Monday, May 29, 2006

in which I make a mountain out of a molehill

A couple of weeks ago, Daniel decided he wasn't going to nap anymore, no thankyou. Popping off to sleep a the end of the day? No problemo, but taking a damn nap anytime between the am and the pm, that'd be a negative. Having assessed the situation and confirming that, despite Daniel's suggestion that he was being eaten alive by red ants and/or being rolled in broken glass every time I wrapped him up and tucked him in for a bit of daytime shuteye, nothing obvious was contributing to his aversion to the nap (and by 'aversion', I mean 'shit fit') I turned to the mothers around me with older babies, and as it turns out they'd all been through similar at around the five to six month mark, which Daniel was now, and for all apparently, it wasn't just a phase, it only got worse. Awesome.

Most of the books I'd read advocated some version of crying it out, be it controlled or passing out from sheer exhaustion. Brian Symon, in particular, practices his special brand of magic from birth. A friend of mine even consulted with him, the result being a happier baby because of the adequate sleep he's now getting. The other mothers also agreed that Symons presented an effective panacea for their megamouthed, non sleeping infants. Three days they all told me, three days to a happier, healthier baby.

Other books suggested gentler methods, and I was all over that, but short of taking a warm, relaxing bath with him three times a day, plus one more later in the evening, tweaking Daniel's already solid, warm and fuzzy pre nap routine did shit all. Thus, it was with a heavy heart and a stop watch in hand that the decision was made to enter the dark realm of controlled crying.

Controlled crying isn't something you can be half-arsed about. You're either in or out, with no half way. If you give in because you can't stand the crying (oh, the crying) you've just reinforced the behaviour you're trying to amend, so once you decide to do it, that's it. There's no going back.

Two weeks in and it hasn't worked. In fact, things are actually decidely worse. I've either completely fucked up the simple instructions of five minutes, ten minutes, and et cetera, or Daniel is what the books would call 'resistent'. I'm not a complete idiot so I'm thinking maybe the latter. Whatever the reason, naptimes have escalated from being pot luck, sometimes a wee bit difficult and sometimes not, to all of them being a fucking nightmare. While getting to sleep had been challening, what with dude waking up and waking up and waking up, now it's impossible. He used to bleat forlornly until I patted him back to sleep, and now he wails and screams and goes over all red faced and sweaty. As the times increases by each five minute increment, so does his intensity, by about a factor of three hundred each time so rather than be reassured by my intermittent appearance, Daniel is enraged and upset, or worse, terrified and abandoned, I don't know. It's awful. It really is, and now the boy simply will not sleep. He was awake for fourteen hours straight the other day, with two forty five minute screaming sessions in between, then he popped off to sleep at 9pm and stayed asleep til he began his other new annoying as fuck habit: waking up at 5am for playtime.

I don't know what to do. I've gone from confidently parenting my little boy to feeling like shit about the crap job I'm doing. I hate that I'm so black and white about this. I hate that, when he's crying, I don't like him very much at all. There seems to be a fatal flaw in my design because while my baby's distress is purpoted to rouse my maternal instincts and make me want to rush in there and kiss away his tears, it's more inclined to rouse my desire for a neat scotch whiskey and a ticket out of here.

Last night I broke, and rather than tuck my little cherub in, kiss him on the nose and walk away as he's winds his whimper up to a shriek, I stayed with him and petted and shushed til he went off to sleep. He promptly struggled awake again, squawking like a chicken until he was irritating even to himself, but rather than leave him for those five, ten, ad infinitum minutes, I played some lullabies from the doorway, so he couldn't see me, which settled him for as long as the music lasted. We did this over and over and over though, until naptime was over anyway.

This whole thing is getting me down, and it's only one small hurdle in a lifetime of parenting. I don't understand how my feelings can be so mercurial. I have a healthy little boy, who despite being ravenously over tired, is still happy and cheery and playful, and yet despite all the signs that Daniel is thriving in my care, I honestly feel that I've failed him. I worry that, despite the magical times we spend together, he's lost faith, that he feels alone and abandoned and will always carry scars from the several nights where I tried to force him to sleep with no help from me. The books say that babies need to learn how to put themselves to sleep, but what if I've taught him that he can cry forever and no one will come?

The reality is though that it really isn't that bad. Daniel hasn't been crying constantly for the last two weeks. He's been difficult to put down for a nap, missing naptimes completely most of the time, but he's still a cheerful, easy going little man despite being totally sleep deprived. I don't know what my fucking problem is.

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