Sleep Training: A Tired Mother’s Lament Pt. 2

Last night at 11:20 p.m., Elliott had a spell of not going back to sleep for me, nursing her, or for Ryan walking her, which almost always works, and involves only a marginal amount of tears. At 1:00 a.m., Ryan decided enough was enough, and implemented the CIO method. He sat by her crib and reassured her every few minutes, but didn’t touch her or pick her up. And she cried. It took her about 15 minutes to really ramp up, but as she grew more tired, more frustrated, more confused and angry, she wailed.

I sat on the floor in her room, so she couldn’t see me, and cried, though quietly, just as hard as she did. Matching her intensity and her anger, and frustration, I resented everyone who ever told us imperiously that we should do the CIO method, that it worked wonders for their family. I hated Ryan for insisting on doing it, and I burned with hatred for the entire CIO institution. At 2:00 in the morning I would’ve set anyone who crossed me on FIRE.

By 2:05, Elliott’s exhausted whimpers waned and rolled in tides. As she’d feebly push herself up on her hands, and cry out, sob, then sink back down to the mattress with her face pressed down, and cry into the mattress quietly, lift herself up, cry out, and fall back to the bed, exhausted, whimpering. And I sobbed silently in the corner, aching to hold her and rock her, to nurse her and to channel all the positive energy and love I could into her tiny, tired body.

By 2:15, she was asleep. Ryan and I left the room, and I collapsed onto the couch, crying out all of the guilt and anger, the sadness and the pity, asking Ryan why he didn’t talk to me about it first, why he blind sided all of us with it, and still resenting him, and everyone else.

By 2:45, I was calm, Ryan was calm, and we were at peace. I no longer burned with the fire of a thousand hateful suns, and thank God, Elliott was still asleep. The downside of not crying is realizing the intense physical pain in your face. I couldn’t breathe through my nose, and my face ACHED, like it was experiencing a migraine from my forehead to my jaw. I’m sure this was from contorting my face into positions I can only assume were horror-film-worthy.

By 3:00 a.m., I was in bed and falling asleep. Elliott had rustled and cried out, but only once and then was sound asleep without any intervention.I had dreams all night long that things in our house kept getting broken. Mirrors, windows, car mirrors, and it was going to cost us a fortune to replace everything.

At 6:00 a.m., Elliott woke up, Ryan and I went into her room, I quietly took her into the rocking chair and nursed her while stroking her face and talking quietly, or humming to her, to make sure she didn’t fall asleep while nursing. When she was finished, Ryan took her, and I left the room. From what he tells me, it took her about 10-15 minutes to fall asleep that time, and she did cry, but not nearly as much as she did at 2:00.

At 9:00 a.m. she woke up, babbling and cooing. I ran in eagerly calling out to my little peanut, my little bean, and she smiled and giggled, scrunched up her body with glee, and reached out for me saying “ma ma ma ma!” She nursed briefly, and then it was off to the living room for play time.

Now it’s nap time, and I’m listening to my baby cry over a monitor while Ryan sits next to her crib, gently shushing and reassuring her, as she wails and whimpers. AND I STILL HATE IT.

Maybe you’ll say to me, “Oh, it’s hard now, but when Elliott is sleeping through the night and putting herself to sleep for naps, you’ll feel so much better and you’ll realize it was worth it.” And maybe I will be more rested, and maybe I’ll get mad at Ryan less, but every time I look at her, I’ll know that I left her to cry.  And I’ll know that I did this because everyone else wanted to, and because I was at the end of my rope. And on the nights when Elliott regresses, and I’m up at 2 a.m. listening to a crying, desperate baby, I’ll still resent everyone who told us to do it, and hate myself for listening. So, is it worth it? For the sleep, probably. And For my relationship, probably. Ryan feels really good about what’s happening. He is sympathetic, of course, but loves to watch Elliott figure this out. He says “I don’t know how to explain it, but I feel like this is the most intimate interaction I’ve had with Elliott.” “You can see the moment when she feels it and it clicks, when she realizes falling asleep is something she doesn’t need to fear, that moment when she senses herself dozing off, it’s ok, I’m here, and it’s a safe place for her to fall asleep.” At the same time he would never be a proponent of the CIO method. “I think you have to pray and study to know what is right for your baby.”

I’m comforted to know Ryan is there, and has such positive feelings about how this is working for Elliott. It’s still hard for me to let her cry, but I think Ryan is right, that Elliott was ready for this, and she’s getting it. I think maybe I just wasn’t ready for it. I don’t think I’m the kind of person who will ever “be ready” for it, but I can hear the moment when Elliott stops crying, and sits there quietly and drifts to sleep, and I know it’s working for her. It’s just hard.

No, it’s not hard, it’s THE WORST.

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