By: Jordan Gill
My husband and I decided to teach our five-month-old baby to sleep through the night. We both agreed it would be better if I was out of the house so I wouldn’t sabotage our efforts by racing in and rescuing her from the solitude of her crib while weeping wildly. So, my husband held down the fort and wrote me a nighty email account of his experience so I wouldn’t miss out…
First Report (For Posterity’s Sake)
I played with Goose for a while. When she started to squawk a little, I decided that is was time to initiate the sleep routine. It was right around 5:55 PM. I warmed the bottle and gave it to her on the couch in the living room. She took nearly the whole thing, around 4 ounces. The bottle giving was weird. The last couple of bottles I have given to her she has pushed and pulled at the bottle, pulling it out of her mouth and shoving it back in. By the end of the feeding, around 6:16, she was rubbing her face a little and getting fidgety and fussy. I left the bottle on the coffee table and took Chloe back to her room. I changed her on the table and then I held her and sang “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen. When I was done, she was still awake with eyes wide open. I told her that I really loved her and that I was putting her to bed. I let her know that I really hoped that it wasn’t so difficult a night for her. I put her face down in the corner of the crib with her pig blanket and closed the door behind me. The clock read 6:21. She began crying around a minute and a half after I left. And went through cycles of more and less crying. Some real screams and some just burbling. The sounds of cheering are coming in through the window in the living room. I can feel a breeze at my feet but my shoulders are sweating, and I can’t tell if I am woozy from the pizza at lunch or if I am just nervous that this will last a long time. Each time she quiets for a minute, I think that we have won the day. That this whole sleep training thing is unnecessary because our daughter, who is mostly perfect in all other ways, has been putting us on this whole time. A joke. A repetitive and loud joke at all hours of the night. But these are small lulls. Calms before storms, and the more excited I get in the quiet patches the more my stomach aches when she screams again. Although, when she is quiet I will be worried that she is no longer breathing. So is life for a first-time dad, I guess. I am about to open a bottle of wine. I love you.
It is Night Two of this journey called sleep training and our daughter is still not so into sleeping. We read books, we danced and we laughed. Then it was time for her to go into her crib and for me to leave. I feel badly, because there are a couple of minutes before the crying starts where I imagine her thinking, “what a lovely rendition of Hallelujah my dad just sang to me, and then he told me he loved me so much, how sweet.” Then, by the time I have made it to the kitchen to pour my first glass of wine, she realizes that she fell for it again, and she begins to weep. In that moment, I am sure that the tears are fueled by her confusion and anger at a father who would sing so tenderly and then immediately abandon. She doesn’t even know that I am just down the hall while she wails, indulging my twin vices of red wine and Law and Order SVU. She played the bottle game again, and I think that it has something to do with the nipple letting the milk out too fast or with her sucking harder than she can swallow. At least that is what the evidence (her coughing when I tried holding the bottle in there – only done once, stop your worrying) would suggest. And another thing, she blasted such loud and forceful farts into my arm while I was holding her that I stopped feeding her to change her twice, both times to find that I had been mostly duped. I think that when she can put herself down and we can regulate the time and amount she eats, it will be better for both of you. She went down at 6:32. We are at the twelve-minute mark and she has started with the periods of quiet again. I would settle for more crying on the front end in exchange for her not waking up so soon after she is done. Letting the most amazing person you have ever laid eyes on scream as if she is being beaten in the next room once, dayenu. Getting the privilege, for longer, thirty minutes later, dayenu.
This is different. I have not been relaxing the whole day and saving up my reserves to deal with this unfun task. I have left the office, with a stomachache and a case of mild annoyance, and now, the prospect of sitting and listening to the tears is even less appealing than ever. There are both positives and negatives at this point. She wasn’t feeling the bottle. Maybe it was the late feed you gave her, maybe she was pissed off because she felt herself on a slippery road towards being alone in her crib, but she was snippy and fussy throughout the feeding. Where she usually pushes the bottle away and stares at me, this time she would push the bottle away and cry a little. She took in just over an ounce before she refused to take any more. So, I sang her our song, bounced a little as I sang and patted her back to try to get the burps out. And when the song was done I turned her toward me and looked her in the eye and told her the things I was feeling. “I love you, I said.” “I hope that you go to sleep easily and that you do not have a difficult time in here,” I continued. I finished with, “I’m sorry.” That she seemed to understand. She gave me what can only be described as a look of disappointment, and when I put her in her crib she rolled onto her side and shot me one last nostril-flared look of condemnation before she started to cry. She didn’t let me get out of the room with the hope that this might be her day where she just goes down. She let me know immediately, “Dad, you have double crossed me for the last time.” In good news, the tenor of her screaming is less emphatic than in previous nights. Her quiet moments have been more frequent. I would have to say that I think this is an improvement (slight). We will see what the rest of the night holds for us. She went down at 6:34 PM.
I love you,
This is the chosen equivalent of Groundhog’s Day. Here I am with my wine writing you an email while Little Goose wails in the background. A bunny doesn’t quack. That would be funny. Good night old woman whispering, “Hush.” Feed. Hallelujah. I keep waiting for Ned Needleman to come around the corner. I keep telling her, “you’ve got this.” She keeps looking at me like she is not sure. She sure sounds unsure. I will continue to drink. I may pour the wine in my ears. On the up side, I really belted it out tonight. I think I thought I was Leonard Cohen himself in there. I was FEELING that song, and before I knew it I was arranging the song hitting some pretty aggressive notes. Hallelujah. Oh, hallelujah. Chloe and my bottle time were pretty comical tonight. She had the same bug up her ass as last night, but I would not be denied. One position wasn’t working, we tried another. This room sucks, let’s try in there. Her head turned this way. Her head turned that. Oh, she drank most of the 3 ounces (that being said, there is good reason to believe that she will need another bath tomorrow. Every time she decided to pull the bottle away, a thin sheet of milk spilled over her lip and down her chin. Also, some in her hair, but no matter), but she would stop feeding and cry a little and then when she stopped I showed her the nipple and she let me put it back in her mouth. Suck, suck, suck, reject, cry, repeat. And so on. Wait a minute… sweet silence. 11 minutes. She went down at 6:35. The cacophony died down at 6:46.
