Wednesday, October 29, 2014

When Cry It Out Doesn't Work

What is a parent supposed to do when their child doesn't fit what is considered normal? It seems only a matter of time before we question ourselves and our method of parenting. It doesn't take long for others to weigh in and give their unsolicited opinions about why our child is the way they are and how what we've done or not done as parents is the cause. Then we circle right back to where we started; what do we do when our child doesn't fit what is considered normal? 

For me right now, it has to do with my youngest and his inability to sleep unless he is touching me. Just me even saying that out loud is usually met with eye rolls and comments like, "well I wouldn't be able to handle that/ I need my sleep/alone time." These comments imply many things like 1) I chose this by my parenting method, 2) I don't like sleep or alone time. Family members have told me to let him cry as long as necessary for as many days as is needed for him to "adjust", they've told me I have conditioned him to be this way. People seem irritated when I have to remind then yet again, for the 30th time, that evenings are very difficult for me to make plans and if you invite me to something I will probably decline as I will be home with a lightly sleeping baby on my lap. No I can't bring him with. He's a busy toddler and is exhasuted by 7pm. You want to see what that looks like at 8 or 9pm? I think not. No I can't pass him off to Craig. No I can't put him in my bed, his crib, the couch, or anywhere that isn't me for him to sleep. He wakes up the moment he is not in my arms. 

This has been my life for 14 1/2months. He has always been this way, despite me trying every method of sleep training and repeating it all every month or two. He doesn't sleep, cry it out, figure out his crib is lovely, or even tire of crying. Our ped says when he's tired enough he'll sleep and eventually he won't cry in his crib. But that seems like a far cry to our reality as in the last 30 hours he has only slept a total of 9 hours. Not anywhere near enough for a baby. He is terrified of his room now. He screams when I start walking back there just to change a diaper! I am nearly falling asleep while driving because I am awake hearing a baby cry for hours and hours. 

As exhausted as I am by him needing me SO much, I am almost more exhausted by feeling like I have to make excuses and justifications for my situation. I realized this week that the comments I frequently hear boil down to this- I am not a good mom. When you say, suggest, hint, or imply that he would be a "normal" sleeping baby if it weren't for me, you are blaming me for my situation and it hurts. When you berate me that "still? Geez, you need to just let him cry a bit", it doesn't help me. It makes me feel judged and isolated even more than I already am. It says I'm not a good mom because I have failed at something so basic as getting my child to sleep. 

Here's the truth. I am a very good mom. I have held him and laid cheek to cheek for him to fall asleep because he.must.be.that.close. to fall asleep. I have rubbed his head, held his arms tightly so he wouldn't sleep flinch (something he got from his dad), and breathed into neck because that insane closeness helps him fall asleep and stay asleep. I have protected him and kept him from falling off our queen size bed every single night for 14 1/2 months. I have gotten snacks, used the bathroom, recovered from surgery, and been very sick all while holding a sleeping baby and being as quiet as can be. I have given up girls nights, evening chores, hobbies, conversations with my husband or anyone else, just to keep my baby asleep and not screaming.

We have tried Ferber, CIO, Super Nanny, and all the stuff in between. What happens every single time is that each night is worse than the one prior. Two different times I've tried as many as 5 days, and at that point he cried the entire night. Literally, the entire night. He only stopped crying because the sun was up and I had to get him because the day was starting! He doesn't wear out and fall asleep. He gets so tired he looks sick. He yawns and falls over trying to play. What he doesn't do is fall asleep.

I think it's so incredibly difficult to be in my shoes. I never get a break. I can't put him down for nap and work on laundry or make dinner. I can't put him to bed and finish all of the things I didn't get to during the day. Instead, if it isn't done by 7pm, it won't happen. I clean, cook, shower, etc. always with a baby. No part of my day is time for me or time without a baby. My nights are the same. See? It's hard. Then we add to that equation the judgement from friends and family and it's just so draining. I feel like I have to make him sleep train and cry for hours and hours because, it must be my fault. I've made him this way. 

The truth is that he has been this way since he was born. I have tried numerous major efforts to get him sleeping alone and it's always a huge failure. I have raised 3 kids and he is the only one like this. I don't know how this will end or get better and that makes me worried at times. What I do know is that my job is to love and protect him and that is what I'm doing. Because that doesn't fit into the American way to parent, many don't understand it.

I wonder what life was like in Biblical times. I imagine that a family shared a tent and babies slept rightwith  their mama until they were old enough to wander off and sleep in a different corner/mat. This notion that babies are an inconvenience and must sleep isolated is a modern western theory.  

So, for me and my two dear birth group friends whose 14 and 15 month old babies also are like this, I offer love and grace and the expectation only that we love and protect our babies. The other expectations; that they'll sleep alone, that they won't wake up every hour, that they'll fall asleep before 11pm,etc, are hogwash.


If they require our arms to feel safe and to sleep, it's OK. 

*If you believe Cry It Out is a good method and what I should keep trying, I urge you to read this Psychology Today article- http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/moral-landscapes/201112/dangers-crying-it-out

 


3 comments:

  1. :) hunter is my problem child! I don't get out much either but I'm always around in other forms. Love to hear from ya! You are a good mama! -Jen

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  2. Did your baby ever start sleeping better? My 8 month old hates his crib and basically only sleeps next to me

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    1. Hi Leah!
      Oh man, I so very much empathize. After this blog post we did try several more attempts at various sleep training methods. Sadly, nothing worked. We gave up for several months. Then, at 23 months old, I decided to try his crib again and just like that- he went to sleep with no tears. I did nothing differently and his room was no different. But, I think he was finally ready. He is 3 this week and now sleeps all night in his toddler bed in his room. My heart is with you, I know this motherhood gig is exhausting!

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