Honey I fired the sleep trainer

Sleep has been our constant struggle, as I’ve shared over and over again. There are so many times I’ve reached the end of my rope with sleep deprivation, so many mornings when I was sure I could not keep going like this.

Each time, I’ve bounced back, always through the help of my husband or my mom or my village, all of whom are so gracious in taking a night or two and forgiving whatever nasty things I say when I’m at my sleepy craziest.

The last time I hit my edge, I finally called a number that I’d saved several breaking points ago: the number for a sleep coach that several of my mom friends had recommended to me, promising that she was a baby whisperer, and that there was virtually no crying involved in her bag of tricks.

It’s at those desperate moments that the yearning for a magic bullet overpowers your judgment and your critical thinking. There’s no choice but to just dial the number, and groggily ask the questions you’ve been formulating in the small dark hours of the night, night after night.

What is your method.

How much crying do you allow.

What are your success rates.

In which category of the baby product industrial complex should we purchase two of everything to adequately prepare for this process?

Can you come today.

This time, the answers to those questions didn’t turn me off, as they had with previous phone calls I’d made. Most notably: 2 minutes crying max. And, specifically, only the fussing kind of crying, not the hysterical, soul-shredding crying that I am biologically incompatible with.

Two weeks and too much cautious optimism later, my would-be savior showed up, and she took charge of the night shift.

Nathan installed himself in front of his phone so he could monitor the proceedings, with every intention of staying up all night.

I hid in my room and pretended like nothing was happening, except that I anxiously scrolled Facebook and drank a beer and couldn’t fall asleep.

Nathan came in a couple hours into it, and said, I know you don’t want to see this, but I think you should see this. This has been going on for over an hour.

And there, on the video monitor, was my toddler, hysterically screaming bloody murder while frantically trying to open the door to her room.

The coach came in, laid Mac back down in her bed, then left, and immediately, Mac was scrambling out of bed, face and body contorted with rage, twisting and tripping over her sleep sack as she charged the door again.

I marched upstairs and ended it.

Over the next hour, her breathing finally slowed back to its normal rhythm, and she spent the full night sleeping on my chest, like she was brand new to this world. My sweaty barnacle didn’t even want to nurse. She just wanted full body contact.

I realize I am on perhaps the extreme end of the sensitive spectrum when it comes to my baby crying. Maybe with the second one I’ll have developed better coping mechanisms. But I would so much rather drink a lot of coffee and pull in backup support (husbands & grandmas FTW!) than have my child experience that kind of emotional intensity in the service of my convenience.

Sleep training for us lasted less than three hours, all said and done. If anything, our brief flirtation with it set us back, sleep-wise. And I’ve said it before, but I really mean it this time: I’m done with treating this like a problem to be solved.

There’s no magic bullet. And that’s something I just need to keep remembering, every time I think I’ve hit rock bottom.

PSA: Hopefully this is redundant, but it bears repeating since sleep is such a polarizing topic: I have ZERO judgment for—and have zero place to judge—however you are parenting, sleep related or otherwise. This is where I’m at. End of story. 

 

 

Sleep and weird juju past life shit

After coming clean about just how not-picture-perfect our sleep is, I found myself buttressed on all sides by solidarity from my community. It feels good. Almost even better than the first cup of coffee in the morning: just knowing I’m not alone, this is normal, that Mac will find her way to longer periods of sleep in her own precious time.

I then ran across this article, which only solidified that feeling of being at peace with this current reality:

Ignore the chorus telling you you’re doing it all wrong and you need to wean or leave them to cry or sleep train or give them solids or get a sleep consultant or perform some weird juju past life shit on them because if you don’t you’re not “respecting their need to sleep”.

(Yes, I’ve been told that too – and it’s bullshit).

Ignore it. You’re doing great. This will pass I promise. It’s long and hard and awful (so, so awful) but you’re not alone.

You’re not a martyr – that favourite word to attack sleep deprived mothers with – you’re just trying your best.

I see you trying.

