That’s what it feels like, like I have a secret that I keep from everyone I meet, from everyone who reads this blog, from our families, although my parents have some idea of what has been going on. I’ve alluded to it before – in my blog, in your comments, in jokes made to strangers – but I’ve never really explained anything to anyone. We have been harboring this secret, this problem, for 15 months now, because that is how old Sam is, and I think we’ve finally hit the point where we can’t go on like this anymore. I can’t. The truth is I am not actually the hypersensitive, fairly unfashionable, bad haircutted human mommy that you think I am; I am actually a half dead zombie.
Ah, she jests, you think to yourself. But believe me, the lightheartedness ends here, because I spent hours last night sobbing about what I am about to relay to you: Sam can’t sleep on his own…at all. He’s 15 months old, we’ve let him get to be 15 months old, and he can’t sooth himself to sleep. You may think, big deal, so you have to put him to sleep when he goes to bed. Well, if that were the case this would not be nearly the problem that it is. For those of you that have battled with sleep problems you know that we all have what are called “light awakenings.” For adults this is when you sort of half wake up and roll over and instantly fall back to sleep. The sleep cycle lasts several hours, making you have a few light awakenings each night – maybe during one you realize you have to get up and pee. For babies these awakenings are much more frequent, varying according to age between 45 minutes to about 2 hours on the outside. When a baby has a “sleep problem” it means that he cannot get back to sleep on his own not only in the beginning of the night, but for every one of those light awakenings throughout. That’s how Sam is. That means that from the time he was about 2 weeks old he has required assistance, in some form or other, to get himself back to sleep ever hour to 2 hours or so. That means he wakes me up roughly 5 times a night, sometimes more, and needs me to help him. What he requires to help him back to sleep during these awakenings is the part that has changed over time. We started with just nursing, which resulted in him not being able to sleep at all if I was not next to him. So I had lay next to him for every nap of every day, keeping perfectly still and quiet, and I’d have to go to bed with him at 6:30 at night, reading a book in the dark with a booklight while my husband watched TV alone. You may think so what, all babies need that in the beginning; this was until he was 7 months old. And now we jump to what he needs now, which is to be taken out of bed and nursed and then put back in bed and have someone’s hand on him as they bounce him in his weird Amby bed (it’s like a hammock thing that we can bounce – he had a bouncing thing for a while and this was the only thing that would let us put him down to sleep without being on me. There was a whole phase in there that required and exercise ball…) until he falls back to sleep. But ever since he had that cold a few weeks ago he will only accept the help of me, mommy, so that I am the one dealing with every waking. I’m just going to stop here though. I just can’t. I don’t have the energy to rehash this anymore.
I have started so many posts on this topic and never finished them. There are so many details that I could share about what has happened over time, how we got to this point, how we let it go on so long. I’ve filled pages and pages and still had no end in sight when I write it that way. And I’ve realized why I write it that way. I want to rationalize it to you because I don’t want to be judged, because I know it is extreme to most people. And that is what has really started to get to me. Every time I read a post someone has written, or heard someone talking about putting their baby to bed or their child’s sleep regressing because he no longer sleeps all the way through the night but wakes up once or twice, or waking their child up in the morning…I just want to scream. I want to throw something through the window. I am reminded that what is happening in our house, in fact, is not what is happening in the homes of everyone who has kids. I know no one who has dealt with something like this, not even remotely. And I totally have no resentment toward the people that say these things; I know that what is normal is relative for everyone and it’s certainly not like anyone knows what we’ve been going through. But I have had resentment toward Sam, and toward my husband, and toward myself. And I’m exhausted. I don’t know what it feels like to sleep for more than 2 consecutive hours anymore; it’s been at least 16 months since it has happened. I don’t know what it feels like to go through the day without that scratchy eye feeling like you’ve pulled an all nighter. I’m scared to drive because I just don’t have the focus I used to have. And I feel like I can’t do the things I want to do with Sam, the extra things that would make me a better mom, because I’m just barely keeping it together.
I’m finally writing about this today because I know we have to change. I know we have to help him learn to sleep on his own. We have tried everything we can possibly try to make this a gradual change, to avoid crying, to make this easy and slow on everyone – nothing has worked. We’ve read books, we’ve hired a “sleep consultant” and we’ve been working on it for 8 months. We’re going to have to do what I always said I would never do with my children. I’m not the cry it out type – I’m a Dr. Sears woman. And because I made this decision long ago I have loaded a lot of baggage onto what crying it out means and what it does. I’m convinced that I’m going to lose my baby, that he is going to wake up in the morning (assuming he ever falls asleep) and a part of him will be lost because he has learned something new – that mommy will not always pick him up when he needs her, that there is a such thing as fear and being scared. I want to believe he will wake up having learned about what it feels like to be independent, but that’s not how I see it right now. I feel like he is going to change, be hesitant, fearful, anxious, less joyful, because he is going to have lost the security he once had. And so I feel trapped, as I have for so many months now. I absolutely cannot continue this way for the sake of my mothering and my marriage, and yet I detest the only solution that is left.
And so I am asking for your help. I’m writing this so that you can know about our secret, so that we can be held accountable. Being able to hide this problem has allowed us to let it go on and on, rationalizing and perpetuating. And I guess I am also asking for your support. Tell me that you let your child cry some and that they still loved you in the morning, that they still laughed during the day, and that everyone was happier because they were rested. Tell me it made you a better mom in the end.
For 10 months I have dreaded going to bed at night. It’s been one of the worst things about this – to be so tired and to know that going to bed will not give any rest, but will only be a time to work even harder than I do during the day. I have hated not being able to look forward to sleep and being in my bed with my husband. I dread tonight even more.