Monday, July 12, 2010

It’s the right thing to do, even when it hurts


Sleep training a baby has got to be one of the hardest things a parent has to endure. But in my experience, it was a necessary evil. And maybe that’s why I can now say that Little Miss has been a good little sleeper since just before she turned a year old. Yes, we bit the bullet and let her cry it out because neither of us were getting any rest in the evenings trying to put a stubborn child to sleep, and while I felt awful during the sleep-training process (I think my tears rivaled hers), it was the best thing we ever did with her. Yes, EVER.

At the end of her training, she finally started to sleep well and in 12-hour stretches. In the morning, a happier baby awaited us. It also gave us our nights back, where we had our life outside of the baby again. It’s not a coincidence that it was also the time I started blogging. As she slept, we were able to enjoy more impromptu date nights at home and cultivate our relationship. So yes, a sleeping baby is good for everyone.

However, there are moments of digression. It’s not uncommon that she whimpers around midnight but it often dissipates quickly as she soothes herself back to sleep. On rare occasions, her midnight stirring turns into a frenzy that demands the attention of a parent. But that parent is almost never me. Little Miss is a Jekyll and Hyde baby with us in the night, and of course, I would be the lucky one to get Little Miss Hyde.

If I’m the one to walk into her bedroom, her crying goes from terrible to gone in three seconds, which is great, but it’s what happens after that makes my mommy mojo fizzle. She is so elated to see me, she refuses to stay in her crib, and when I comply with her request to be picked up, she wants to stay attached to my side as we read, sing or just snuggle in the daybed in her room together.

She would wear a “this is awesome; mama’s here!” smile the entire time I’m there to accompany her incessant "mamamamamamamamamama” - cute the first 47 times, after which I desperately look for a mute button. But I can’t blame her; even she, at 20 months, knows our time together is limited, hence sacred, and every “mama” that elicits a response from me sends her into a tiny rapture. With each passing minute that I try to coax her back to sleep, the more awake she becomes, which is the exact opposite reaction expected. As I tire from sleep deprivation and decide to give up and leave her in her crib many, many, many minutes (sometimes over an hour) later, she goes back to being riled up but this time, she’s also angry that I am leaving. And so the crying that I went in there to quell starts all over again.

When her daddy goes in, most of the time he makes sure she stays in her crib. She’s less demanding with him so she stays in there as he rubs her back or talks to her to calm her, offers water, and he leaves a toddler quietly drifting back to sleep. And THAT is why he is on night watch – when he goes in, we all get the sleep we need.

While most people probably relish being the one to stay in bed, I have to admit, I’m a tad resentful of My Guy. I suppose I could take comfort in the fact that my inability to get her back to sleep stems from her favoring my presence over his, but the thing is, with a full-time job that affords me only two hours with her a day, I desperately long for any chance I get to be with her. I don’t mind being the one to wake from sleep to console her if that means I get to spend a few extra minutes to cuddle with my baby.

On the rare occasion that I do get to be in there with her, I can’t take my eyes of her. I study her features, admire her smile, inhale her laughter as we glide on the rocker together. In the quiet of the night, where it’s just the two of us, I memorize her face and her baby voice so it would last me the too-long hours I’m away from her. It’s often what I do at her bedtime - another routine that daddy does better – where I can barely tear my eyes away from her as I leave and shut her bedroom door behind me while My Guy reads her stories and brushes her hair. But on nights that I get to go in to settle an agitated toddler, it’s an indulgent treat – like devouring another piece of a decadent chocolate cake late at night even though you’ve already had dessert at dinner. You know you shouldn’t, but it’s so delicious, and YOU JUST CAN’T STOP.

As with most indulgences, it’s best consumed in small doses. And so when the need arises, My Guy soldiers on with his night duty, as I lay in bed awake with a heavy heart, wishing it was me in there instead. It’s the right thing to do, even when it hurts. Even if sometimes I am the one with the tears long after hers has abated. Sometimes I’m on the other side of the door, listening intently to her whispering to her daddy, often asking for mama. I never sleep while he’s in there with her. I wait until he gets back in bed, and I beg for every detail – What did she do? What did you do? And then what happened? Did she…? Was she…? Hoping that the details would bring me closer to her sweet face, her intoxicating scent.

But they never do.