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Nothing Gold Can Stay

This is a story of dreams lost and dreams found, real and metaphorical.

In the span of the past two weeks since I’ve written, I’ve looked heartbreak in the face. Felt my body fill with exaltation and exuberance. Trudged heavy steps laden with disappointment and dread.

All, I might add, at the hands of a five-month-old.

The stage was primed for success: we had already survived the first night of sleep training with cry-it-out. Loving and emotional Husband (read: more likely to go into Eliana’s room than heartless Mommy) was headed on a business trip for two nights. Lila was going to stay with my parents at “Camp Gram” for another two days while Eliana and I cried-it-out at home.

Success was so close, I could taste it.

As I lay down to sleep alone that second night, I took a deep breath, steeling myself for the worst. Eliana could cry all night. And I would lay here, alone, suffering through it by myself as she suffered through it by herself, hoping that neither one of us would be scarred for longer than one night. Aching to help her, but aching to sleep, knowing that helping her would prevent future sleep.

I closed my eyes, anticipating difficulty falling asleep, but I was asleep in seconds.

Next thing I knew, I looked at the clock when I heard Eliana chatting happily in her crib:6:02.

In the morning? Wait, is the clock broken?

6:02?

6:02!?!

6:02!!

Free at last, free at last, thank God almighty, we were free at last!

I bounded into Eliana’s room filled with a kind of pure, unadulterated glee that washed through my entire body, toe to forehead, so that my face hurt from smiling so much.

“Well, good morning, Eliana! How was your night, my little beautiful, perfect girl!”

Love may be unconditional, but it’s pretty freaking fabulous when the conditions just so happen to be right.

Eliana gazed into my eyes with the same joy that danced all the way down my alimentary canal. She squealed a celebratory squeak that sounded like “Whooo!” The subtitle was obviously, “Holy shitballs, Mommy, I can’t believe I actually slept through the night! I DID IT!”

It’s hard to say who was prouder of her accomplishment, her or me. I was like little Billy from Where the Red Fern Grows, delighted in the success of my Old Dan and Little Anne. What amazing feat would my little girl conquer next?

We were two girls with a new lease on life. I sang cheerfully at the top of my lungs as I dressed Eliana, the two of us alone in our home in a weird permutation of our family life that would only happen for one more day. I belted out “Life’s a Happy Song” from The Muppet Movie, not caring how stupid I sounded to her or anyone else in the world. Because goddamnit, life IS a happy song when there’s someone by your side to sing along!

Hell, if I knew how to click my heels, I would’ve done it. In fact, I tried, and let’s just say that it’s not a great idea to try that when you have a baby in your arms. Just sayin’.

Eliana spent the morning before I dropped her off at school squealing in sheer delight, obviously thrilled by how happy Mommy was. She didn’t even poop her shitstorm in the car. I saw that as a minor celebration of sorts.

At school, even my students seemed happier; or was it just that I could finally see them through my rose-colored glasses? It didn’t matter. The world was a better place. Hussein was dead, Qadaffi was dead, Kim Jong-Il was dead, and Eliana was sleeping through the night. A+s for everyone, kids! And no homework—for the rest of your lives!

But the day didn’t stop being fabulous there, oh no!

As I went to pick up Eliana at our in-school babysitting, the two babysitters rushed towards me the second I walked in the door.

“Ariel! She ROLLED today! We did not see this, but we put her down, yes, and then we go look at Ellie again, and, wow! She on her tummy!”

I nearly screamed in joy. See!? See!? She just needed to sleep! A well-rested baby, and now she’s rollin’ with the big kids!

I thought things couldn’t possibly get any better…but could they? Oh yes, they could!

“And, Ariel! She sitALLBY HERSELF today!”

I picked Eliana up and squeezed her, nearly crying from delight. Eliana looked so proud of herself—so filled with that special kind of radiance that comes with self-accomplishment that I just wanted to freeze that moment forever, put it in a bottle, and lock it away for some day when she’s twelve and she really needs it.

And the icing on the cake? Who, I ask you, was lurking in the corner, listening to every word?

Nemesis.

I hadn’t even noticed her, but there she was…waiting in the corner. In her nasal voice, she asked the babysitters, “Wait. She sat by herself?” Translation: “Wait. Her degenerate baby sat before my brilliant [soulless] baby did?!”

Babysitter #1 looked thrilled (after all, Babysitter #1 is, as I call her with pride, Eliana’s Peruvian Mommy). “Yes. She do this all by herself today. And roll! She so happy today!”

