Night 4 of Sleep Training
Husband and I were on the same page…and finally starting to like each other again after the whole “I don’t know what a dream feed is” debacle.
At 10:50 PM, he brought Eliana downstairs for her dream feed.
Only one problem: with the dream-feed, as I understand it, the baby is supposed to be in a sort of dreamy delirium while the dream-feed happens. Problemo: our kid wasn’t asleep. Not even a little bit. Cheerful Eliana was wide awake and thrilled beyond belief to see Daddy (aka: Superhero Whom No Other Man Will Ever Live Up To For Our Two Daughters). The two of them started cooing at one another like they’d just been reunited after a war, and at that moment, I thought, “Wow, this is really going to fuck up the sleep-training, isn’t it?” in the same exact instant my heart filled with the sticky-sweet sentiment, “Wow…a baby. Our baby. We have a baby. Two kids! How did we get here?”
So instead of getting mad, I let the romantic side of me win. The sweet, soft cooing went on, and I drank in the moment. For an instant, I saw the future: maybe, one day, Eliana, as Mommy, will watch her wonderful husband coo at their baby and wonder how on Earth she got to this place.
I couldn’t help but smile.
With the bottle of formula ready to go, it was on like Donkey Kong. Husband fed Eliana eight ounces, straight up, and there wasn’t even a burp at the end. She downed the bottle in about twelve minutes flat, and two minutes later, she was back up in her crib (read: Sleep-Training Baby Prison).
Instinctively, I woke up at 3 AM. No noise. Did I dare take a peek? Never!
4:09 AM: I’m awake again, but Eliana isn’t. Briefly, I wonder in earnest if she is dead. I suspect that normal people might think, “Hooray, the sleep training is working!” as opposed to “Did my kid just suffocate in there?” I take a deep breath and remind myself, “This is the goal, Ariel. The goal is that she not wake up.”
At 5:55 AM, I am up again…and astounded. Where on Earth is Eliana!? Panic sits in my throat, and I can’t help but envision myself calling 911 in horror. I vow that at 6 AM, I’m going in, whether she’s awake or not.
And sure enough, as if telepathically aware of my anxiety, I hear Eliana, kicking joyfully in her crib. She’s not even crying. Just playing in there, without a care in the world.
Holy shit—THAT was sleep training? THAT was it!?
Night 5 of Sleep Training:
The next night, we followed the plan: the dream-feed at 11, but Eliana was being coy and only seemed to want 5 ounces. It seemed risky, and while forcing her to eat more food would have been preferable, there’s no real way to force a baby to eat when she doesn’t want to, is there? The old me would have found her resistance to food alarming and cause for sleep-training concern. The new me? Flying high from our win the night before, I cavalierly shrugged my shoulders.
And damn the torpedoes, we even stayed up until midnight watching a movie!
That was our first mistake. But it wouldn’t be our last.
The whining began at 1:30. Then at 2. Then at 3:30. I’m not actually even sure it ever stopped, but let me tell you, that happy baby I like to gloat about being a cheerful little bucket of chuckles? At 3:30 AM, that was no bucket o’ chuckles.
Oh, no. She was pissed. Really pissed. If babies could talk, mine would have said, “Look, lady, just because I gave you one night of sleep last night doesn’t mean I’m ‘trained’. Get over yourself. You’re not all that, Mommie Dearest.”
I stared at her in her crib, trying to think of what to do, and unfortunately, I did the only thing I thought would stop her from crying after the pacifier and vacuum sounding “sh-shing” failed.
I knew what I had to do. I felt ashamed, degraded, and broken, but I did it anyway. Worse, I knew I’d hate myself in the morning. But still, I did it: I popped out the boob. We sat on the glider. She feasted, and I admitted defeat yet again.
Total night sleep without a feeding: 11-3:30.
Number of middle-of-the-night fights with Husband during which I projected my anger at sleep-training onto him, thus transforming him into my unwilling scapegoat and guaranteeing bitter breakfast warfare: 2.
At 5:30 AM, she was hungry again. Already a broken, ruined woman, at her call, I came. I fed. She conquered. I left.
Night 6 of Sleep Training
Sleep-training has to go on, but so does our marriage, so for the first time in two months, it was Date Night.
Eliana had her last nursing session at 5, and with Lila plied with the promise of popcorn and movie night with her regular Babysitter, we were off.
For us, there was sushi. Plum wine. Conversations that reminded us that we weren’t just parents and that we actually happen to really like each other. A text to Babysitter: “All ok?” Response: “Everything’s great. Both girls are fast asleep and happy. Enjoy yourselves.”
When we arrived home, with me tipsier than I’d like to admit, it was clear from the ear-splitting screams that the Babysitter’s understanding of “everything’s great” is way different from mine, because in my view of that phrase, it usually means that my children don’t sound like they’re being murdered. And from the sound of screeching upstairs, Babysitter was ripping Eliana’s fingernails out of her fingers one by one.
No, everything was not “great.”
I ran up the stairs, my heart pounding in my chest.
In the dark of Eliana’s room, Babysitter tried to seem like she had her shit together as she said, “She woke up, so I changed her diaper and gave her some bottle. She was really hungry.”
I took Eliana from Babysitter’s arms and tried to remain cool. “Of course—thank you. Husband’s in the car waiting for you to take you home.” Oh, and PS: I’m never hiring you ever again.
As Eliana wailed, she looked into my eyes. Tears were streaming down her face, and my heart really hurt for the sweet girl. As we sat down together in the glider, she was panting. I held her bottle, or, shall I say, her ice-cold formula Slushee. No wonder the poor kid was screeching—some random high schooler she’d never met came into the room and gave her a bottle that felt like it had been through the Ice Age. For the first time, I saw something I’d never seen before in Eliana: fear. It made me feel sick to my stomach.
So I popped it out. She latched on, panting in fear. She nursed for ten minutes and passed out from the sheer exhaustion of her hysteria. That, or it was from too much plum wine at dinner.
At midnight, we heard her again. Husband went in with a bottle, but fell asleep on the couch in her room before he could feed her.
And the next we heard from her, it was 4:15 AM
Total uninterrupted sleep without a feeding: 9:20 PM-4:15 AM.
Guilt about leaving child with stranger she has personally never met before: intense.
Paranoia about alcohol in breast milk: high.
Delight at another long night of baby sleep? Endless.
So it’s been nearly a week. Eliana still isn’t sleep-trained. She’s sleeping long stretches, but not necessarily at the times when we’d like her to. And yes, I realize it’s 100% selfish of me to want her to sleep longer and at the times I’d like her to. And yes, I know that sleeping five-hour stretches is considered “sleeping through the night.” And yes, I know that in all likelihood, I need to just let her “cry it out” instead of going in and soothing her. And yes, I know that we’re totally inconsistent, and that the ones being sleep-trained here are her stupid parents, the ones who go in, soothe, resist feeding, soothe, and then give in with feeding, thus negating the whole purpose.
But I’m also pretty sure that sleep training is largely emblematic of the whole endeavor of parenting. You try, you get frustrated, you’re surprised by yourself and your children, you’re delighted, you mess up, you’re ashamed, you try again, you think you’ve figured it out, you gloat, you’re knocked down some rungs, and then you try again. And it’s dirty and it’s messy and it’s emotional and it’s difficult and it’s triumphant. And sometimes, just once in a while, if you’re really lucky, you get a win.
But you never stop trying.
So tonight, we try again.