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The Night Watch: Sleep Training, Part Deux

The war wages on: last night was night #2 of sleep training.

The battleground looked ripe for victory. As anyone who has ever sleep-trained knows, the first night is like climbing a mountain pass, blind and drunk. The second night is more like managing a hangover, wishing you were deaf.

Adding a complication to the sleep-training plan last night: Husband inconveniently became violently ill last night, thus meaning 1) I wasn’t going to sleep in the same bed as him out of fear that I could make either Eliana or Lila sick (and much though I hate waking up to feed a kid at night, it is still preferred over cleaning up vomit or diarrhea) and 2) Mommy was flying solo on the sleep training bus, and going to sleep in Eliana’s room on the couch for the duration.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Ariel, why do this to yourself? Why not postpone sleep training for a better time when you don’t have to sleep on the couch in Eliana’s room? Why not forfeit the game? Rain date?

Because that’s the way losers talk, that’s why. And Eliana can’t get out of this that easily. That, and I’d already invested a night. This was no time for losers. We are the champions.

At ten PM, things were looking good. Real good. Husband was asleep in our bed. Lila was asleep in hers. Eliana was sleeping in the crib. The house was blissfully quiet, and for a moment, I almost choked on the plan and went to sleep myself. Maintaining my moxie, though, at eleven PM, as planned, I got the bottle of formula, or, as I had been building it up in my head, “the Baby Ambien”.

Smugly, I walked into Eliana’s room. Poor kid didn’t know I had some tricks up my sleeve. And while I know from dear Dr. Weissbluth from Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Baby that I should never, ever wake a sleeping baby, let me tell you, it felt really good to wake a sleeping baby. Karma, my dear baby friend, is a bitch sometimes.

As I reached into her crib, Eliana gave me the old “one-eye,” by which I mean she opened her left eye suspiciously while scrunching the right one tightly closed. She let her eyelids relax, and as I held her body in my arms as we sat together in the glider, I did the “dream feed,” which, all in all, was pretty creepy. I mean, there’s no getting around this one: it is weird to force-feed your child, while she sleeps, six ounces of formula. Weirder: she was into it.

I tried for a burp, but came up empty-handed (With our first child, the burping lasted ten minutes until I admitted defeat. With Eliana, I’m lucky if I make it to forty-five seconds.). I placed her gingerly in her crib and backed away…slowly, slowly. Must not disturb the beast. She twisted her body, turned on her right side, and that was it.

Miracle! So far—the game strongly looked like it was headed in Mommy’s favor.

I set up camp on the couch in Eliana’s bedroom, popped in some earplugs, and got ready for the battle ahead.

All was going well.

Then, the clock struck 1:53 AM.

“Eh. Eh. Eh. Eh? EH? EH!?”

For whom doth that whine toll? It tolls for thee, Mommy. It tolls for thee.

Fact 1: I was pissed that Eliana didn’t even make it three hours. Really? Really!? C’mon, Eliana. Seriously.

Fact 2: She couldn’t break me. Not this early.

Blind without my contacts and having stupidly left my glasses in our quarantined bedroom, I wandered over to Eliana’s crib, stubbed my toe, cursed, and then found a vagrant binky in the crib to pop in her mouth.

Amazingly, this seemed to quell the beast. She went back to her corner, and I returned to mine.

2:33 AM: thirty minutes after our last show-down, I heard the honey-sweet manipulations of a four-month-old yet again: “Eh. Eh. Eh! Eh!” (Insert muffled giggling and incoherent babbling accompanied by kicking sounds that would astound the Rockettes.)

Stubbing my toe AGAIN, I get to Eliana’s crib. My hands desperately search for a binky in the darkness, which, miraculously they find. Still blind without my glasses, which rest comfortably on the nightstand in our bedroom that is under quarantine with sick Husband, I try to shove the binky in Eliana’s mouth but mistakenly tap her eyeball with the pacifier instead. She whines—and in fairness, she has every right to because who really likes a plastic nipple jabbed at their cornea?— but when I find her mouth, the binky goes in, and she has been tamed.

Mommy: 2. Eliana: 0.

Sleep training? Piece o’ cake!

We return to our corners, and I fall asleep with a smile on my face. I have conquered the minotaur! Now I simply need to find my way out of the maze, back to reality.

3:34 AM rolls around. This time, Eliana means business. She starts whining, in a sad, adorable way that is clearly designed to tug at my heartstrings. Stay strong, Mommy. Stay strong. You’re exactly where she wants you!

But the cries grow louder. And I’m so, so very tired. The couch is killing my back. I can’t really sleep. My mind starts racing with things I need to prepare for my classes tomorrow. How can I teach when I’m exhausted? My heart starts to race with irrational anger. Furiously, I envision “sick” Husband luxuriating in bed while I feel sore all over, exhausted, and on the brink of tears myself.

I put the binky in again. For a moment, I consider shoving it in my own mouth to help me with a little self-soothing.

To show her disgust with the night’s events, Eliana spits the binky out angrily, wrinkles her face, and starts to really howl. Time? 3:39 AM.

I close my eyes. I walk out of the room. We need some distance. I shut her door behind me. I sit on the floor of the hallway and dreamily wish that I had a job that would send me far, far away on a business trip, as my Husband’s job often does, thus absolving me from one twelve hour period of night watch. My kingdom for a night of sleep. One night. One night of uninterrupted sleep.

To sleep! Perchance to dream! To enter REM sleep! I could…I could…I could…if.

If I give in.

Eliana continues to whimper in her crib. If whimpers had meaning, hers would be, “Mercy, Mommy. Mercy!”

But if I give in…if I give in, how will I respect myself in the morning? I’ll have to do a whole new “walk of shame” at dawn. What kind of woman am I if I can’t even keep a resolution to myself to sleep train my child?

Eliana starts to wail. Lila starts to cough down the hall. Husband sleeps peacefully in the bedroom.

Kill me now.

I lie down on the floor and try to come up with a plan. Option 1: Let her “cry it out” and wake up Lila and Husband. Option 2: Give in. Suck it up, and give in.

She’s made it long enough, I try to convince myself. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Slowly, slowly. Let her build up to it. You didn’t just wake up one day and run a 5K, Ariel. You trained for it. Let her train. Let her work. Teach her the value of stick-to-it-iveness! It’s called “sleep-training,” after all, not “sleep-miracle.” Alcoholics can’t quit over night, so neither can a baby who wants a drink. One drink at a time = one night at a time. One hour at a time!

She cries some more. I put my hand on the doorknob.

Don’t do it. Don’t go in there. You won’t respect yourself. What kind of wimp gives up like this? You’ve already invested 2 odd hours in this, Ariel. Go the distance! Finish the job!

I take a deep breath. My eyes are sore from lack of sleep, and I feel sick, I’m so tired.

My palm rests on the doorknob, and in that second, it happens. The decision has been made.

I open the door to her room and walk to her crib. She looks at me beseechingly. I look at her angrily. Her arms reach to mine, and mine to hers, and before I know it: here we go again.

In the glider, popping out a boob, giving her what she wants.

Game point: Eliana.

Tonight, we try again.

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