Being the bigger person, I resisted the urge to sneer triumphantly at Nemesis, which would have felt deliciously satisfying. Instead, I held my head up high and walked out the door with the sort of silent complacence that is far more damaging.

Eat it, Nemesis.

I gave Eliana a huge kiss on her cheek, and we were off. At my parents’ home, where we reunited with Lila, Eliana showed off her tricks like she was a circus pony. She was rolling all over the place. Sitting like a professional. Even Lila was impressed—each time Ellie rolled, Lila would tug my shirt and shriek with delight, “She did it! She really did it, Mommy! She’s rolling, Mommy, she’s rolling!”

I kid you not when I tell you that for a brief second, I felt tears welling up in my eyes.

Night #3? Another great night…up at 5, but no crying during the night.

It worked! It had really worked!

However, as Frost might say, “nothing gold can stay.”

After six days of amazing sleep, it happened: Eliana got a fever. The kind of fever that keeps a baby up all night. The kind with stomach cramps that make a baby contort in weird ways that make you scared, and nervous, and terrified, and ready to call the doctor in the middle of the night even though in your heart you know it’s just a fever and that she will be okay, you know she will.

So we babied her, and she cried all night long, almost as if she was making up for lost time. Husband and I sat with her all night, rotating in and out of her room, working in perfect parental synergy. There were no night-time resentments between us. No midnight snappiness. No reluctant agreements or silent seething. As Eliana passed between my arms to his and his to mine throughout the night, our hands were filled with patience, kindness, and gratitude for each other. The kind that gets lost in those first few months of having a new baby.

And by morning, we were all exhausted (except Lila, who, of course, in spite of my fears of her not sleeping through any of Eliana’s crying, slept through all of it). But we had made it. We had survived.

And when Eliana was feeling better later that day, she leaned close to me. Put her face right next to mine. She opened her mouth as wide as it would go, as if she were ready to swallow me whole, and thrust her head into my cheek. With mouth wide open, her flat tongue mushed right up against my cheek and lingered there. She backed away, looking at me with a huge smile on her face. And I knew it: for the first time, she kissed me. A real, wet, open-mouthed kiss filled with love and gratitude.

So now we’re back to square one. Again, our nights are checkered by repeated trips into Eliana’s room to shove binkies into her mouth. Again, our sleep is truncated by wails for comfort. Again, our patience with our kids and each other is punctured. Again, our mornings are bleary-eyed, filled with self-doubt: Should we have gone to her or left her alone? If I fed her, would she have slept longer?

But just as sleep training is pierced by occasional defeats, so too is life flavored with unexpected victories: a roll here, a sit there, and a kiss: all when you least expect them and need them most.

Nothing gold can stay…but silver ain’t so bad.

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Cry It Out: The Art of War

Eliana has proven to a worthy opponent.

Sleep-training failed the first time around, and I see no shame in admitting this. In retrospect, the mushy-wimp approach I went with, the old “go and in soothe” routine, turned out to train people all right, but it wasn’t Eliana. Over the course of three weeks, Husband and I had been trained like obsequious, fearful slaves to go in and “soothe” Eliana by shoving a pacifier in her mouth approximately every two hours throughout the course of any given night. There was no question that this was way worse than feeding her twice a night.

We are whipped beyond belief.

How victorious Eliana must feel.

I’ve known in my heart for at least two weeks now what really needs to be done here. I’ve resisted it until this point because I’ve anticipated it will be a messy, horrific trainwreck with many psychological casualties.

But one can only hide from the truth for so long.

Only one method is going to make this family sleep through the night again, and it ain’t pretty.

Cry It Out.

As Sun Tzu says in The Art of War, “If fighting is sure to result in victory, then you must fight.”

So now, it is time to fight.

“Crying-it-out” comes in various forms. In its most sensitive form, you can do “gradual extinction,” by which you plan to suck up a week of your life by catering to your wee one’s needs on a timed basis. On the first night, as the baby cries for food or comfort, you only go in every five minutes. On the second night, you go in every ten minutes. On the third night, every twenty minutes. On the fourth night, you and your husband remember what it’s like to actually have a life past seven o’clock at night, and you don’t go in anymore, because your baby is magically “cured.” At this point, once you’ve had, oh, let’s say three consistent nights of uninterrupted sleep, you’ll start liking your husband again for more than fifteen minute increments, and you may even have the dumb idea that hey! Maybe it’s time to have another baby! This happens to be a dangerous side effect of getting your child to sleep through the night.

