I’m usually quite good at keeping my shit together but last night I cried. Hard. I had been up and down the stairs 7 times since bedtime, which isn’t unusual but last night something just broke inside me and I sobbed my pathetic heart out until I had no tears left to cry. Sweat mixed with tears as I stood with my beautiful baby girl in my arms crying because I was hot and exhausted and she just won’t go to sleep, crying because I am tired of fighting this battle and losing every. single. night. Crying because I feel guilty and ungrateful that I even see it as a battle instead of a blessing when there are people that would trade places with me in a heartbeat just to be a mother. Crying because tonight I’m dealing with this alone while Hardin’s at work and crying at the truth, that in this moment, I envy him even though I know he’d rather be here with us. Crying because I can feel the unreasonable anger rising inside me at the thought that she’s going to wake her brother any minute and crying harder because I know I have to swallow all of these, unreasonable yet very real, feelings down inside me and now they have no where to go except out through my tears.
It’s a sucky reality of parenting that despite being the only person in the house who really wants to sleep, you have the job of putting to sleep the people that don’t. Arlo has given me a good run for my money these last few months but right now he has passed that baton to his little sister. Pipe down haters, I know having a baby means sleep deprivation, this isn’t my first rodeo, but damn its so much harder to take the second time around and I’m allowed a good moan. With Arlo, I could ‘sleep when the baby sleeps’ but with baby number 2 that just seems like a cruel joke. The baby barely sleeps. Correction, she does sleep but only with a mouth full of my boob. And this is a problem when I want her to be asleep in her cot and I don’t want to be asleep in her cot. At 6 months in, I really hoped that by now I’d manage an hour maybe two in the evening to have my body and thoughts to myself but no such luck and its this feeling of injustice, no matter how unreasonable or selfish, along with the terrible nights sleep thats waiting for me, that finally caused me to lose it.
I don’t subscribe to the idea that mothers should be martyrs. Like most parents, I almost exclusively put my kids needs above my own and I’d rate myself a solid 8.5 out of 10 as a mum but in order to be a good mum sometimes mummy needs to put mummy first. And currently that means getting a little head space in the evening and a decent nights kip. In fact I’d settle for half decent and would be willing to negotiate on some kind of agreement whereby we still boob over night but once she’s fallen asleep and I try to put her down, she just stays asleep. Everyones a winner! But so far, she isn’t going for it. Co-sleeping has a lot to answer for. It was a short term solution that has really sent me up shit creek without a paddle. With Hardin working away it became the best way for me to feed on demand – she could find the boob when she needed it and I was only waking to switch sides instead of getting up repeatedly and falling asleep in an arm chair with her on me (danger!) – and still get enough sleep to be able to parent in the day. The problem is now that she’s reached a point where she doesn’t seem to know what she wants. She wants the boob to get back to sleep (not for a feed so much now but more for comfort) but is so tired and irritable that she fusses, popping on and off, wriggling, booting me in the lady garden and running her tiny razor sharp toenails down my tummy and thighs. I love our cuddles and have zero issue comforting my baby to sleep but its no longer cuddling, its sore. And when she braces her tiny hands against my chest and feet against my torso and pushes outwards with my nipple still in her mouth (Jesus H Christ on a bike!), its clear that what she actually wants is to separate my breast from my body so she can comfort suckle with freedom to move in her sleep, without the rest of me crowding her. Avent have a solution for this – its called a dummy. But will she take one? Nope! Which both annoys and relieves me because although a dummy could be my short term saviour, it’ll just be another thing to wean her off later and I’m not that big on kids with dummies anyway.
I hit exactly the same brick wall at almost exactly the same time with Arlo where any kind of soothing technique just served to piss him off further. He too stood firm. It was boob or nothing else. I know a lot of mums that just continue down this route and that’s great for them but with a hubby that works away in the week, it just wasn’t sustainable for me. So with Arlo we did controlled crying. It was brutal for the first couple of days but it was the best thing we could have done. He was a happier (marginally more obedient!) child once he started getting the quality sleep he needed for his age and I was a happier, more patient mum with a solid 8 hours under my belt. Eia is getting close to the age Arlo was when we employed this strategy but I just can’t bring myself to do it. Somehow she seems smaller. Maybe its because she’s the baby and Arlo was a baby. Or maybe its because even though I desperately want a good nights sleep and an evening of peace, I can’t stand to here my baby scream. Does that make me a better or worse mum this time around? Am I more selfish or less? Thinking about it, I’ve reached exactly the same point as my baby. I don’t know what I want. I want her to be able to sleep alone and I really want to be able to sleep alone but I can’t take any more screaming, even if it is for her greater good (or selfishly and more accurately, for an evenings peace). And this is my conflict. This is why I’m crying. I guess I’m a martyr after all. Damn it.
When I faced the same struggle with Arlo, a dear friend said ‘you’re just not ready because you’re not desperate enough for controlled crying yet’. Until I was. She was right. I got there. So maybe I’ve not reached that point yet with Eia? But on this night, I reached out to a new and good friend and she said ‘she’s just not ready, she’s too young. She’s still a baby’. She too is right. I don’t regret my decision with Arlo. Even the health visitor, who seemed marginally concerned for my mental health at the time, suggested controlled crying. He was more than a healthy weight for his size so he could be night weaned and encouraged to develop better sleep habits. For the last 6 months I’ve had the same finishing line in my head, telling myself that when I crossed it with Eia, I’d do exactly the same thing but they are chalk and cheese. And I’m chilli. They are so different and this time, so am I. And so are the variables. The most important being we live in the tropics and even if she’s a healthy weight, I don’t want to night wean her because she might be legitimately thirsty and I don’t see how I can do controlled crying without refusing her the boob so this time I’m taking a different, softer approach. I don’t know exactly what that is right now but it’s not going to be controlled crying…yet. In the meantime I’m going to try to make peace with the current status quo and hopefully there will be less tears from now on, theirs and mine.