You turned six months old four days ago. I’ve started to hear that I should sleep train you “for the sake of my sanity”. Not from anyone close to us, but from those who made their own choices with their own children and who feel that their choices are the only way to stay sane as the parent of a infant who does not yet sleep.
Last night your daddy and I curled up in our bed as you nursed and kicked your feet against my legs. “It’s not fair.” he told me. You see, comforting you is squarely on me. You are a mellow child who will spend time with anyone, and who makes friends with strangers across the grocery store by flashing them a gummy squinty-eyed grin. You will sit and play with your toys on the floor for an hour while your oldest brother does his homework and your other brother talks to the hermit crabs about ghosts and zombies and other things that have captured his two year old imagination so close to Halloween. But when you start to rub your eyes and bob your head it is the beginning of the chain of events that rapidly leads to you screaming your head off inconsolable unless you are in my arms. “It’s not fair that you are the only one that can get her to sleep. It’s not fair to you.”
It’s not. It’s not fair. Alexander would rock to sleep with others, even as he resisted. Isaac could be put to sleep by the nanny that we had at the time, even though night duty was solely on me due to the circumstances and your daddy not being allowed in our life at that point in time. You, though, for some reason.. You need my arms. And “fair” has to take into consideration your needs as well as mine.
I do not become frantic when my need for some space for myself is not met. I do not cry and scream and turn purple in the face if I do not get a night of sleep alone in my bed. I can talk about the things that I miss, and I understand the passage of time. I am given time to sleep in on the weekends between when you wake up and when you need to sleep again. I am given time to shower while you play with your grandparents and your brother.
For the sake of my sanity…
For the sake of my sanity I do not “let you cry” uncomforted.
For the sake of my sanity I understand that sleeplessness passes.
For the sake of my sanity I kiss you when you wake me up, and I sniff your head, and I speak gently to you.
For the sake of my sanity I welcome you into bed with me as you snuggle to my side and melt into the shape of me in the dark.
Sanity comes from understanding. It comes from knowing that sleeplessness does not need to be angry or short-tempered. It can be slow and snuggly. Sleeplessness does not need to be frustrating. It can be warm and fuzzy and naps can be found while your brothers play in their gated-off room while I snooze with you in the afternoon sunshine. Sanity comes from letting go of unrealistic expectations and finding joy wherever it can be found.
I do not feel that it is sane to allow you to cry alone. I do not feel that it is sane to ignore the only language that you have for expressing your needs. I do not feel that it is sane to expect you to soothe yourself now or at any point in your early childhood. I do not feel that it is sane to expect you to learn positive things in a vacuum while you are upset and frantic.
Right now you need me for reasons you are not able to explain. I do not feel that it would be sane for me, as a mother, to ignore the needs of my child when I have the ability to meet them.
For me, sanity comes from knowing that all of my children are content, cared for, and knowing that they understand that they are safe and loved. Sleep is lovely, of course. But I won’t take sleep in trade for sanity.
For the sake of their sanity, some will choose to have their babies cry it out. For the sake of MY sanity, I will wait it out. From now through the end of your need.
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