However, this kind-hearted, sensitive method is for pansies. It’s for first-time parents who don’t want to scar their kiddos. You know who you are.

Those of us with two kids are passed that point. Sentimentality has no place in our homes when it comes to sleeping. I was armed and ready to play a big game in which I had no choice but to win. It was time for Cry It Out. Not gradual extinction. Just extinction, hard core and straight up. As in, “Goodnight, sweetheart. See you at 5 AM. Good luck.” (Door closes; Mommy hopes for the best.) Game on, Eliana. GAME ON.

I had been waiting a week for the right night to start. Now some of you out there may be thinking, “Oh, I’ll be she waited for a weekend.” NO. I wanted to do this quick, dirty, and on my terms. Husband was going on a business trip, which would conveniently take him out of the equation as a potential underminer to my evil plan. My parents generously accepted Lila as their sleepover guest for three nights, so that she would not be woken during the night as Eliana screamed for mercy. With Lila outsourced and Husband conveniently out of the picture, the night was ripe for victory. Poor, poor Eliana. She had no idea what was coming.

Naturally, the best-laid tactical plans are often unraveled, and so too was mine. Having misread the calendar, I learned that Husband’s business trip was Tuesday, not Monday, but with the plan already hatched in my mind, I was completely unwilling to break and change my start date of Monday, the cruelest day of the week, and therefore, the most metaphorically appropriate for sleep training. Multiple times in the early evening, I casually commented to Husband, “So you know the plan, right? I shut the door after feeding her, and then we don’t go in until 5 AM. No matter how much she cries or screams. No binkies, no nothing. Stay out of the room no matter what. Got it?”

“Got it.”

At 9:30, I nursed Eliana. She ate a little, eyes barely open. Quietly, I whispered to her, “It’s going to really suck tonight, but trust me, you’ll thank me later. This is called ‘tough love’. So even though you’re gonna feel like I hate you, I’m doing this because I love you. And because when we’re all well-rested, we’re all actually going to be able to love you even more.” I placed her gingerly in the crib and walked away. So far, so good.

At 10:30, as we watched TV, I reminded Husband casually, “So. No going in tonight, remember. No matter what. Okay?”

“Okay.”

For safety’s sake, I verified once more before I shoved neon orange earplugs into my ears as I pulled the covers up in bed at 11:00, “So you know we’re not going in, right?”

“YES. I get it! I’m not going in!”

Fine, he was annoyed by my patronizing repetition. I admit I was even a little annoyed by myself. But in my fantasy plan, there was no room for mistakes. A sleepy pop-in to Eliana’s room was not an option; it would compromise the entire operation. I admit that a part of me wanted to set up a mini-obstacle course in the hallway with plastic storage bins, stacking blocks, and small Toy Story figurines between our bedroom and Eliana’s room so that on the off chance that Husband decided he would go to her, he would be slightly maimed as he tripped over toys, thus jolting him awake and snapping him back on plan.

Such are the deranged musings of a sleep-deprived mother.

With earplugs in my ears, Lila “on leave,” and Husband already asleep next to me, I closed my eyes and gave myself a little pep talk. Ariel, you can do this. This will be a hard night, but in a week when we’re all sleeping through the night, we will all be grateful, and you shall feted like a general returning from war, if only by yourself for yourself. You can do it. You can do it. You can do this. DO NOT GIVE IN.

Poor Eliana. Poor, poor Eliana. She had no idea what was going to hit her. But this was no time for sympathy. Sun Tzu says in The Art of War, “Take advantage of the enemy’s unpreparedness; travel by unexpected routes and strike him where he has taken no precautions.”

So stealthily, without preparation on Ellie’s part, this game would have to be won.

If I was to come out of this victorious, I had to out-game this baby, crying or not.

I closed my eyes, hoped for the best, and fell asleep quickly.

12:16. Eliana cries. Earplugs or not, I hear her. Husband sits up in bed, already visibly upset by her distress and the fact that if he does anything to help/calm/approach/soothe/look at her, there may be Mommy-led domestic violence in our home. Getting out of bed he says, “Forget it. I’m going downstairs. I can’t take this. I’ll see you in the morning.”

