I am sitting in our family room in the dark, listening to my baby cry in her nursery, just as I have for the last hour. At ten months we are finally, supposedly, teaching her to fall asleep on her own, and apparently it involves tears. Her torment is incessant, a tide of misery building into giant, shuddering sobbing fits and then subsiding, only to rise again. It is impossible to listen to, and unthinkable not to.
At regular intervals I slump into her darkened room to check on her. Each time she is standing at the foot of her crib, bawling, loudly waiting for my return. I am sweet but firm, a difficult combination with all this guilt clawing at me, urging me to end her sadness, to try this process again another night. Instead I murmur to her, brush her hair from her wet face, lay her down, and rub her shuddering back until she quiets. And then, as advised, I back out of the room to let her figure out how to sleep without me. Her howls follow me down the hall.
I feel cruel and selfish and desperately tired. I swore I would never leave Sunshine to cry it out, but those were pre-parent vows, the promises of someone on the other side of all of these sleepless nights. I am doing the right thing. I am. I know I am.
On my web browser, ten tabs open to articles about sleep. The words are different, but they almost all say the same thing: let her cry. Let her cry, and she will fall asleep. It’s not mean. She has to learn. It’s only a few nights. It’s time. I read through them again for affirmation. Still, I nearly rise and go to her a dozen times before the clock says I may.
Finally, her cries slow to an intermittent whine, a tired drizzle. And then…nothing. I blink into the silence, torn between relief and worry. I can go back to bed! Yay! But is she okay? Did she just fall asleep? Did it actually work? I can’t check now, risk repeating all this drama tonight. Tomorrow will be soon enough. And, yes, we will have another round of this tomorrow night. And the following. And, all those websites assure me, a few nights after that. But we can do this. For now, baby’s sleeping. And soon, I hope, so will I.