Note: this post was written several months ago, and for reasons only my one-year-old knows, I never published it. Feel free to ask him what those reasons are, but don’t be bummed when his response is “Uppie.”
Pre-baby, I never understood why sleep was such a big deal. Sure, I heard parent friends lamenting their serious lack of shut-eye, made note of the unconcealed bags under their eyes, and witnessed them leaving dinner parties before they technically even started to swaddle their little ones in bed. But until I brought home my own little bundle of insomniacal joy, I just didn’t get it. I figured sleep was so obvious. I mean, any idiot can do it… right?
A champion sleeper myself, I assumed any offspring of mine would be able to nap any time, any place (like me), slumber peacefully and deeply with the curtains opened wide and sunlight streaming in (like me), and hit REM jackpot within four minutes of head making contact with pillow (like me). In my calculations, I forgot to factor in my son’s specific genetic make-up, which is, after all, fifty percent my husband’s. Ethan happens to be a big proponent of black-out shades, melatonin, and avoiding caffeine 37 hours before bed.
Ethan’s DNA aside, my baby was, well, a baby. A few months into our new son’s life — and countless sleepless nights under our belts — we realized that “this whole sleep problem” wasn’t going away on its own. So we made sleep training our child a top priority. We were both back at full-time jobs with long commutes, and even though our cutie was only waking once per night, it felt unmanageable, and like it warranted a full-scale, all-hands-on-deck family strategy. We needed him sleeping, stat, so we bit the bullet and hired a sleep consultant, even though it made us feel like, well, the kind of parents who would hire a sleep consultant. She turned out to be a glorified personal trainer who yells at you if you “go in” at 3am and shames you into forcing your babe to cry it out (I can send you her info; she’s lovely). Within a week, Wee One was sleeping a solid 12 hours a night and was happy doing it. He slept better; we slept better. Group hugs all around.
Having narrowly escaped a sleepless future, Ethan and I became strict constructionists about Wee One’s sleep routine. Bedtime was not to be messed with OR ELSE. We were vigilant about sleep sack choice and always made a fuss about inter-crib stuffed animal positioning. When Wee One’s white noise machine recently broke, the one that aids him in peaceful zzz’s, we went into total panic mode until we realized that, miraculously, he didn’t seem to need it anymore.
After our kiddo’s first birthday, I noticed us getting a little more lax about some of our rules. But even if we tested the boundaries by going on a trip and bringing him into our bed for a night, when we returned home, things always went right back to normal. (Co-sleepers, I don’t know how you do it. My child spends most of the night kicking us in the face or conducting dental exams). Once, after an exhausting plane ride, our toddler came home and actually reached for his crib, which was, to say the least, momgasmic.
Admittedly, our success in the sleep training realm gave me a big head. Unlike pretty much all other parenting topics, sleep was the only one that I felt I had cracked, and I found myself being annoyingly smug about it — even writing cringe-worthy advice on moms boards like, “Let him cry or he’ll control you forever” or some such directive like “if you rock him to sleep YOU’LL BE DOING IT UNTIL HE’S EIGHTEEN.” I felt proud of having the willpower to bear the CIO (Cry It Out) and was clearly justifying my own choice to let my kid wail by preaching it all over the place. (To be fair, I usually couched my suggestions in “if you want’s” and “if it works for you’s”). When a friend or acquaintance admitted that their one-year-old was still waking up at night, I’d shake my head and offer our sleep consultant’s number, adding the grim warning that “results aren’t guaranteed after six months of age.”
Still, I thought we had it all figured out… until this past week. Our kiddo was so sick, we broke all our rules and let him share our bed. He’s better now, fully capable of going back to his old routine. He’s also one week older. And one week smarter. He wakes up crying in his crib and reaches for our room. Why? Well, it’s obvious. HE WANTS TO BE IN THE MAGICAL PLACE WHERE THE GROWN-UPS SLEEP.
Is this sleep training karma? Am I getting my comeuppance, my just desserts for believing so confidently that I had mastered anything parenting-related? I’m afraid oh yes. If this whole sleep training experience has been a lesson, it’s in not ever thinking I actually have the upper hand, because — let’s face it — in the ultimate battle between mother and child, we know who’s going to win, and he’s under two and hearts Elmo.
And yet, I know what I have to do if our household is ever going to attempt to be well-rested again. Like a gentle dictator, I have to stay strong. If that means blasting episodes of Hoarders into my headphones while my kiddo cries it out, then so be it. It’s gonna be a rough few days, but let’s hope by Friday he’s fully back to his routine, and I’m peacefully dreaming about sexy vampires once more.
Have your children ever experienced a similar sleep regression? Are you a fan (or fanatic) of Cry it Out? If you co-sleep, how do you avoid waking up to a small child petting your face? xox