You’ll sleep soon.

So will they.

via The Spinoff

I highly recommend the whole thing. It literally brought me to tears, and I don’t think I can entirely blame the sleep deprivation or my (still elevated?) hormones for the weepiness. Sometimes it just feels so good to be seen and validated.

Speaking of which, here’s another post about baby sleep that might make you feel better if you’re in the thick of it right now. I read this one originally before I became a parent and before I had any awareness of high-stakes arena of the Sleep Training Games, and this paragraph stuck with me:

The thing is: babies aren’t convenient. They don’t fit our adult schedules. They shit and throw food all over. They need a great deal of time and attention and sacrifice and love. But they’re not supposed to be convenient. They’re babies. They’re growing like crazy and their bellies are tiny and they may need to eat more often than every 12 hours. They need to be cuddled and touched and loved. They need to be responded to, cared for, met with tenderness. And I feel certain that one day we will look back at “sleep training” (even that phrase makes me crazy, like you’re training a cat to pee in a litter box or something) as a terrible, psychologically-damaging socio-cultural error.

via Rachel Meyer Yoga

No matter where you or your little ones fall on the sleep question, here’s to finding our way through the long dark nights and the too-bright days.

 

This is not a problem

This week, I posted on Facebook about a miracle: Mac slept for 2.5 hours after going to bed, with nary a squawk or a scream.

I hesitated before hitting publish on that post, because I anticipated that the collective internet would rise up with well-intentioned advice about how to get my 15 month old to sleep through the night. Or, you know, longer than the hour that is her usual cycle.

I’ve asked for sleep advice on Facebook before, and the internet was generous with its response. Mac was 8 months at that point—nearly half a lifetime ago!—and I felt that I had reached the end of my zombie rope. Little did I know I had at least another half lifetime in me of boobin’ all night.

In the last 7 months, we’ve tried all the things.* Our sleep book collection puts the Library of Congress to shame. We’ve cued and we’ve charted and we’ve shuffled. We’ve A/B tested lighting and sound and pajamas and beds and bed company and the number of books we read and the content of meals and the timing of baths.  We’ve done craniosacral therapy and we’ve night weaned and we’ve made her do hill sprints before bed.

And the results of all that study and research?

On an average night, my toddler wakes up 4-5 times before I go to bed.

Sweaty sleep hair is the cutest.

And I mean really wakes up. I’m not talking about little baby noises or the rolling over or the resettling. This count doesn’t include the times she self-settles. This is the number of times she sits and screams and needs some kind of parental intervention before midnight. After midnight, believe it or not, it gets better, or I’m just so zombie-like that I think it’s better. But it’s at least 3-4 more wake ups, usually to nurse, but sometimes just for a snuggle, before she gets up for the day.

Anyway, the point of all this is this: I spent months scouring the internet for proof that what we were experiencing was normal.

What I found were 10 week olds who slept from 8pm-6am. I found parents lamenting that their 3 month old still got up at 3am to feed, sometimes, but that they were solving that problem ASAP. Parents scolded each other for any night nursing, because babies don’t need that after [insert age of choice here].

I’m done wanting to throat punch those people, and more importantly, I’m done feeling inadequate.

I’m done thinking that her sleep is a problem to be fixed. She wakes up a lot and I’m tired a lot and she’s a happy kid and I drink a lot of coffee and this is where we are. If frequent night wakings are our great challenge then I count myself lucky.

My local coffee shop is also reaping the benefits, since I’m singlehandedly keeping them in business.

And the real reason I’m sharing this is because of that Facebook post I mentioned at the beginning. I did not get the advice I was expecting. Instead, I got solidarity, from fellow parents who are also not living up to the insane internet standards of baby sleep. So I’m coming out of the closet as a person who stays up all night with their toddler.

If you’re reading this, and you’re in the same boat, YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

* The one thing we haven’t tried is any version of Cry it Out. Friends assure it me works; their lovely children assure me kids come through the other end happy and healthy. It just doesn’t feel like the right course for us.