The man wonderful, warm, loving and concerned. He is all heart; he would be totally useless in this war. But Sun Tzu reminds us, “He who knows when he can fight and when he cannot will be victorious.” So Husband’s bowing out was actually an asset to me; victory was on its way, as I was still ready to fight.

With his towel already thrown in, I know I’m going to have to endure this brutal night alone, but I’m ready for it. I stare at the ceiling as Eliana cries. A part of me is sickly curious how long it will last, not because I’m worried about her, but because I want to see what kind of moxie the kid’s got. Girl can’t roll, but how long can she cry for without giving up? At 12:32, the cries die down. She is done.

I let a complacent smile wash across my face. Thinking of Eliana’s sweet resting face, a mean, smarmy thought takes me: Is that the best you can do? Before I can consider what kind of terrible mother I am to think that, I fall back asleep again.

3:09. Husband is nowhere to be seen, and the crying this time is loud. Really fucking loud. Eliana may have been tricked the first time into self-soothing, but this time? Perhaps a mouthful of her own hand just ain’t cuttin’ it. I cringe as I hear her—she sounds so sad! So distressed! So lonely! If only I could…it would be so easy to just peek in and see…STOP. STOP, ARIEL. DO NOT GIVE IN!

Miraculously, the crying stops by 3:18. I can hardly believe my good fortune! Has the game already been called? Is Mommy the victor already? So soon? And to think I was going to go in! That I was going to give her the satisfaction of winning over me!

At 4:23, the game changes entirely. Now, Eliana is wailing like someone is covering her bald head in Bandaids and then just ripping them off as quickly as possible. Husband has come back to the bedroom, but he knows better than to ask me if he should go in. I admit I want him to ask me…I want him to tell me this is ridiculous. That she’s five-months-old. That’s she’s not ready for this. That this isn’t the only way. But he doesn’t. Instead, he angrily takes a pillow off our bed and goes into our walk-in closet, where I hear him lay down on the ground before shutting the door.

The crying gets louder and louder; I try to depersonalize it by saying to myself over and over again that this is what babies sound like when they’re upset, but this isn’t just any baby. It’s MY baby. And she sounds terrible. The worst I’ve ever heard her, literally in her entire life. At 4:34, her wailing becomes unbearable. She’s human. She’s a person. This isn’t a game. I’m probably fucking her up for life. If you can’t count on your own mother, who can you count on in your life? She will never forgive me for this. This is laying the grounds for a life of distrust. She’ll never be able to feel supported again. She’ll question anyone who ever claims to be loyal to her. WHAT AM I DOING?

To distract myself, I get up and open the closet door in our bedroom. I can’t see Husband, who is lying on the ground in the dark, but I hear his voice, “I keep worrying that she’s got her leg caught between the crib slats and that we’re going to go in there and it’s going to be horribly contorted and purple.”

Thanks for that.

The crying continues—loud, endless, painful. I watch the clock as the minutes crawl by. 4:41. 4:43. 4:47. 4:51. 4:53. 4:57.

I feel sick.

At 4:58, I rationalize to myself: the clock in her room says 5:00. I know it does because it is always faster than the clock in our room.

After all: “There is no instance of a nation benefiting from prolonged warfare.”

I steel myself for the worst, and as I walk towards Eliana’s room in the dark quiet of the hallway, past Lila’s creepily empty bedroom, I am deathly afraid that Husband is right: that I will go in there, that there will be something horribly wrong with Eliana that I will never be able to fix, something that I will never be able to forgive myself for.

I get to her room and look into the crib. Eliana looks at me—there are no tears. In fact, she is now smiling, as if my presence is the off-switch to her crying. No hurt feelings; in fact, the only ones who have been psychologically scarred are Husband and me.

Tonight: night #2. This time, I take a page from another great war general, Ulysses S. Grant: “The art of war is simple enough. Find out where your enemy is. Get at him as soon as you can. Strike him as hard as you can, and keep moving on.”

So tonight, we keep moving on.

Nothing Compares 2 U

The nights of sleep training may be dark and stormy, but my days have been cold and shitty.

The six ounce pumped breastmilk bag from work leaked all over my favorite bag. And yes, while I know it’s milk that came out of my very own ta-tas, it is no less repulsive to me that the items in my purse have an I-wish-it-were-questionable filmy residue all over them. My favorite eight-year-old pair of jeans—which, miraculously, actually fit me, even after I Eliana-ed— finally gave into time and ripped in the knee, rendering them useless unless I want to appear on some sad reunion show of “Growing Pains.” The garbage truck didn’t take recycling, so I had to pick up the four million cardboard boxes we had put out that had blown all over the driveway while Eliana cried in the car, and it rained outside. I’ve depleted my back supply of breastmilk; I am down to two extra bags. I smashed my arm into the wall, making it extremely unpleasant to carry a baby…or a three-year-old. I am drowning in papers I need to grade, parent-teacher conferences, and the overwhelming fear that I am falling short in all spheres of my life: mom, wife, teacher, friend.

