All aboard the sleep train

Monday, September 26, 2011

sleep is for suckers
and on the inside we are crying

The victory of making it through my daughter's first year of life, aside from the obvious not accidentally killing her, is that we learned to trust our gut. We put the books down, googled a lot less, and congratulated ourselves on being parents. The movie image that keeps coming to mind is of me, Caleb and Harlow in a top down convertible, one of us tossing What To Expect: The First Year onto the pavement as we screech our horribly non-babyproofed mobile toward the next adventure.

And cut to today. Different baby, wholly different movie ending.

Last week I had to spend an inordinate amount of time at my car dealership's service department. New tires, oh new tires not here, yes it took us three hours to figure this out, blah blah blah...three trips in one week. This meant hauling the baby over to the service dept, watching Kathie Lee and Divorce Court and nursing and soothing a baby during the very time I was supposed to be putting the baby down (still awake! drowsy!) in his crib so he soothes himself to sleep. See, I'm back on the books. No longer content to listen to the "oh, he'll eventually sleep, it will pass" advice from the well rested, I am a woman desperate to bring some order into the chaos that is bedtime. We have a small house and we sleep in close quarters, so if baby is up, we're all up, and as we are approaching month six of fractured sleep, I am throwing down the gauntlet.

So. The baby sleep books. The I hate working moms Weissbluth, the it's okay to be a wuss Pantley, the Canadian, the sleep trainers to the stars. And the consensus I'm getting from most of these baby sleep books is that I pretty much can never leave my house if I expect to get my child on any kind of sleeping schedule. The baby must nap at regular intervals - in his crib - not in a stroller, not in his carseat - if I'm to expect his long, juicy naps to beget the long, juicy sleep I crave like a junkie craves juice. But see, there's this pesky thing called "life," and "already having a first kid that needs to be picked up from school" that requires a lot of deviation from these rules.

So there I was at the dealership. For weeks I'd been putting off the appointment in the hopes that the baby would start sleeping better and I could schedule an appointment around his nap. But the car was making Very Scary Noises, and then it was me, Hoda and Kathie Lee.

The baby was still in the middle of his morning nap, conked out in his car seat as I wheeled him inside. Kathie Lee was off. At first I was grateful. It was quiet. But then Legs got up to make herself some coffee, the clank of her heels booming as if Paul Bunyan was splitting rails next to the vending machine. I glared at her heels. Sweet grandmother to my left started noshing on peanut butter crackers in the loudest gd wrapper invented by man. I turned the sound machine app on my phone and shoved it by the babies ear. I scribbled in my notebook with my other hand, because free time, you know, not really forthcoming these days. I made eye contact with the lady in the tracksuit seated across from me.

You are motherfucking crazy said Tracksuit's wide eyes.

I went back to scribbling.

How old is your baby? grandmother asked me sweetly.

five months old (DON'TTALKTOME!) I whispered to her.

Oh. Ok she whispered back. She went back to her book.

And quiet reigned. People read. I wrote.

And then the doors blew open. The lady's cackling entered the room before she did, a woman in business suit and heels, doubled over into her cell phone laughing at the funniest. joke. ever.

Declan shot up in his car seat, his arms trembling. Funny, so were mom's.

OH HEY BABY! WHAT A CUTE BABY she screamed into her cell phone. LOOK AT THOSE TOES she said as she wiggled them.

My body went rigid.

CUTE BABY she said to me as she sashayed into the bathroom.

Thank you, I managed through clenched teeth. I couldn't look at her.

Through the door, I could still hear her.

I WAS TALKING TO A CUTE BABY, she said to her phone. WOKE THAT BABY UP, hee hee.

You know in books when the author trots out the cliche of one's blood boiling?

It's a cliche because it is true.

I wanted to kill her. I want to jump her as she sashayed back from the bathroom, Tracksuit and Grandmother hauling us apart as I tried to strangle her with her smart suit jacket.

I rocked Declan's stroller back and forth in a manic fit, my wide awake baby gurgling.

She came out of the bathroom.

How old is your baby? she asked, her cell phone tucked away.

