You know those things you said you’d never do when you became a parent? I do. There were a host of things, but a few in particular have come to bite me in the metaphorical ass this past year—and they all have to do with sleeping.
Let me digress by saying that sleep is wasted on babies. Adults are the ones who really appreciate it. It’s 11:30 in the morning right now, and if someone told me I absolutely had to go to sleep this very moment, I would thank him or her and drop into the fetal position. Convincing babies to sleep is a whole other matter.
While I was pregnant with my now 13-month-old son Aidan, I was given a plethora of books and advice about sleeping: Sears, Ferber, co-sleeping, Cry It Out, No-Cry Sleep Solution, sleep routines, sleep crutches, pacifiers, no pacifiers, etc. I’d arrogantly nod my head or flip through the pages and think, sleep problems? Not my baby. My child will drift off easily and without struggle. The quiet slumber of the peaceful and innocent.
Cue evil laughter.
It wasn’t so much that my son hated to sleep, it was that he hated to sleep anywhere but in the exact places we were told to never let him lay his head: our arms, his swing, his car seat, and finally, our bed. Mind you, he had a beautiful Moses Basket, a bassinet, a sleeping thingy that went onto our bed, and a vibrating pillow for the various bassinets. And then of course there was the carefully picked out crib my husband bought at Pottery Barn. All cozily vacant. I’d look at them longingly wishing I was a flexible Yogi who could climb in, curl up, and enjoy a relaxing slumber. My eyelids are getting heavy just thinking about the crashing of the faux waves on Aidan’s Sleep Sheep.
Right, back to my son.
One of the things I swore I’d never do was co-sleep. I had no judgment about other people, but I, in my pre-motherhood haste, announced that it wasn’t for me. Not. For. Me. I’d say it with the gusto of the well rested. Then my beautiful son was born and I was suddenly—you guessed it—co-sleeping. (Pipe down, evil laughter!)
Thankfully my friends and family were mature and didn’t throw my prior presumptuousness in my face. And, controversies (and my pediatrician’s warnings) aside, it’s what worked for us. However, just as I began feeling fine about the choice, Aidan made things more interesting. It became increasingly difficult to rock (or squat, or shimmy, or do the freaking Charleston) him to sleep. Then, when he finally did go off and we dared put him on the bed, he’d wake up and start babbling—or worse—screaming. We’d have to pick him up and start the whole thing over. It also didn’t help that when he did finally fall asleep he was usually either horizontal or sleeping in such a way that I’d have about four inches of space with which to snooze. How could one little creature take up so much room? Did his body expand at night? Maybe he was like a Gremlin, except instead of multiplying after midnight he just grew. These are the thoughts that occurred to me as I tried to morph into a Shrinky Dink in order to sleep.
That’s when the crib started beckoning.
It’s important to note here that I always believed that when I was a mom I would just make things work. Mind you, I had no specifics since I didn’t know what the hell I was talking about. I simply thought my baby would just understand what I wanted him or her to do. So when my son displayed his epic aversion to the crib I had zero idea as to how to handle it. Have you ever tried reasoning with an infant? Well, I did and let me tell you, it was as futile as convincing my dog to give up on begging for table scraps. Instead of becoming a kind of magical mother who could poof a child into a sweet snooze, I felt like a villain in a Disney movie.
I found myself telling my husband in a rather desperate tone that getting Aidan to sleep in the crib would only work if we could get in there with him. And we could never do that.
Or could we? (Oh, don’t even bother, evil laughter!)
One night I was putting laundry away in Aidan’s room while my husband tried to get the baby to sleep. The next thing I knew, he burst in, put Aidan into the crib—to loud protests of course—and proceeded to hop in after him. I stuttered out a phrase along the lines of, “Wha? Uh? Um huh?” He told me to trust him. So I went with it. About ten minutes later, the two of them were fast asleep.
They both slept through the entire night.
It went on like this for the next three days. My husband was stiff, but relieved. I was flabbergasted and well-rested, and I learned many things from those three days. I learned it was possible for my son to sleep through the night (Yippee!). I learned that parents will go to crazy lengths to make things okay for their child. And I learned that when it comes to scaling out of a crib without waking our sleeping infant, my husband had the fortitude of a ninja and the grace of a gymnast.
The fourth night, though there were some initial protests, Aidan slept again in his crib—this time without his dad. Nobody believed our sleep solution at first. They all thought we were speaking in some kind of weird metaphor. But for us, desperate times called for desperate measures. In fact, when we told friends what we were doing they, in their own baby-sleeping desperation, tried it as well.
Let me be clear here by saying that I’m not advocating for or recommending that parents do the crib-climb. My husband is a thin guy with some engineering know-how and felt OK with doing what he did. This is not some new baby sleep trend I’m getting behind and I’m no sleep or crib expert. What I am trying to say is never say never—especially before you become a parent—lest you hear the not-so-distant chuckle of evil laughter.