Emmalee and I have had our fair share of sleep troubles. She started out as an excellent sleeper, but at about six months that changed pretty drastically. I somehow managed to emerge victoriously from that long, sleep-deprived period by attempting to have Emma “cry it out” just before she turned nine months. It was not a decision I made lightly, and I was not in any way happy to listen to my baby scream. But it ended up being a good decision, because Emma began to sleep through the night again almost immediately.
After six weeks or so of this method, Emma was still sobbing for about twenty minutes every night. I gave in and began to rock her to sleep again. This led to a brief period of some night waking on some nights, but she has been sleeping soundly for about 11 ½ hours a night for some time now. As I chronicled in a previous blog, Victory is Mine, I’ve been feeling pretty happy about the outcome of our sleep battle.
Lately, though, it has begun to weigh on me that I am still rocking Emma to sleep each night. I know that at some point she needs to learn to fall asleep on her own in addition to sleeping through the night. I wouldn’t be overly concerned about it except that rocking her to sleep is getting harder. It seems like it is taking longer and longer before I can lay her down without her waking up and crying. Some nights it takes 45 minutes to an hour and I end up just making her cry until she falls asleep anyway. The inconsistency of this is unfair to her though, and I’ve been getting frustrated. Sunday night I reached my breaking point and after rocking her for 45 minutes I made the decision to give cry it out another go.
The first night was harder than I remembered it being. Maybe because Emma is older now and has had more time to perfect her temper tantrums, but oh, did she ever protest. I don’t think I’ve ever heard such angry wailing. It literally gave me chills to listen to. How I stood my ground I will never know. That night she cried for about 30 minutes, with me going in every ten minutes to lay her back down and shush her a bit (not that this had any effect whatsoever). The second night she cried for 16 minutes, and she wasn’t nearly as intense about it. This made me optimistic that maybe this time she would get the message and accept the situation quicker. I should have known better.
Last night Emmalee cried for 50 minutes. I continued to go in every ten minutes, even though this practice is probably more for me than for her. I don’t want her to feel abandoned. But truthfully, I don’t think she does. I believe wholeheartedly that Emma is a content and happy child who feels safe and loved. I don’t think she is crying because she is scared or feels neglected. I think she cries because she is angry that I am not doing what she wants me to do. But it is still heartbreaking to listen to her, especially considering I have to sit and listen to her all alone. I spend a lot of time standing at the end of the hallway with my forehead pressed against the wall, silently pleading with her to just go to sleep already. Last night was extremely hard for me and I went to bed feeling thoroughly depressed about the whole situation.
Tonight was night four of our second cry it out attempt, and thankfully it was a little better. Emma only cried continuously for six minutes, and then it was on and off crying for about six more before she was finally quiet. So 12 minutes total, which is quite a bit better than 50. Perhaps the most stubborn child ever is getting the message after all. Or, quite possibly, it was just a fluke because she went to bed a little later than usual and was so tired that she had less fight in her.
I don’t know if cry it out is the right thing to do, I really don’t. But I don’t know what else to do. I can’t rock her to sleep forever. Sure, there are “gentler” methods out there, and yes, I have read about them. I just don’t think they would work for Emmalee. I hate listening to her cry. It is stressful for both of us. I can only hope that we will gain something positive from the experience. Tonight was only night four, and I am not so naïve as to think that it is all downhill from here. After all, this is Emmalee we are talking about. I wanted her, and she seems to want to make sure I get all that I can out of the experience. I love that child so much it is ridiculous, and all I really want is to be a good mom to her and to do right by her. But, sometimes, knowing what is right is a lot harder than it sounds.