How long is this going to take? How old will our son be before he sleeps through the night comfortably? I've hesitated in writing this post for a long time because, quite honestly, I don't want or need the judgment of any other moms about this topic. I'm already stressed enough without hearing the opinions of everyone else on what I should be doing or how I should do things differently.
We've been struggling with sleep, off and on, pretty much from eight (or so) months forward. As soon as we tried to start getting C. to go to sleep on his own, it became a problem. It hasn't been a problem throughout every stage and we have had some successful periods with him sleeping through the night for enough nights that I think we've finally broken through. Then something changes (illness, schedule change, etc.) and the struggle starts again. I am fully aware that we have played into this problem in some ways. The simple truth is that neither one of us is good at letting our baby cry. There are many factors that go into this. First is the fact that we waited so long for him. We've already spent enough nights with empty arms and sad hearts. Listening to our little one cry while we sit in another room, miserable at the sound of his angst, is not something either of us has ever dealt with well. Couple that with the fact that our little boy, with very few exceptions, is always happy and you can see why it's been a challenge. When he does get upset, he's dramatic. He gets huge crocodile tears that melt your heart and make you want to do anything to make them stop. He knows how to push our buttons well and push them he does. None of that is to say though, that we haven't done some things "by the book," so to speak. We've always had a simple bedtime routine and we've tried to stay consistent with things like how long we are willing to let him cry, what we say when we go in to comfort him and so on. Some might think of us as coddlers but the bottom line for me has always been that I want to parent from an attachment standpoint. From an adoption perspective, attachment is critical. From the moment I laid eyes on our tiny baby, I knew that if there was one thing I didn't want to mess up, that was it. To that end, we have been highly successful; however, C's sleeping habits have been another matter.
None of this is new to me. I "helped" all of the parents of former children I cared for get their babies to sleep by telling them to let the babies CIO, within reason. Now I'm wondering if I didn't make things harder for them. Knowing what I know now about being a mom, I can't help but wonder if I should have just kept my mouth shut back then. I don't think our efforts with C. have been an utter failure. He does sleep, he just wants someone to be there with him. Somewhere along the way, my emotional connection to him got the better of my rational reasoning about how to sleep train a baby. One thing I've learned is that the very act of being the parent of another human being is rather irrational at times.
All that said, and with all the ups and downs of this whole process, things have gotten much worse in the past week or so. I think lots of things are going on. I think C. is entering a new stage of cognitive development in which he is more aware of our interactions and he's testing his limits, testing us to see what happens when... I also think he may be teething and/or growing, which can both cause disruptions in sleep patterns. Add to all that the fact that he will be starting daycare in a couple of weeks, (and you all know how I feel about that) which has made me want to work that much harder to get him to sleep peacefully on his own. Whew! Well, it's not that hard to see why the whole thing has gone "tits up" to coin a lovely phrase my husband likes to use when things are really a mess.
So that brings us to tonight. I am on the verge of tears as I type this right now. I just let our son cry himself to sleep for 57 minutes. You read that right, three minutes short of AN HOUR. Now I'm thinking, "What have I done?" I'm a horrible mother...he's going to be scarred for life...on and on. My rational mind knows he will be fine. It knows that even if my decisions tonight were a big, fat mistake (which they quite possibly were) he will survive. What was that thing about motherhood being irrational again? Well...you get the point. He did cry himself to sleep. He did eventually give up. The interminable question though, is should I have let him? I honestly just couldn't do it anymore tonight. The past couple of weeks, particularly the past three days or so have been exhausting. Last night I was up until 1:00 with him and then by 4:45 he was in our bed. He hasn't been napping well either, sleeping in 20-40 minute spurts. So on one hand, we have an exhausted baby who is clearly not his typical, happy self, coupled with a mama who just needs a break and on the other hand we have a baby who has to scream for nearly an hour before finally falling asleep. Do you see why this is so hard for me? Why it seems that either way I go is wrong? I don't want to coddle him to the point that he thinks he can manipulate us and that he won't nap at daycare...but I'm also not at all happy with letting him cry for that long. In fact, I'm pretty sure I won't be able to do that again, unless I go outside or something.
I guess the decision of where to go from here will have to be based on what happens next. Will he make it through the night because he cried himself to sleep, or will it not really matter? Will he wake up happy and refreshed, or will the screaming resume the second he opens his eyes? After reading this article and post on Ashely's blog the other day, this has been on my mind a lot. In any case, it's neither here nor there. I did what I thought was best tonight, and now I'm second guessing myself like crazy. There en lies part of the problem. I need to make up my mind on how we're gong to handle the current problems we're having, then we need to be firm and consistent until this phase passes. I know that in my rational mind but well...what was that thing about motherhood being irrational?
My final thoughts on this are that every child is unique, and as such, they each have unique needs. Child and parent relationships are unique too, which certainly factors into the equation. I think I used to think, before becoming a mom, that this wasn't that difficult. That if you did basically the same thing with any kid, sleeping would become a non-issue. Only now can I see how wrong I was. How hard this is from the parenting perspective. Knowing C. as I do, I realize he is an exceptionally people-oriented child. He is always in tune to people and what they are doing, saying, etc. He is a social butterfly. I honestly think, on a primal level, he doesn't want to be alone. Therefore, I think that for him, sleeping through the night is harder than it might be for some other children. Perhaps that's just me justifying the situation in which we now find ourselves, I don't know. The bottom line though, is that I do know my son better than anyone else out there and I know what does and doesn't work for him...for us. Now I just have to pair that with my knowledge of child development and my prior experiences and we should be able to solve this problem yet. There...maybe a little positive energy will go a long way. I certainly hope so because I am pooped!
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