Truth be told, I have not slept “well” for over a year now. (“Well” means the kind of sleep where I lay passed out dead for 12 hours straight. The kind of sleep that I often resorted to in my pre- Zoe days.) And whenever I mention this fact to anyone, I get one of three responses.
1. Awkward commiseration- the person has no children and therefore cannot even remotely comprehend what I am talking about. Hence, try to be polite and considerate. Nod and smile.
2. An uncalled for lecture on how this is inevitable. That it is a part of parenthood and that I should not complain. I am blessed to have a child and should therefore not be concerned with such petty, trivial matters.
3. Expert opinions on baby sleep- I am told I am doing it all wrong. I should let her sleep on her own. I should not be nursing at night now. I should let her self- soothe. I should let her cry a bit. I am “spoiling” my baby and making her a brat by letting her have her way. I should be sleep training her.
First of all, I am not complaining. I just have no filter or a very poor one installed between my brain and my mouth. My thoughts are often voiced out loud, much to my chagrin. So, when I mention my lack of sleep; it isn’t necessarily a complaint. It is most likely a mere statement of fact. A verbalization of thought.
Secondly, I do consider my Zoe to be the greatest gift I have received. Yes. But I shall still complain about parenthood if I feel like so. I shall also discipline her when needed.
And finally, I will not let her cry to sleep. Call me a bad mother all you want- if letting my ten month old sleep in my bed is bad parenting, so be it. I do lose some sleep every night. I do have to shush her to sleep in the middle of the night sometimes. I may even have to nurse. I shall do so until I feel comfortable doing so. I shall shift her to her own bed when I deem it fit.
And yes, what really does one mean by the term self- soothing? My little one does not like dummies/ pacifiers/soothers of any kind. She does not even take a bottle. She does not suck her thumb. And she sure as hell can’t read, sing, hum or count to sleep. So, how does she “soothe” herself?
To be honest, I was at wit’s end about 5 months ago. My usually pleasant, happy, good night- sleeping 4 month old suddenly turned into a wailing- all- night, waking-up-every- hour sort of baby. We did everything we could think of. We sang to her. We tried white- noise. Mr. H walked around the house in the middle of the night rocking her in his arms. I eliminated everything in my diet, that we were told could cause her tummy troubles. We tried bed- time baths and massages. We tip- toed around her, dimmed the lights and basically lived out our lives on mute when she slept. Nothing worked. Except relentless, comfort nursing.
I was running low on patience, sleep and sanity. I was at breaking point. The lack of sleep and exhaustion was draining every ounce of dulcetness and energy from me. I was morose, irritable and miserable. Overall, a very unpleasant person to live with.
I started to look up “sleep troubles in babies” online. With blood- shot eyes I read reams and reams of research and articles on sleep training in babies. I visited parenting blogs and forums. I envied the parents of babies who slept well.
One night, a particularly dark and dreary one at that, Lil Zoe woke up every 45 minutes. By 4 am, I was not myself anymore. Mr H was lost too. I had read about the CIO (cry it out) method and at that point in time; it seemed like something I should try. Like I mentioned before, it was a particularly dark night and I was not myself. Why else would I even consider letting my baby cry.
I did let her cry. Violently. Mr H stood by me. Supportive to whatever I thought was right. I am not sure for how long she cried. But she did ultimately fall asleep. In five minutes maybe. Or ten?
Those were ten sick, very, very horrid minutes. And even after she fell asleep, I lay awake. Cold and miserable. And in tears.
I woke up the next morning, dull and fagged out. My Lil Zoe was her usual chirpy, happy, morning- self. I felt weirdly guilty though. Everything seemed off with the world. And though I often say “Never say Never”, I told myself that I would never repeat the previous night again. I would never let my baby cry herself to sleep again. Not when every cell and instinct in my body was telling me it felt wrong. To hell with the sleep experts and baby- books.
I went back to lulling, shushing, rocking,nursing and singing my baby to sleep. I soldiered on.
Night after night. Sleepless night after sleepless night. Mr H did what he could.
I must have completely spoiled my child by now. She probably has become irreversibly dependent on me to fall asleep. I must have mollycoddled her beyond repair. Probably.
Probably that is why she is a good sleeper now. Who goes to bed before Mama does, that too in no time and without much help from her. And wakes up bright and happy and smiley.
I am not sure when she transitioned, but the crazy- fractured- sleep days did come to an end. It was a phase. A phase that almost broke me.
I do not mind the occasional break in my night snooze. I honestly, truly don’t. I sometimes wake up, check on her and fall right back into deep sleep. Just like that. And I can now function brilliantly even if I am a couple of hours sleep deprived.
I am glad I never resorted to CIO. To parents who do, or have done- it is your choice. I am not one to judge, comment or criticize. We are all just doing the best we can. And we all learning and making things up as we go along. We all make mistakes. Parenthood is one long log of mistakes and regrets. But I do have a word of advice/ friendly suggestion for parents who are facing baby- sleep troubles- JUST HANG IN THERE!
It will get better, I promise! Don’t believe me? How many ten- year olds do you know who have to be rocked or nursed to sleep?
Till next time..