It took my husband telling me, “Either you break him of it now, or it’s gonna break you,” before I realized just how big the pit I was wallowing in really was.
I remember the day so vividly. I hadn’t strung any reasonable amount of hours of sleep together in months, and I was just so tired of the crying. I called my husband: “Babe, you’ve got to come home. I’m gonna lose it. I’m going insane. I need a minute, just a few minutes of peace. I think you should leave work right now and help me. I just can’t do it anymore.”
Sometimes I look back and I’m really not sure how I held it together so long. My son cried for the first four months of his life — all day long. He never slept. Ever. After an extreme amount of insisting that my son was not just “spoiled” or “high maintenance,” but that there was something wrong with my child, we found the culprit to be silent reflux and immediately began working to treat it.
By this time, there was no schedule and no routine — just constant confusion. I didn’t even have an idea of who my child really was behind all of that constant crying, but it was more than that. We still hadn’t fixed the problem. I now had a 5-month-old “newborn” that I had to re-introduce to life. I now had two healthy children that I had to pull myself together for.
And the crying didn’t stop when we began treating the reflux. It just continued — because now he was spoiled.
I birthed him. I nourished him. I catered to him. I soothed him — through it all. He didn’t know how to do anything without me.
I had become a “yelling mom”
I yelled at my kids for everything, even the smallest and simplest things. One day my 2-year-old was whining because she was hungry, but she couldn’t pick what she wanted fast enough for me, and I completely lost it. I yelled at her, and it wasn’t the first time I had done so. I watched her jump at the echo of my voice, and the tears began to flow from her eyes as she cried in what seemed like fear of me. I remember scooping her up and holding her. I apologized many times and reassured her that I loved her. I hate to know what she thought of me through this stage.
I had become an irritated wife
All I wanted was sleep, peace and help. I openly made it known that I was upset, angry or aggravated with anyone and everyone. I complained about everything — whether something was my husband’s fault or my own. Whether things were wrong or things were right, it was never good enough. There were times where my husband would come home from work and he would completely take over, just so I could go for a silent ride. I’m sure that he took his fair share and suffered his fair share through this time.
I had become a disgusted, hard-to-deal-with, hard-to-handle and unhappy person
I felt like I would spontaneously combust from all the stress, and that I was soon to be broken by my circumstances. I don’t think I had ever cried more in my life. There were many times when I hid in the bathroom, and I would just scream as loud as I could, gather myself and tread on. There were times where I would just hold him and cry.
It wasn’t just me. He was unhappy unless he was with me. He would cry unless he could see me. He would whine until he could touch me. He was attached and dissatisfied, just as much as I was. I co-slept, and he wouldn’t sleep. I rocked, but he wouldn’t lie down. Naps were spent baby-wearing or for short periods of time in the car or on my chest. He was up three to four times a night, and the process started all over again. Crib, our bed, pallets, swings, rockers and car seats. Nothing worked.
“…it’s going to break you,” my husband’s words rang in my ears.
I knew something had to be done. In my efforts to try anything and everything to help my baby to sleep, I had read about the “cry it out” method — and the arguments against it: “Your child can develop trust issues,” “Your child will have developmental issues,” and “But what if it doesn’t work?”
You see though, I chose to let my son cry it out for three reasons: nothing else worked, we both were very unhappy and I wanted to teach him independence. How could my child not trust me if I was there? Allowing your child to cry induces developmental issues? I always heard doctors say that a good cry helps to clear the lungs? But, what if it doesn’t work? But what if it does?
I promise I didn’t neglect my child
We gradually moved into the cry it out method. At naps and bedtime, I would nurse him and comfort him to partial sleep and then lay him down. He would cry, but I would intently watch him on the video monitor for mere minutes. I would then go back in and comfort him, even picking him up if I needed to. Calming him, laying him back into the crib and then singing to him, and repeating the method until he drifted to sleep. I gradually let him cry for longer periods of time, never allowing him to be past a point where it would be hard to calm him. But, I never allowed him to fall sleep in my arms.
I was teaching him a valuable lesson: independence. You are strong. You can do it without me. You are enough without me.
This continued for about two weeks. He still woke often, but I found that he was beginning to sleep longer periods of time. Within the next month, I could lay him in his bed, sing our song and walk out. Listening to him talk himself to sleep on the video monitor is the sweetest.
To this day, he still clings to me more than anyone else. He’s the happiest and smiliest baby I think I’ve ever seen. He sleeps through the night and takes extended daily naps with absolutely no issues. I’m not advocating that the “cry it out” is for everyone, but it was for me. It worked for me.
Letting my son reasonably cry it out, while watching on a video monitor, allowed me comfort, knowing he was safe. It was gradual, a few minutes here, a few minutes there. But I could reclaim a few minutes to myself — even if those minutes were full of tears. A few minutes of giving my attention to my toddler. A few minutes of deep breaths. A gradual leading to his independence helped me regain my sanity. It helped me become the mom I needed to be, instead of the monster I was becoming.