Tuesday, September 1, 2009

But When Will *I* Learn To Self Soothe?

When Mia was a baby, we let her 'cry it out'. I didn't know what else to do, and all the books I'd read advised me that this was the best way to raise a confident, healthy child. With Lauren, I was more lenient. More willing to trust my heart in yearning to protect and help her learn how to sleep. But still, we resorted to letting her cry when all other attempts had failed. Yes, it worked, but no, I don't plan on trying it again.

I remember breaking out in a sweat while I listened to Mia crying herself to sleep and watching the clock - giving myself permission to go hold her after a set number of minutes had passed. It was a relief for both of us when I could finally swoop in and cuddle her back into comfort.

Sometimes, though, the time passed and she stopped crying. That's what the experts all said was supposed to happen: self soothing. But that's when I felt broken inside, because I'd missed the window for comforting my darling girl. I could imagine her in her bed, sniffling into sleep, tears drying on her plump cheeks, alone and trembling while I hovered outside her door wishing she were in my arms.

Now that my girls are older, past the crying to sleep stage, they both fall asleep without a fuss. They chatter and sing and roll around until sleep overtakes their tired eyes, and they finally succumb to rest. But when one of them wakes in the night - wailing a short cry - I find myself, once more, hovering at closed doors. I wait to see if the cry will come again, or if it's merely a dream induced utterance. Sleep talking of the toddler variety.

When Lauren yelled a quick succession of cries last night, I sprinted to her door, feeling a rush of memory from times past when I had let her 'self soothe' and wished I hadn't. With my hand perched at the knob, I waited to see if she needed me. But the cries had stopped; the only sound I heard from the other side of the door was a deep sigh and the rustle of a blanket. My heart sank. I was so ready to cuddle her back into sleepiness. I was so ready to reassure her with my presence.

It's more likely that I was ready for her to reassure me with her presence.

After a few moments of second guessing my need to be close to her, I quietly turned the doorknob, and entered the darkened room to peek at my baby girl. She was upside down in her bed - feet towards the pillow, head on the blanket - curled into an inviting half moon of sleepiness. Her fist was perched close to her relaxed face; no sign of worry or distress was etched in her brow. She was calm. Peaceful.

And just breathing air in the same space she occupied had calmed me as well.

I stepped to her doorway to motion Justin over to take a peek. He tiptoed silently, not wanting to disturb Lauren's sleep, and gazed into her crib. The darkness of the room made it impossible to see her shape without bending close, so we both inched down - wanting to remember her expression, her even breaths, her curled body.

Justin and I smiled at each other. There's something altogether glorious about watching our children sleep, and it seems to bind us further together with it's sweetness.

He turned to leave, and CRA-UNK. His ankle popped, sending shock waves around the silent room. Lauren immediately rolled over and up to her hands and knees, staring with bewilderment at her love-drunk parents. Seizing the opportunity while Justin snuck out the door, I settled my baby back into her bed. Snuggling for just a minute before laying her down into her warm, inviting nest.

I went off to bed then, myself. With my heart full and my arms still imprinted with the weight of my sleepy daughter.


  1. I can so relate to this. Now that my kids don't NEED me to comfort them at night anymore, I often WANT to.

  2. Oh so sweet! I can totally relate! We also let Lily cry it out and I can remember watching the clock "for a set amount of minutes" myself!

    Every night before we go to bed, Dave and I tiptoe into Lily's room and peek at her while she sleeps -- it's become part of our nighttime routine, and it's so sweet, I wouldn't trade it for the world!

  3. P.S. I forgot to tell you! Send me an email (frontporchlookingin@gmail.com) with your mailing address so I can mail you your PRIZE!!!

  4. There's nothing so sweet as watching a child sleep, is there?

    I wasn't raised in a 'cry it out' family. It is torture for me to do that, and I never have with Maria, though I'm often encouraged to by Anthony. It just seems wrong to me. I'd rather nurse her to sleep for naps and at night than listen to her howling herself into exhaustion.

  5. Oh, so sweet! The sight of my sleeping children is -and will probably always be- one of my favorite things about being a mother. My husband and I peek on them every night.

  6. So sweet! We didn't do cry it out with Bella either. Until she was about ten months old and still waking up every two hours to nurse and even then hardly could settle down to sleep and I was turning into a witch from sleep deprivation. Then in desperation we cried it out for a week or so and miraculously she not only learned to sleep through the night but started taking naps during the day and became much, much less of a cranky pants. I think she did need to learn to self-soothe for both our sakes. But I'd never do it for a younger child. And I totally know what you mean about how much you miss being there to soothe. It was torture to hear her cry and not do anything.

  7. What a great post. I can relate, like any mother. I love when I wake up in the morning before Mary Rene and she is still sleeping. I'll just stand there and watch her, breath in, breath out, breath in, breath out. It is completely breathtaking.

  8. This is such a sweet post. So if you have another child, you won't go the cry it out route?

  9. TMC - Well, I won't say unequivocally that I'll not use CIO, but it won't be my first choice. I think it worked - but it made me feel, hmmm, not confident? Now that I've got some experience under my belt, I don't think I'll worry so much about the exact method of sleep 'training'. I think (hope) that I'm just more comfortable in general with doing what feels right, where I didn't KNOW what my feelings were when we started with Mia. I'm sure there'll be times in the future where we just say, you know what? The baby can cry for a few minutes and then we'll reassess if he/she doesn't fall asleep easily alone. So, yes, and no :)

  10. Hey Sarah,
    I have been reading your blog quite frequently ever since Justin told me about it. Thank you for writing so wonderfully about your family. I enjoy hearing about the girls and Justin and yourself. When Justin and I used to travel together I know that he missed you and Mia terribly (that was before Lauren came, for those who didn't know). I'm glad that he doesn't have to travel anymore. A man like Justin that has a wife and two daughters to take care of can be called Velvet covered steel.

  11. Hey Marcos! I'm so glad you're keeping up with us this way! And you're quite right about Justin being velvet covered steel - he is wonderful. Hope you and your family are doing well; I'll tell Justin you stopped by :)

  12. Makes me look forward to the day we have our own kids and our own family. The cravings steadily increase!

  13. I really enjoyed this post because I've been wondering whether I should let Abigail cry more. At first, I tended to pick her up at the first cry, but now I'm trying to give her a few minutes to see what happens. Thanks for sharing your CIO experiences!


Hmm...And how did that make you FEEL?