Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The "No-Cry, No-Sleep" Sleep Solution

Early this morning my 20-month-old daughter woke me from a dream. I could hear her crying in her crib; apparently she couldn't settle back into sleep on her own. They say that most babies/toddlers wake during the night and can fall back asleep on their own (or learn to), and most of the time Lizzy does just this. Lately however, she's backslid into bouts of crying and carrying on until either me or daddy gets up to check on her.

When I do hear her crying, I give her at least 10 minutes to calm herself and see if she'll go back to sleep on her own. We struggled with her sleep since the beginning--it's been the most difficult thing I've faced with her. And over the past year, it's gotten worlds better. More often than not, Lizzy can sleep all the way through the night without incident.

But, not last night.

It was 4:02am and I had just returned from checking on her--she had woken me at about 3:45, and after about 10 min of crying, I went to her. I didn't pick her up, just hugged and reassured her everything was ok and that she needed to go back to sleep. It was now 4:02 and she was crying louder and much more intensely.

What a terrible sound. It just made my insides churn with an overwhelming need to go comfort her, to hold and rock her until she was back to sleeping peacefully. But bad habits form quickly for toddlers, and I want her to consistently sleep in her own bed. So I put the covers over my head and let her cry it out.

After 12 min of loud crying (4:14am), I couldn't help but wonder if by not answering her I was inadvertently "teaching her" rejection. That thought pained me terribly. Obviously I want her to know that I am there and she shouldn't be afraid, but at the same time I need her to know that she can sleep on her own.

My motherly need to comfort eventually won, and at 4:22 I went to her. How could I not? This little 20-month-old soul was screaming her heart and lungs out for the one thing she wanted: mama.

When I walked in, she stood up and said "mahh-mahhhhh" all stuffy and wet with crying. I hugged her while she was still in the crib, and then she joyfully said "hi." (It's such a cute thing to hear her say hi, btw.) She calmed down instantly and wanted "up!"

Adamantly, I didn't pick her up (it's sooooo difficult to get her back in the crib if I pick her up in the middle of the night). So I managed to calm her into lying back down by singing lullabies and stroking her beautiful red hair. I talked to her gently, and she eased into a relaxed state.

I sat by her crib and, while pretending to have my eyes closed, watched her keep herself awake, all wide-eyed and blinking stiffly.

I made myself comfy on her cushiony pillows at the base of the crib (set up to prevent escape-injury, just in case), and after about 15 min she sounded like she was asleep. Or very close. I got up slowly and quietly snuck out of the room. She heard me, but she was good and didn't get up.

Glancing at my bedside clock, it was now 5:04am. I rolled into bed and could hear her stir and "say" something, but again, she was good and didn't make any noise afterwards. I assume she went right to sleep.

Back in bed, I was now wide awake, mind running rampant with warm thoughts of her, of how she smiles and how she giggles, of just how amazing and...exhausting...she can be.

I couldn't stop thinking about just how much I love her. And how I wouldn't change anything about her, even if it would mean that I could get more sleep or get more writing done.

I am ever-so awed and inspired by her, this little person who's only been here for 20 months. And although there are days when motherhood challenges me to the core, it gives me such indescribable joy.

Update: I came across this quote just after completing this post:

"Don't get so involved in the duties of your life and your children that you forget the pleasure. Remember why you had children."

---Lois Wyse

Between the nano novel, cleaning the house/kitchen, trying to lose weight for Hawaii, keeping Lizzy entertained, adjusting to my no-career status, staying up on my mother's group, etc. etc.---I need to remember this and stop trying to do everything at once and simply enjoy the moment. Be present in my life.

Lizzy's growing everyday. And so am I.
But nights like the one I've described above will be nothing but a memory soon enough.

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blanjo-antivirus said...
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Belle-ah said...

I always wake up when I have to get up with the children and lay there thinking 100 thoughts a minute...DH just goes back to sleep...argh! These are fleeting moments...catch them while you can. (((hugs and Happy Thanksgiving)))

BlogWhore said...

ouch... i know that's hard.

MrsWndr said...

What a great post! I've been there and I'm starting to hope I'll be there again. I haven't been keeping up with blogs lately but yours is a reminder of why I need to. Love it!