Five months, I said, forcing myself to look at her.

I'm sorry I woke your baby, she said. And I could tell she was sincere. She was going to have to share the next two hours in an enclosed space with this maniac, so what else was she going to say.

I should have done my homework, she continued. Checked to see...

She trailed off, and I looked in her the eye.

You have nothing to apologize for, I said. And I was sincere. Done her homework? Who goes to a public space - a car dealership - prepared to be silent around a stranger's sleeping baby? But there I was, wanting to strangle a lady because I failed to give my son the morning nap he needed.

Because that's how I was looking at it. My failure. Sleep begets sleep! the books trumpet. His non-napping during the day with me has a ripple affect, coming back to bite my family's collective ass at 3 AM when the baby can't find his pacifier or needs to talk it out with his stuffed penguin.

Tracksuit was right. I was crazy. Lack of sleep will make you do and think crazy things. Trying to carve out a schedule for an always changing, ever evolving baby and a part-time working mom is crazy making, too. But I was horrified by myself in that moment. Things have to change, so I'm hopping aboard the sleep train in earnest. As my grandmother was given to saying, Just do something, even if it's wrong.

No single one of these books is right. But I'm going to find a plan and stick with it, consistency being my tough loving friend at 4:30 AM. So as long as the baby isn't teething, or meeting a major milestone, or being a baby, we'll start tonight.

Wish me luck.


  1. Good luck! When Brian was about D's age, we visited my mother and grandparents in a tiny house in Paris, TN. My PawPaw came home from bowling after I had Just gotten B to sleep, sat down, crossed his legs to remove his shoe....and proceeded to drop in on my HARDWOOD floor! I shot straight up in bed and B too! I will never forget it!!!! I know this offers you no help, but, oh do I understand what you are saying!

  2. I used to crank up the swing bed, and then crank up the Depeche Mode when my oldest was like that.
    At the very least it drowned out enough that I could pretend he was asleep!
    My go to was always a really warm bath about 9ish, and really warm milk {think, heating pad medium}.
    I hope yall get the Sleep Groove soon! good luck

  3. I don't think you're crazy...but that could be because I'm in the same sleep deprived state as you and we're going on 11 months. We live with my parents and two sisters at the moment and I swear everyday I threaten them with a grumpy baby but it doesn't sink in. And then, I threw Elizabeth Pantley against the wall the other book form at least. Sleep begats sleep my....

  4. I read your post and relived the 1st few months of my daughters life. I took on her naps like MY LIFE DEPENDED ON IT!! I was crazy and I got crazy looks by people and friends when I would schedule things around her. But then I began to see my crazy and I too put the books down and stopped googling because I realized she is my child and no book or google search is going to answer me based on my child. Then I did exactly what you did, I made a plan and I stuck to it. I started going out, even during the times I knew she was going to nap and it worked out, it was ok. She was still able to nap and even if she didn't, she didn't crumble into a ball of crankiness with me trying to desperately coax her to sleep. It all worked out as it always does.

    The books are so inconsistent and every one of them disagree with the other so who's right?? WE ARE! The parents!

    Good luck to you! Once you take the power back into your hands you'll feel 100% better because you won't have to judge yourself based on a book.

  5. Last year was soo hard on us with the sleep thing. Miserable. I've actually forgotten how bad it was till I re-read my old journal entries. It was impossible to get Lucian to nap on his own (not in a car or held by me) for what seemed to be forever. I would put him down and he cried. It wasn't about being fed, he just couldn't find a pattern and I was sooo desperate to create one in our house. The sleep deprived chaos was painful. Something changed around month 10, 11, 12 of last year as we finally really went with the crying it out technique for night time sleep. Naps also started to fall into place. Long organized naps I had heard of and never had for so long. Ear plugs and a closed bedroom door also helped me.

  6. Thank you so much for the solidarity and support. I'm reading your comments rather than rocking in a corner while D cries for me through the baby monitor.

    Checking on him in 2 min 30 sec....

    And christina: journal? you mean you actually write words that aren't shared for the entire interwebs?