When we brought that precious little bundle of joy home from our stay in Colorado, he was two weeks old. He magically transformed into the best sleeper ever. Every night, almost on schedule, he cried for his midnight snack and went back to sleep afterward, like a champion.
At 5 weeks, he slept through the night for the very first time..and it wasn't but a few weeks later that he slept through the night for the entire week and then the entire month.
And Mark and I were rejoicing...WE GOT A SLEEPER. This must have been a gift from God because of all that infertility bull$hit that we went through. Surely, God is not a sadist; he wouldn't give us a child only to watch us squirm under the extreme stress of a non-sleeper. That wouldn't be fair.
Of course, we were taking all the credit for his wonderful sleeping habits. We had him on a schedule. We were good sleepers. We exerted a "calm presence". It was all our doing - we were amazing new parents.
And when other parents asked, yea, we bragged (a little). And the parents with the kids who were Mercer's age looked at us green with envy. And the parents who had children older than Mercer, smiled knowingly and slyly - almost condescendingly (smug ba$tards). And while I'm sure they thought that we were, indeed, amazing parents, they were quick to say, "Just wait until teething, separation anxiety, crawling, pulling up...it changes everything." And then we all shared an uncomfortable, forced laugh.
Mark and I would say, "They're crazy - he's sleep trained..you can't undo a good sleeper."
And I'd like this post to recognize the following: WE WERE WRONG.
I like to think that God saw us doing such a great job with our little Monster, that He thought it was about time to throw a curve ball our way. This curve ball's name was Sleep Training.
At our 9-month well visit, our pediatrician asked if Mercer falls asleep on his own. And while I wasn't there to answer her (Mark took this Doc visit) I can assume he answered like this: "Sure, while we're rocking him or he's drinking his last bottle." And then I imagine her giving Mark this look of judgment that they teach you in medical school and then saying, "You need to teach him to fall asleep on his own, put him to sleep awake. Comfort him with back rubs and shushing. Don't talk to him; don't pick him up."
Easy for her to say...she doesn't have to actually implement this satanic ritual.
Friday night was our first night of this new bed time routine. We had a last bottle at the table (his was formula, ours was wine). We put on our PJ's. We rocked and read a story. Then, we put him in his crib...Awake.
At first his gaze locked with ours and he laughed. This evil little demonic laugh that I didn't think infants were capable of making. And then, after his nursery door was shut, the screaming began. It was a howl, an angry howl with repetitive emphases made on the highest and lowest tones. After the longest two minutes of our lives, we went in to comfort him. There he was, standing in his crib! It was the first time he pulled himself up. Of course, we wanted to scoop him up and hug him because of this new achievement, but, we played it cool...he screamed, we shushed, we rubbed his back, we left the room.
This happened 3 more times during a 45 minute span. And then, almost magically, he snuggled down after an intense crying fit, and slept...
...for 5 hours and the crying started, again. A wail rang though the monitor that rocked us out of our sound sleep. Me in my kerchief and Pa his cap, did "rock, paper, scissors" to decide the fate of who would fight the battle that night. I lost.
And I started over again..the shushing, the back rubbing - each time lengthening the time between the visits into his room to "comfort" him. And he settled himself back to sleep, AN HOUR AND A HALF LATER.
Between each visit into his room, I bargained with God. For peace, I offered my presence at Mass, I offered my money to the homeless, I offered Mercer into the priesthood. Nothing worked. Mercer cried on.
Laying on the couch in the dark, listening to the cacophony of baby screams and dogs snoring tripped something in me. I realized that like everything in life there was no easy way out. And like anything I do in his best interests, I need to go "Mama Bear" on this task. And while remaining stoic and taking a harda$$ approach on this was not easy for me, it was the only way I was going to "win".
So, I continued to sit in the dark, heartbroken, listening to him. Knowing that if I picked him up - his crying would stop instantly, but I would be giving in. And that was not a habit I wanted to enter into this early in our relationship for his own good.
And like all the baby books said...he went back to sleep.
The bedtime routine on night two took a lot longer than night one, the middle-of-the-night crying was much more abbreviated Night by night, it's getting just a little easier....and we're getting that much better functioning on less sleep.
So, in the recently immortal words of Charlie Sheen, we're "WINNING". We're weary, we're sleep deprived but we're winning.