When my daughter was six months old, she stopped sleeping through the night. The word, stopped, is not a typo. She was one of those freakishly strange children who started sleeping through the night at the very young age of eight weeks. I am not a sleep whisperer; she just did it.
Until she just didn’t. It all started when my then-husband and I took a trip with her during winter break to New York City. We stayed at my ex-brother in law’s (is that a word?) apartment.
(Based on his inability to operate social media and technology, I’m going to assume that my ex-brother-in-law is not reading this), and just bluntly state that he’s the opposite of someone who exhibits caring behaviors. He is somewhat “machista” in his outlook on life.
So, as you can imagine, when we stayed at his home I was expected to follow his rules, since I was a member of the female gender. One of his rules is that sleeping is stupid and partying is smart. I tried to explain to him that my child was on a “sleep schedule,” and he looked at me as if I were a cuckoo bird with two heads. He blasted music in his small apartment and woke my child up when the feeling struck him to do so. He invited strange men over to play dominoes at 3:00 in the morning. I wasn’t really sleeping well at all. And neither was my six month old daughter.
When we arrived back home, I assumed that we would be able to slowly transition back to our normal sleep schedule. I started again, putting her to bed at her normal hour, and lying down with her until she fell asleep. She had no problems falling asleep. But she would wake up every single freaking hour of the freaking night…and sometimes stay awake for two hours when she woke up!
For the first time, I decided it might be a good idea to crack open one of those sleep advice books. I started with The No-Cry Sleep Solution, since I thought its description seemed to most closely align with my parenting philosophy. I read it, and sure enough, it definitely aligned with my parenting philosophy because I WAS ALREADY DOING EVERY FREAKING THING IN THAT BOOK, but those things had stopped working. So, I tried the Ferber method, otherwise known as the “cry-it-out” method. That didn’t work either, because every time my child woke up, she would cry for an hour and NOT stop. And then no one was getting any sleep. I stopped the crying out method cold turkey when I went in once to check on her after she had cried for thirty minutes, only to find that she was covered in vomit. I’m not an overly sappy parent, but that broke my heart.
I read three other books, and I won’t bore you with book reports of them, but I’ll just say that I was searching for solutions and didn’t find one. All of those books agreed on one principle: “If your child is sleeping through the night and then suddenly stops, just continue with your normal routine and the child will eventually go back to sleeping through the night.”
After three long months of waiting for a magical, unawakened night of sleep, I realized that I was starting to fantasize about sleep. Nothing else mattered except for my goal to sleep. I emailed every single person I knew with a kid and asked them for advice. I even wrote an email to the author of the No Cry Sleep Solution, Elizabeth Pantley, pleading with her for more advice. “Were there any sleep tips you forgot to put in that book?” I asked.
Mrs. Pantley wrote me back two emails, in fact. One email was a forward of excerpts from two of her books she hadn’t yet published at the time. But one of them was a more personal email in which she said the following:
“My husband and I have gone through the baby stage four times and believe me — this sleepless-baby-phase shall pass! And pass it does, all too soon…Sometimes people will write to me and ask for specific instructions, or how a particular tip should be followed – here is the beauty of mothers, fathers and babies. You know your child more than anyone else on the face of the earth…I really cannot tell you exactly what to do because I don’t know you or your baby.”
Dang it! You were supposed to just tell me what to do, Elizabeth Pantley. 😠
But Elizabeth Pantley is too smart for her own britches. And many people at the time told me similar comments such as, “Oh, this too shall pass,” and I didn’t want to hear it until I had exhausted every single option and every single method and tried to control the situation to the point that I was turning into a sleepless, zombie bit**.
This, too, shall pass. Only you know what’s best, because only you have all the pieces. What a smart woman, that Elizabeth Pantley.
Today as I was lamenting with some colleagues about the fact that my daughter’s personality is on the “needy” side, meaning she always wants to be next to me in my personal space. She’s six years old and still wants to follow me into the bathroom when I pee, for example. I was suddenly reminded that some day she will be eighteen and not want to be around me at all. And when she is fourteen, she will run inside of Hollister and pretend she doesn’t know me, and I will be the one chasing her down, up in her personal space, shouting at her, “Don’t even think of buying that provocative tank top!”
This, too, shall pass.
So I might as well accept it, not fight it, and listen to my internal compass instead of asking 3,000 people for advice on how to make my child more independent.
And here’s a very simple reminder of how quickly time changes things.
My daughter, 2010, when at age two she STILL wasn’t sleeping through the night.
Oh, and p.s. I didn’t mean to make my ex-brother-in-law out to be a beast.