I’ve said it time and time again: Baby 1.0 is just not a sleeper. 19 months into it, and we’ve only had a handful of blissful nights where she has actually slept all the way through, and subsequently woke the next morning with enough energy to burn a hole through concrete. Finally, after being pushed to the absolute brink of sleep deprived madness, this weekend my husband and I decided to put our collective parenting foot down, and declared, once and for all: “Enough is enough, Child!”
Until this weekend she would wake, like clockwork, several times a night and cry (scream, wail, holler) until I came in and nursed her back down, which, out of habit and fear of her waking up more, I would do shortly after she started up. While I understood my participation via multiple nightly nursing sessions was contributing to the problem, until this weekend, I didn’t understand it was the whole problem.
In my mind, there were any number of things that factored into her wakefulness. Laying in bed at night, fighting the urge to go in and put her back to sleep with a warm milk nightcap, I would think about all the things that could be keeping her from sleeping, like for example:
1. The air. It’s touching her face. And her hands. Can’t sleep when there’s air, you know, touching your face or hands.
2. She has just discovered she is incapable of moving her ring toe independently of her other toes, and for reasons I will never know, is utterly devastated.
3. Her hair is growing.
4. She can’t find her belly button.
5. She is trying to figure out if she’d rather be stuck on an island with M.C. Escher or MC Hammer.
6. She just realized the important role the thumb plays on the human hand, and her mind is blown.
7. She doesn’t know what a fox says, and doesn’t understand why that video was an internet sensation because obviously a fox wouldn’t say any of those things.
8. She is a vampire, or a mostly bald nocturnal opossum with no tail, and very cute, human-like features.
Until this weekend, these things seemed more plausible than me being the source of the problem. I mean hello? I’m the mom! I’m not the problem! I’m the solution!
And speaking of solutions, we have tried them all. About a year ago we tried the Cry It Out method, which ended in vomit for her, and about 15 gray hairs and a stress ulcer for me. We tried every device, potion, book, website -anything- you name it, we’ve given it a go, all to no effect. Everything, that is, except the old “You Just Have To Figure It Out” method.
After another heinous night of interrupted sleep, my husband looked at me with weary eyes, and for the 100 bagillionth time, asked me in his unflappably gentle way, “what if we just turned the monitor off tonight?” and for the first time, I didn’t fight it.
We knew she was safe. We knew she was comfortable. We knew if she worked herself up enough, we’d hear her through the wall we share. We knew it was time.
That night, after much hemming and hawing, I placed the monitor next to our bed, turned it on, and then with great effort, turned the sound all the way down. For a few minutes I thought of all the horrible things that could happen with the sound off (alien abduction, spider infestation, Bermuda Triangle), and then mid-totally unrealistic worrythought, I fell asleep and slept the whole night. The. Whole. Night. And even better, when I woke up, my baby was alive, sleeping, clothed, and totally fine. Did she sleep the whole night? I honestly have no idea. But if she didn’t, she figured out a way to get herself back down, which is something we’ve been begging her to do (but not allowing her to do), for her whole life. The next night, we repeated the process, and again, we (all?) slept like champs.
Should I have done this months and months ago? Probably. But could I have done this months and months ago? I don’t know. I think as much as she needed to be ready to figure it out, I needed to be ready to let her try. Is this the end of our sleep problems? Probably not. But maybe, just maybe, by showing bravery and trust, we’ve unlocked a new tool to use in the battle against turning into sleep deprived zombie parents.