“So is she sleeping through the night yet?”
Few questions enrage me as much as this one.
So let’s just get it out there: No, she is not sleeping through the night. And if you could refrain from showering me with your faux sympathy while you simultaneously herald how your awesome child has been sleeping through the night since she was a week and a half old, that would be great, thanks.
Oh, and PS: Fuck you.
So, do I sound cranky?
Now that Eliana is officially four months old, it’s sleep training time, baby. Like every parent who has ever lived, I’m really just sick and tired of this waking up at night thing. And I realize that that is not a very maternal thing to say or feel. With every wake-up, I really do try to remind myself, “This is a blessing. Having a baby is blessing.” And truth be told, Eliana is a very pleasant baby to be around in the middle of the night.
Let me lay my cards out on the table in terms of how shit shakes down in our house at night, because all parents of non-sleeping-through-the-night-children like to compare “crib sheets” if you will. (I couldn’t avoid that one, sorry.) After her bath around 5:30/6ish, Eliana gets cranky, by which I mean she yawns and rubs her eyes. I pick her up, bring her upstairs, and put her in her crib wide-awake. Generally, she looks at me with this forlorn doe-eyed look that I interpet as, “Mommy? Can I please have some snuggly night-time affection right about now?” Sadly, Lila is whining for me downstairs, so I kiss Eliana on her head, shut the door, and hope for the best. Unless Lila is willing to help me in Eliana’s room to put her to sleep, there’s no reading, no singing, no mother-daughter bonding. It is clinical and without emotion, simply because Lila simultaneously needs to eat dinner, and I’m flying solo around here at that hour. To her credit, Eliana generally falls asleep easily on her own if I catch that magic drowsy window, and she then stays asleep until around midnight or one AM, giving us an amazing seven-ish hour stretch, which has nothing to do with my parenting at all, but for which I will take the credit anyway. So thank you, yes, I’m a superior parent, and I’ve made that seven hour stretch of sleep happen all on my own. Well, that and Eliana’s own biological and physiological development as a four-month old and her personal circadian rhythm, but please, let’s not quibble about details here.
During the night wakings: 1) Husband and I hear Eliana giggling and babbling in her crib for ten minutes, so to avoid her waking up Lila (which has happened before…dear Lord, please let that never happen EVER again), I nurse Eliana for five minutes; 2) I diaper her—which apparently brings her such unbridled joy and personal satisfaction that she cannot help but bubble over with uncontrollable giggles; I take this as the baby’s version of “my compliments to the chef” wherein “chef” means “person who wipes the shit off my ass for free”; 3) I nurse her again for another five minutes; 4) Without making eye contact, I dump Eliana in the crib, wide-awake and cheerful, at which point I assume she either eventually falls back asleep or has extraordinarily complex and philosophical conversations with the cartoon owls on her crib sheet. The whole late-night-show lasts a whopping fifteen minutes. And I’m not even doing all the night feedings. Husband does the first one at 1 AM while I do the second one around 4 AM.
I know, I know, I shouldn’t complain. I’m one of the lucky ones. I have a healthy, happy baby, who, yes, likes a little snack and company at night. She’s not that unlike her mother, truth be told.
Yet, yet, yet, yet, yet.
I’m still an angry, tired, resentful, cranky bitch.
Talk to any parents—and I don’t care how many or few children they have had—and they too will all be plagued by this impossible dream: the desire for an uninterrupted night of sleep.
Some parents out there—with four-month-old babies, just like Eliana— are already living this dream.
And I hate them.
I hate that they say so cavalierly things like, “Oh yeah, he just started doing it on his own.” Just this morning, a teacher I work with said, “Oh, you know, my daughter (five months) just had a hard night last night…she went down at 7:30 and then woke up at 6:30.” Then she had the balls to say, “I read somewhere that babies who sleep train themselves learn to talk sooner also.”
It took every fiber of self-restraint I had at that moment not to stab her in the neck with the mechanical pencil in my hand.
So in a quest to be more like the people I hate, I’ve become a mommy with a mission. I’ve read The Sleep Lady. I’ve read 12 Hours in 12 Weeks. I’ve read Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Baby. I know all about Ferberizing, extinction cry-it-out, gradual extinction cry-it-out, and “dream feedings” whereby you go into your baby’s room before you go to bed, force the kid to suck down a couple of ounces, and then disappear into the night sky.