Sleep training has completely dissolved into a whole hot mess of nothing: even dream-feeding Eliana, that little monster (read: my adorable, lovely gift of a child) still wakes up at 4 AM to eat/play/make sure we age prematurely. And while I genuinely understand that the solution to this is to cry-it-out, I’m just too afraid that this legitimate solution to Eliana’s night-wakings will wake up Lila, and honestly, having one child awake at 3 AM is still preferable to having two awake at that hour. On top of this, I am actually more exhausted from going in to “soothe” Eliana by shoving a pacifier in her mouth than I was when I was getting up and feeding her at night. So yeah, she’s not really eating during the night (sleeping food-free from 11ish to 4ish), but for the love of GOD, why has no one yet invented Binky Glue out of Omega-3s?! Listen up, people: I mentioned this like a month ago. NECESSITY. Just get on this shit and make this happen, entrepreneurs!

And the A+D topping on it all is that, for the past four days, my work day routinely begins with Eliana giggling to herself mischievously, and then, just at the moment at which we are finally in the garage ready to drive to school, with her strapped into her car seat, she shits all over herself, necessitating a complete outfit change and an extra ten minutes, guaranteeing I’m late. All the while, she laughs maniacally, and occasionally coughs this little fake-cough she’s got going on that she thinks—quite correctly—is adorable.

Life goes on, shit-stained or not.

And then, then I sit and eat lunch with a woman I will simply dub Nemesis.

Nemesis has a daughter one month older than Eliana. Eliana and Mini-Nemesis have the same two babysitters at our school’s make-shift babysitter co-op, by which we six teachers pay two babysitters to take care of our kids in a tucked-away room in the school. Nemesis has mastered the art of lobbing a cutting comment that makes me reassess my abilities as a parent over and over again. Examples:

“Wait, are you kidding me? 4 AM is a night feeding. You still feed her at night?”

“Oh, I don’t need to sleep train. My baby was sleeping through the night at two months!”

“Wait, how big is she? Sixteen pounds at four months? She’s enormous!”

Nemesis really makes me want to hurt someone. Namely, her.

True, I take comfort in the little things. Our babysitters, whom I trust, love and cherish for being able to be alone in a 12 x 12 room with six children all day without losing their minds or murdering any of their charges have said to me, “[Mini-Nemesis] never smiles. She is sad baby. We no tell the mommy because she not be so happy.”

So take that, Nemesis. Your baby may be sleeping through the night, but she is sad, soulless gremlin and lives a life without joy. In all likelihood, she will spend her free time as a lonely adult re-reading the maudlin, horrific poetry she’s written as she bakes fiber-rich muffins in between stroking her two aging cats.

Oddly, this gives me comfort, and it is an image I revisit often as I whisper the words I assume most Husbands loathe to hear their wives’ say in the middle of the night: “Can you just shove a binky in her mouth? It’s your turn.”

The larger issue here, though, is this: why do I care? Why does it make any difference to me at all what someone else’s baby is like? It’s not like if Mini-Nemesis stops sleeping through the night, Eliana will miraculously begin sleeping through the night because only X number of babies are allowed to live this way. It’s not like Mini-Nemesis is somehow “beating” my child at the game of being a baby. They are different people. Different lives.

But WHY do I care? Why can’t I just let Nemesis have her little fabulous baby and not be jealous?

As I question what’s wrong with me as a parent, I can’t help but think about all the other horrid things I’ve wondered about and am ashamed of myself for considering.

