How is it that after all this time, I'm STILL here? Let me clarify. 'Here' means up at night, listening to that ear splitting mind numbing late night cry that comes back night after night no matter what I have tried. I feel as though I have fallen into a trap of mommy mistakes that I am destined to repeat again and again in order to keep my sanity. Or am I? Have I found a way out, or is it something that I am being tested on and will have no other choice but to give in?
My son STILL wakes in the night. STILL. It's been on and off since he was 4 months old. The bliss that allowed me to have bragging rights after he slept through the night at just 9 weeks lasted just under two months and then things went steadily downhill. At first these wakeful episodes were sporadic, and easily justified with teething, belly cramps, growth spurts, illness, etc. It's amazing what you will tell yourself as a parent to justify interfering with a baby's night time wails. The truth is, you will do ANYTHING sometimes to silence that piercing scream because you just need sleep. Surely that's not too much to ask.
The problem with that is, once you start interfering it becomes a routine. In the past, sometimes his wails would receive immediate gratification - a crib side visit from both mom and dad, a brief belly rub, a fresh nummy and some benedryl for what we believed to be aching teeth and gums. Other times after twenty plus minutes of cries he would get some time in the rocker with mommy and a fresh diaper. Nights when it was longer, and I mean HOURS longer, or none of this worked, one of us would rise and drag our sleepy selves to his fierce screams and rescue him from the throes of his crib. It was here we would commit the ultimate crime - I would nurse him and we would allow him to fall back to sleep in our bed between us. These desperate measures soon became habit, because more often than not, they were the guaranteed fix. So we would reason with ourselves. Why would we let him cry for such a long period when we were just going to give in and do this eventually, why prolong the inevitable? Why not just do it the moment he begins to spare ourselves the discomfort? Problem - we found ourselves locked in a vicious cycle. Then a new problem. This foul proof method began to fail. A lot. And sleeping with a baby is hard! He kicks. He sprawls out. I can't move for fear of waking him. Now what?
Here's what I know- I am tired of that and finally at my breaking point. It MUST stop.
So following a couple of major schedule disruptions from our vacations where all nighttime 'rules' were abandoned for the greater good of sleep, I have had it with the nighttime waking. I can't take it anymore and (as of right now anyway) am willing to put in the legwork to let him cry it out simply because I am out of ideas.
I have figured out that I can't simply lie in bed and listen to the wails. When I have done that I can't decide which is worse - the steady screech or the false- hope inducing silence that lasts sometimes as long as a minute only to be shattered by yet another ear splitting scream. Both types leave me wanting to stand with my head planted firmly against a wall, pulling away only to slam it back and forth repeatedly in frustration. Clearly this is not a healthy coping strategy. So I have conjured up a new tactic. When the cries start, I get up. I retreat groggily to the living room to watch tv, blog, read - do something to distract myself in order to be awake enough to monitor the persistent cries but not in the semi awake state that was my cozy bed. I have found that while this is frustrating also, it is not nearly as bad as thinking I can go to sleep only to be roused steadily every thirty seconds as the shrill cries continue.
There are still troubles here though, however. I have a breaking point. After two hours, I need to do SOMETHING different. When this point nears, I conjure a plan of 'ok, so I'll change him and cuddle him, but no way am I feeding him' etc. Progress is welcomed, no matter how small. If he cried for two hours one night and only an hour and 40 minutes the next, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. But then there are the set back nights when he digs in an goes even harder the next night for a whopping three hours. Once pain is ruled out and stubbornness is determined as the contributing factor (usually because he is wide awake, babbling at this point, ready for play) you reach a point where all your hard work is threatened and you are hitting that place where you will resort to your old damaging habits out of desperation. It's just soooo much easier. 'Come on. Go get him. Feed him. Put him in your bed. You'll both win. You can SLEEP.'
Trouble is, he seems relatively un-phased the next day, whereas I am a zombie. He's up at his regular time, busy as a bee and I am in a daze, desperate for nap time for some rest. There are days when I feel I simply have no drive for anything extra, that I just can't keep up with him, and how is that he was up as long as I was, but he's FINE??????
As I write this blog I am hopeful for a solution as we enter hour two of his latest wakeful episode at what is now 2:30 am. Wish me luck that I can outlast him in this battle, and that the nighttime wars will soon be over.