Aside from the fact that he is too cool to be rocked to sleep by his momma (sob) my son is a fairly solid sleeper at night. We have always had a struggle with naps (hence the name of this blog) but nights have gone easy most times. The rare occasion when we have a restless night throws me in to all sorts of anxiety, probably because it's so unusual. Also because I feel an immediate urge to go and check on the baby every time he cries (because isn't that what I am supposed to do?). My husband (a behaviorist) has explained to me countless times why this is counter productive. He is typically, most annoyingly, correct. What usually happens when our tot fusses and I run to check him is that he falls asleep almost immediately in my arms and then as soon as I put him back in the crib, he wakes up and cries. It doesn't matter how gently or quietly I put him down or for how long I rocked him previously - the kid has an abandonment sensor, I swear.
Then begins the battle of wills. I am sitting on my hands on our couch, or laying in bed pretending to sleep, fighting to keep from running to his room and rescuing him from his cruel, lonely prison. And my son is escalating as loudly as possible and throwing some hard core sobs in for good measure. I am embarrassed to say that I am no match for such a worthy opponent and am easily defeated. So, I trudge back to his room, hold him and rock him again. This can go on for hours resulting finally in my being too exhausted to keep up the game, my husband being highly annoyed with me for reinforcing him to begin with, and my son expressing his devastation at my ignoring his cries by increasing in volume and emphasis until he falls asleep. Which, in hindsight, is probably more cruel because I am sure it takes him a lot longer to settle that last time than it ever would if I didn't respond to him the first time. Hence my husband's annoyance and gloating.
So last night, when I put him to bed and he started to fuss fifteen minutes later, I felt a pit of dread in my stomach because I knew what was coming. I tried to wait it out, the whole time I was being devoured by guilt and thoughts like - "He needs you, you need to comfort him. He had a stuffy nose today, you can't abandon him when he's sick". Or maybe that was my argument to my husband... who can remember? In any case I was having a discussion about how "other mothers" surely don't have this struggle. "Other mothers can go up and check on their babies and soothe them back to sleep and carry on with their evenings without all of the drama! Why can't our baby let me do that?" I asked. My husband wanted to know who these "other mothers" were. I couldn't think of any at the top of my head, but I am sure there are lots.
I finally gave in and went to check on the baby (score one for him). He was pretty irate and I spent several minutes rocking him and calming him. But no matter what I did - patting, rubbing, bouncing, standing on my head, etc. I could not get him to settle down and go to sleep. I eventually had to give up and put him back in the crib, fighting back the tears because I knew what was to come. I tucked him in and went back to my husband with my tail between my legs because I had failed to get the baby to sleep and was expecting a full-on assault of screaming and tears at any moment. Just the thought had me in tears because I was such a bad mom who couldn't even rock the baby to sleep. My lucky husband spent several minutes reassuring me when I suddenly had a realization. I couldn't hear a thing. Not a peep. Not a whine. The baby was asleep!
I could not have been more relieved! I was the "other mothers". I had comforted my child back to sleep. Now admittedly, I would never in a million years be able to replicate such an amazing feat. And I am quiet sure that it had much more to do with a tired baby than an effective mother, but whatever - I'll take it!