For starters: Is Eliana going to be obese? Is she already obese? She was sixteen pounds and six ounces at her four-month appointment and twenty-six inches. This makes her extremely big and extremely tall. Above the 95th percentile, according to our pediatrician. (See? The doctors are the ones who start with the comparisons, not the parents. It’s planted in us early to compare our baby to a room of 99 other babies.) Is that huge? Does a large baby make an obese adult? And why do I care? She’s a BABY. What the hell is wrong with me? I care because I am projecting ten to twenty years in her future, and I worry: people are mean to overweight women. It’s shitty and terrible, but it’s true. A fat guy has it made in the shade—if he’s funny, people think he’s hilarious, good-natured, and all around awesome. See under: Seth Rogen, Zack Galifianikus, Kevin James. But an overweight woman—no matter how funny, smart, talented, thoughtful she is—is just more likely to face a life checkered by self-doubt and insecurity because people are assholes. And even if she has total confidence in herself, and let’s say there’s no insecurity or self-doubt (which means she is—by some genetic, impossible accident—not my own child), other people will still be assholes behind her back. I don’t want Eliana to live that way.

Second: what’s up with her ear? She’s got two cute ears. According to the hearing test at the hospital, they work. However, one of them  (Lucky Lefty) happens to be slightly larger than the other. Why am I already considering what haircut will work to mask that? The kid does not HAVE hair. She’s as bald as breasts are saggy post-nursing. And while Sinead O’Connor rocked that look, well. Well. Yeah. Granted, I too was as bald as linoleum floor until I was three. As an adult, I have more thick, curly hair than I know what to do with. But still, that doesn’t change the fact that now, Eliana is so bald that we can legitimately see her soft spot as it pulses. It is as nauseating as it sounds.

Third: what is that blue mark between her eyebrows? Will it go away? Is it a vein? A blood vessel? Will other people notice it with the frequency that I do?

Fourth: why hasn’t she rolled yet? All the other babies her age are rolling. Lila rolled at four months when she was a baby. But Ellie likes to roll on her side and chill out there. She never goes the distance. Is this indicative of a person who lacks motivation and drive in a more macro sense? How is she ever going to be a satisfied adult if she doesn’t keep trying and she just gives up instead of rolling the whole way?

What the fuck is wrong with me?!

            SHE IS A BABY!

            The problem with comparisons, as Husband likes to point out, is that the person making the comparison is the one who always feels miserable. And yes, he’s right, as he often is, since he is the Ernie to my Bert and the Hobbes to my Calvin. Every time I think of Nemesis’ baby sleeping through the night, my blood curdles. Every time I read a Facebook post about another baby doing something that my baby hasn’t done yet—and it doesn’t matter if that baby is nine months older because when you’re a psycho like me, logic has no place in your life—I feel a pit of worry in my stomach forming already. Forget keeping up with the Joneses; keeping up with the babies is killing me.

In my heart, I really and truly love Eliana authentically for who she is: a cute, lovable, smiley, happy, cheerful baby who has the mushiest face I’ve ever seen. Who doesn’t yet sleep through the night. Who loves being kissed in her neck folds. Who gazes, wide-eyed with a huge smile on her face at big sister Lila, like she is the single most amazing person in the world. Who happily talks to herself in her crib alone for at least forty minutes every single night. Who gives me a Muppet-esque smile every time I walk into a room, squealing with delight that Rock Star Mommy has entered the building. Whose fingers creep into my mouth, using my face as a handlebar as she nurses, as if she is trying to grab my entire body into a hug.  Who smiles at everyone and laughs this ridiculous dorky-sounding chuckle that makes me smile just hearing it. She is an Ernie in the making.

Nemesis and Mini-Nemesis will remain in my daily life, as will my own fears and doubts about who Eliana will become both in terms of her personality and her physique. I can’t change Nemesis’ daily cutting comments or the horrid way she makes me feel anymore than I can change the blue dot between Eliana’s eyebrows.

But, filled with fear, anxiety, doubt or not, I’m going to love Eliana just the way she is: funky-eared, night-fed, blue-veined, non-rolling, and perfectly imperfect.

Top that, Nemesis. Top that.

Weekend Update: Sleep-Training Remix

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!?

Yeah. Right.

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.

 

Dream Feeder, I Believe You Can Get Me Through the Night: Sleep Training, Part Three

It’s time for a huddle.

Last night, Husband, aka The Underminer, unraveled the plan.

Truly, it is SO hard to find good help these days, isn’t it?

On the mend from his stomach virus, Husband eagerly volunteered to get back on board with the night feedings. I briefed him on our agenda:

1) Dream-feed somewhere between 10-11 PM

2) Pacifier anytime after that before 5 AM

3) Pray for the best

4) DO NOT BREAK. (Never mind that I broke the night before. Any parenting couple knows that Mommy gets away with anything because she is Mommy, and let’s face it, she’s the final authority, but if Daddy does the exact same thing that Mommy herself would have done—but was mad at herself for doing? Murder and mayhem ensue. Nothing like a parenting double-standard to keep you on your toes!)

