1:13 a.m. I hear little sniffles coming through her slightly open and my completely closed doors.
I shuffle quietly in bed. Take my eye mask off and just lay there.
Then, the sniffles start getting louder, less muffled, more obvious.
I try to turn the AV baby monitor on. It says, “Login Failed. Device disconnected.” Okay, something is wrong with this Nook-turned-video screen. I don’t stress over it yet but I can still hear her.
Sniffles have now turned into heaving sobs which appear to turn into weak cries. The decibels are still within a comfortable don’t-stress-it-yet realm.
I put the eye mask on and turn to my side hoping the cries magically stop. They don’t.
The soft cries are now actual cries but not loud enough to make me panic.
I try really hard not to listen but I can still hear her. I say a silent prayer that she just quietly slip into the sweet embrace of the night and go back to sleep. She doesn’t.
I lay there wide awake wondering what my baby is up to. I imagine her kicking her legs inside her sleep sack and displeasure in her sleepy eyes that are probably still closed.
After 5.5 months of being sleep deprived, being only marginally functional, going about some days with a pretentiously alive disposition, sometimes even driving in a zombie-like dangerous state with TWO kids in the back seat, having used dollops of under-eye concealer to mask my severely darkening dark circles unsuccessfully, feeling utterly exhausted and useless during the day, unable to talk up to myself about the things I actually have accomplished in these postpartum months with very little help, and experiencing a major dip in self-confidence, self-esteem, and relentlessly battling body issues no thanks to the 20 pounds I am still carrying around after two babies, I just gave up.
I felt done. I needed sleep. I needed my baby to sleep undisturbed through the night.
I told Aaron that I was sleeping in the living room. That I was NOT getting up to feed the baby at night anymore. That she was developmentally supposed to be able to sleep through the night now. That I just needed to sleep – quiet, undisturbed, peaceful, divine, underrated, sweet sweet sleep. He suggested that we go back to sleeping in TJ’s room since the mattress we used for a few days last week when we slept in that room, was still there. That made sense.
All evening as the idea of sleeping away from my baby was growing roots in my head, I started feeling really emotional thinking about it. I imagined her helplessly crying at night, waiting and waiting for mommy to come and pick her up, anticipating the sweet taste of breastmilk that she really didn’t need but from which she felt comforted, the warmth of her mother’s bosom against her cheeks, kisses on her little hand as she touched mommy’s face while sucking, the gentle hug at the end of the feed, and soft kisses as she got put back in her crib… My sweet little angel baby girl. My sweet little angel baby girl.
As I went through the motions of giving her a sponge bath (alternating days with an actual baby bathtub bath), lotioning, powdering, diapering, and dressing her for the night, I felt a huge lump in my throat. I was not going to be there for her that night. I cried as I gently caressed her hair and told her to be strong that night. That mommy was right there in the next room. That mommy would be thinking of her all night. That this was a path she would have to tread on herself for her mother’s sake, for her own sake. I apologized as I told her that an exhausted mommy was a very unhappy mommy and mommy needed to be happy to make sure everyone else was happy and well taken care of.
I hoped she would understand. I hoped that she would be a natural and sleep through the night. My sanity and happiness were in her hands.
The minutes tick away very, very slowly. I am still wide awake but continue to stay in bed. My eye mask has come off completely. The darn AV monitor is still not working. I turn toward my phone and switch the Airplane mode off and turn the AV app on. Nope, no luck. Still get the same message. Stupid wireless router, I curse quietly. I am exasperated. A little desperate.
She is still making noises. Crying. Not loudly but loud enough.
TJ must have sensed something. Still intoxicated by sleep, he sits up. I gently tell him to go back to sleep. He does.
I am back to mulling over my thoughts, sharply focused on what might be going on in the room next door, a room in which I have no eyes. I imagine my baby sobbing away. Sad. Unable to understand why no one was coming to get her.
I want to go over. I want to scoop her up, saturate her cheeks with kisses, and smell her sweet baby smell. I want to hold her. Comfort her. Tell her that everything is okay. That mommy would never ever leave her again. I don’t move. As if, my moving in this room would raise her hopes in the next.
I need her to learn to put herself back to sleep, something she does really well at nap time.
In resorting to this desperate measure where I finally decided to just let her soothe herself to sleep at night time, I thought long and hard about my decision trying to logically defend why I was doing what I did. Some of my thoughts –
- I told myself that she was on solids. Has been for about three weeks now. She was handling it well.
- She wasn’t nursing as much as before but still needed enough diaper changes that I didn’t need to worry about dehydration.
- Her brother was moved to his own room at 5.5 months and started sleeping through the night by 6.5 months.
- She is not her brother. She is different and is breastfed so her patterns will be different from TJ’s who was a combination of formula and breastmilk.
- The 4-5 times a night that she wakes up is not from hunger-related wakings because she rarely nursed, nursed. This, to me, meant that she really did not need to eat at night anymore. Her waking up all those times was more out of habit and comfort-related.
- So what’s wrong with wanting comfort from her mother? I am being selfish in wanting to sleep more. I am being selfish for weaning her off night feeds for my convenience.
- My supply may be hit if she gives up nursing at night. She never took to formula or the bottle. What am I going to do if she can’t have either? How am I going to force feed her one of the two in a bottle (frozen breastmilk or formula)? Is she ready for a sippy cup yet?
- Is she even really ready to sleep through the night? Am I pushing her too much and too soon?
The minutes tick away. Quietly. I have a blinking match with my cell phone time clock. Then…
1:33 a.m. Silence.
It took her 20 minutes but she finally did it! She finally put herself to sleep. Unaided.
She woke up again, briefly, at 4:45 a.m. Fussed for a couple of minutes and fell right back to sleep.
At 5:43 a.m., I took my pillow and moved into our room where she lay sleeping in her crib, blissfully unaware of mommy’s presence. I wanted to be there to pick her up and nurse her the next time she woke up.
At 6:10 a.m., I did just that. Then, I laid her back in her crib and she finally woke up for the day at 8:00 a.m.
We will do the same thing until she sleeps undisturbed the majority of the night time so I can at least get an extended shut eye. I really hope I am doing the right thing for her and for me. Until she keeps waking up at odd hours of the night, I’ll be awake too wondering, hoping, and praying for her to go back to sleep. Soon, one day, I will sleep through the night again just as soon as my baby girl learns to do so as well. Until then, I can only hope that I continue to remain at least partially functional during the days so I still be a happy mommy and happy wife. Oh, Divine Sleep!