I sit on the stairs outside of my 5-month-old's room, my head in my hands. I'm near tears myself as I hear her wailing on the other side of the door. "What kind of mother am I?" I wonder as I gently rock myself to and fro, attempting to transfer comfort telepathically to my little girl. But after too many sleepless nights, I'm ready to give this crying it out thing a try. OK, more accurately, my mom is in town and she insists that it's fine for a baby to cry for a bit. It won't damage her permanently, she swears to me. What it will do? Make it easier for me to get my baby to sleep at a reasonable hour and with less assistance, which means I may sleep for more than a few hours at a time.
Letting her cry without comforting her by picking her up or even going in the room goes against everything I believe in as a mom. Wasn't I put on this earth to take care of my child?
The promise of more sleep is what has me perched on the edge of the stairs, mere feet away from the door to my baby girl's room. Letting her cry without comforting her by picking her up or even going in the room goes against everything I believe in as a mom. Wasn't I put on this earth to take care of my child? How can I simply ignore her desperate pleas for help? Minutes go by and she's still crying. I feel like I'm being tortured. Now my mom calls me away from the stairs and offers me a glass of wine, which I sip urgently, trying to take the edge off my guilt. I can't do this.
I last maybe three more minutes. Then I'm compelled, as if by some otherworldly force, to go upstairs and rescue my firstborn, even in the face of my mom's disapproving looks and sighs. My baby and I both feel better when I wrap my arms around her and assure her that "it's OK." Later, when she's already fallen fast asleep in my arms, I lay her down in her crib ever-so-carefully and tiptoe out of the room. This has become a familiar pattern, one I'll be doomed to repeat at least a few times each night for months to come.
Two children later, I learned that letting your baby cry it out is a long game and not for the faint of heart. I know I gave up too easily with my first daughter, and I lived to regret it. She didn't sleep through the night for eight months. Maybe it was longer; the entire first year is a fog. My experience letting my second daughter cry it out wasn't much better. I let guilt and my lack of conviction about what I was attempting get in my way of success. By baby number three, I knew getting a good night's sleep was crucial for our entire family, and I was able to set aside any temporary difficult feelings when she cried in bed for the greater good. It worked, and she slept through the night fairly quickly.
I can't blame a younger, less experienced me for not being able to go through with the cry it out method of getting my baby to sleep. But if I had any advice for myself as a new mom, or any new mom, I'd say that before you venture down the cry-it-out road, you should be prepared for tough moments. Scratch that — be ready to feel like your heart is being ripped out of your chest. It won't be easy, and you'll need to remind yourself almost every second that you're doing the right thing and that it'll be worth it in the long run, which it will be. If you can't get there mentally, don't feel too bad, though. We've all been outside that nursery door, 99.9 percent sure we'd better go back in there.