I thought we were both on board with the plan. As you may notice, this plan is not complex. It requires emotional and psychological stamina, but the methodology is not so fancy.

However. (Imagine me seething, nostrils flaring like an angered bull as I write this.)

Rather than “dream feeding” Eliana the six ounce bottle of “Baby Ambien” (read: formula) somewhere between 10-11 PM as the plan clearly outlined, Daddy decided he’d just feed her the first time she woke up.

Presumably, the men reading this may (incorrectly) think there is nothing wrong with Daddy’s plan. You may think he was thinking rationally.

Ladies, please. You know the truth.

And hell hath no fury like a sleep training mommy whose agenda has been scorned.

As any sleep-deprived mommy can tell you, Daddy’s undermining, off-the-reservation plan negates the whole purpose of our sleep-training program. Because with Daddy popping in for a jovial drink and cuddle when Eliana wants it, she is still getting what she wants when she wakes up. She will not be able to distinguish between why she gets up the first time and someone feeds her, whereas all subsequent times, she does not get fed.

And yet.

He fed her at 1:28 AM last night (“or did I finish at 1:30?” Seriously, Daddy? CAN YOU NOT LOOK AT A CLOCK AND TAKE NOTE!?). Husband reported, “It was the first time she ever had powdered formula instead of the liquid stuff. She loved it.”

The next time Eliana woke up was at 5:01 AM. That little genius knew that I wouldn’t go in there until past five…so she just held out for the clock. I don’t know whether to hate her or sign her up for an infant gifted program.

Today, after Lila and Eliana were in bed, and Husband and I sat down for dinner tonight, I tried calmly to state my case and enumerate the flaws in his plan without sounding like a judgmental bitch. I was going for “easy, approachable gal who works with Husband as co-parents” demeanor, even though we all know that no matter how awesome your husband is (and yeah, mine is really awesome), co-parenting is a myth made up by guilt-ridden men because really, this whole parenting thing just doesn’t break down 50-50 ever. 60-40…still dreaming. 65-35? Closer, at best.

Me: So….let’s talk about what happened last night.

Husband (innocently): Huh?

Me: Yeah, with the sleep training.

Husband: I fed her at 1:30ish. Or maybe I finished at 1:30ish? I don’t know. She ate six ounces pretty fast. Maybe tonight I should give her eight ounces.

Me (quietly seething): Remember how we talked about dream-feeding her?

Husband: I just figured I’d wait until she woke up.

Me (losing my cool): Right…but that was not on plan!

Husband: I think you and I are approaching this in different ways.

Me (thinking: “Mine is the right way”): What do you mean?

Husband: You want to eliminate all night feedings.

Me (trying very hard not to sound patronizing): Yes.

Husband: But you can’t just cut out all night feedings at once.

Me: Yes, you can.

Husband: That’s like trying to lose 100 pounds at once. How about we go for 2 pounds? Eliminate the TWO night feedings…let’s just get her down to one.

Me (thinking about this, as it does actually make sense): Yeah, I guess that makes sense. (Filling with self-doubt) But then what have I been doing these past 3 nights?

Husband: Sleep training?

Question mark, indeed.

About twenty minutes later, after I explained the concept of dream-feeding (for the record, AGAIN), Husband said, “Oh! So that’s what a dream feed is. I didn’t really get what you were talking about. Now I get it.”

“So are you on board? Feed her at 10 or 11? No more feeding until 5 AM? Pacify in between?”

“Yeah, yeah. Sure.”

So here we are: night #3.

Maybe it’s the English teacher in me, but I can’t help but think of Lady Macbeth all these nights. And while she speaks to figments of her imagination, tonight, when Husband does that dream-feed (now that we know what dream feeds are), I will think of Lady Macbeth’s final words: “come, come, come, come, give me your hand. What’s done cannot be undone.—To bed, to bed, to bed!”

So here we go, Eliana. Take three: “To bed, to bed, to bed!”

 

Postscript: Husband has read this blog post and claims, “I don’t think we ever talked about dream feeding at night. I don’t think we ever had that conversation.”

ARGH.

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.

All Night Long (She’s Gonna Give It To Me Give It To Me Give It To Me Give It To Me)

“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.

And yet.

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?”

“Yeah.”

“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.

FUCK.

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…