And I read this all with Lila too…and the kid still didn’t sleep through the night officially until she was nine months old.
So armed and ready, two nights ago, I thought, Let’s do this thing. Because as I know well from all my reading, once a child hits eleven pounds, there is no metabolic reason for that child to wake up for night feedings. And Eliana is fifteen pounds, at least.
Oh yeah. Game ON, bitches.
Unaware of the shit that was about to go down, Eliana was an oblivious delight at bedtime. She rubbed her eyes. She yawned. I put her in her crib. She smiled at me. I smiled back. I kissed her head. That was it.
God, I love that kid.
Hours ticked by. Husband and I strategized. The Plan: We would feed her a bottle at eleven PM before we turned in, even if she didn’t wake up for it. A dream-feed, and then if she woke up later, we’d “soothe” without taking her out of the crib.
All seemed to go well; Husband gave her a bottle, and as he returned to bed, triumphant. “She drank the whole thing!”
Operation Restore Life Happiness was well underway.
At 3:08 AM, though, that was when we heard it. The babbling. The giggling. Eliana’s chattering was so loud, it was as if I could hear eleven-years into the future her fifth grade sleepover party.
Ready to show her who was boss, I went into the room. I did not smile, in spite of the huge grin on her face. Without emotion, I plugged the pacifier in her mouth. And I bid her adieu.
At 3:17, the babbling continued. It sounded thoughtful. Inquisitive, almost. As if she were wondering, “Mommy? Daddy? Um…I ordered a drink? What’s it take to get service around here?”
Unwilling to bend, I went into her room, said “shhhh” in a kind of soothing/vacuum cleaner kind of way, and plugged in that binky. Then I left.
At 3:39, Eliana was starting to get pissed, sort of the way you get pissed when you order in a restaurant, and you’ve been waiting to be served your appetizer for forty minutes. The cries were changing from, “Uh, hey, guys?” to “Uh, HEY! GUYS!”
Still, stubborn fool that I am, I went into her room, this time with a stern look on my face. We looked at each other; she smiled again, clearly in an attempt to out-maneuver me. I put the binky in her mouth firmly, more with anger than with love. I returned to bed.
The babbling and giggling then transformed into crying. Simultaneously, Lila woke up, coughing non-stop. Husband and I broke: he would take Lila, I would take Eliana. My job was easy: I went to her room. I binked her. I left. Her expression was embittered and wrathful.
There: at least we were now on the same page.
Lila continued coughing, so Husband and I met for a 4:08 game plan adjustment.
“Do you want to nebulize her?”
“Do you think I need to?”
“She’s gonna keep coughing. Eliana woke her up?”
“Eliana’s not going back to sleep. I keep soothing, and it’s not working.”
“So go feed her?”
I felt fury rise in my chest, and my face get hot. Husband did the impossible: he suggested admitting defeat…the same defeat that had cowering in my brain, getting louder every minute, for the past half hour.
“FEED HER?! Are you fucking nuts? Then that will have derailed everything I’ve been doing! I’ll have wasted the whole night! The whole point of it is NOT to feed her!”
“So what do you want to do?”
“FINE. I’ll feed her!”
With a self-righteous huff, I turned towards Eliana’s room. I walked down the hallway, my feet dragging on the carpet. I had read all the books. I had prepared for the game. I’d run through all the scenarios in my head. But still, at 4:11, I admitted defeat. As I took a furious Eliana out of her crib, slumped into the glider, and popped out the boob, I had the sinking feeling that she had won. Eliana, 1. Mommy, 0. It was the Battle of Thermopylae, and I was the fallen Spartans.
Tonight, it’s a rematch. This night’s game plan: I will stupefy her with a bottle of formula instead of breast milk at approximately 11 PM, with the hope that this new concoction will “stick to her guts more than milk” (former baby nurse Ingrid’s terminology, not mine). All the sleep books say that this is a myth—that formula won’t make a kid sleep any longer than breast milk; we’ll see about that. Then, Eliana, having slept with the equivalent of a belly filled with lead, will miraculously wake up tomorrow morning at 6:30 AM, refreshed, renewed, giving herself, her mommy, her daddy and her sister a new lease on life.
Let the games begin!
Stay tuned for updates…