is an alive baby." Crying has never bothered me since. Really, who can argue with that.

    xoxoxo

  • Sounds like your sleep was hard won! Could the rash be laundry detergent?

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