Too early to get hopes up too far.
I love you.
I am expecting big things after last night. Did you see that? I just set myself up for disappointment. I know better than anyone that expectations are a fool’s game. I once got a fortune cookie that said, “Expect nothing and you will never be disappointed.” But here I am. I expect her to cry less than last night for sure, but I really want her back to how it was when she was on a linear progression towards being okay with sleeping. The bottle went really well, and from what you say about how much she ate today, she is stuffed like a sausage. She should be happy, right? I would be happy. Anyone would. I think the only person who wouldn’t flinch if I told them that I was putting away a half bottle of wine a night would be my mother. Wait… quiet. Ten minutes. Could it be? I will check. Two things I just learned. Our Goose is insistent on being awake. She is scooting all over the place in her crib, head up, butt up, scoot. She is not really crying though, which is good. The other is that I am incapable of a soft step. I know people much larger than me who execute their ordinary steps with not so much as a floorboard creak. My steps bend wood until it shrieks, and I have lost weight. She is still at it. She actually smiled at me when I went in which is nice, because I am pretty sure it means that she doesn’t hate me for doing this to her, but it also seemed like she was pretty awake. I don’t get the feeling that this will be a short night. Shit. Patience. Right.
I love you,
Night 1000 (Really Night 10)
She knows that the song leads to the crib, so as I sing she tries to escape over the side of my arm. She doesn’t try very hard. I don’t think she has the energy to really make a go of the escape. I don’t think she is aware enough to understand that my arms are the only thing between her and the floor. That theory was bolstered by her leap off the bed the other day. So I sing while she cries. Not the truly strained screams of betrayal that push out from under her door once I have left the room and shut the door behind me, but a more resigned, “Oh, this again?” type crying that makes me wish there were fewer verses, or that I had a better and more soothing voice. This has to get better. Right? I mean she is crying as aggressively as Night One. For sure. So…it continues to beg the question, will she get this? I think I would be satisfied if the tenor of the crying were less desperate and accusatory. I checked, there is not glass in there, no hot coals, no snakes. Someday she will understand the word “perspective.” I assume I will have to explain it over her first heartache – some boy with a thin mustache and the keys to his father’s car. I will fight through the enormity of her sadness, filling up her room and spilling into the hall, and I will tell her that there are better times around the corner, and that this guy, this clumsy, stupid boy who accidentally kicked my little girl’s heart, is destined to die alone. He will almost certainly develop a limp from an accident designed by G-d to show him that he fucked with the wrong girl, and she, princess that she is, can rest easily knowing that happiness is hers to claim. I will tell her to have a little perspective, to raise her line of vision past today and look more toward what is on the horizon. I will tell her a story about Night 10, when I had to listen to her screaming in the next room, and that when it seemed like it would never end, and when I had to fend off the competing urges of putting on headphones to drown her out and sweeping her up out of her crib and rescuing her like a fireman, when I was angry and watching the clock hands executing painfully slow circles, that I remembered the sweaty impression her head made on my shirt as she napped in the space between my arm and my side earlier that day, and in that moment I knew that not only would she eventually figure it out, but that until then I would still love her completely.
I love you. We have an amazing daughter. Soon, she will sleep.
At some point it will not be training anymore, it will just be sleep. I cannot wait for sleep: Night One. For TRAINED. It will be so freeing to be able to give her her bottle without knowing what comes next. It will be a new day when she hears the song and goes slack in my arms. When she allows me to gently guide her into her crib and then slides to her preferred position when she feels the mattress beneath her. She will take her pig blanket in her arm, put her thumb in her mouth and without anger or difficulty, she will let sleep embrace her. She will seek it out. She will know it by feel and she will place herself in sleep’s gentle arms whenever she is ready. May this be the hardest lesson she has to learn. I do not know why but I feel like we are close. I feel hopeful that she will get this in the next couple of days or week. I feel like she is catching on. Her cries have been much much quieter tonight, so quiet that I have allowed myself to believe that she has fallen asleep twice already. Wrong both times, but also quiet both times for prolonged periods.
I am tired tonight so I will be brief. I love you.
She did it. I am sitting in the living room, weeping. My shirt is a war zone, a mix of drool and tears, hers, and mine but in the end we did it – she did it. 13 minutes, no crying. And now I am having a hard time getting a hold of myself. I think that I numb myself a lot, let my mind flutter off or get lost in the duh duh duh of Law and Order so that I won’t think about the fact that Chloe needs me and that I could stop her crying by just picking her up. It was really hard to do this with her. I knew it was but I don’t think I let myself feel how much I hated letting her cry. I know that it may not be all done. I know there will be setback, teething and sickness and assorted other distractions. But I watched her do something incredible tonight, and I think I could feel it before it happened, because I stood in the doorway the whole time. I cracked the door just a bit and I watched her the whole time. She cried a little during the song, but mostly she put her head on my shoulder and sucked my shirt. At the last verse, she got a little restless. I sang the final Hallelujahs as I lowered her into the crib. I told her I loved her so much, and I wanted her to go to sleep easily tonight, to not fight it. She whined a little at first when I closed the door most of the way and waited. She rolled around the crib, sucking on her pig for a while, at one point getting on all fours and rocking back and forth over it. She went from one end of the crib to the other, but she was silent for 9 minutes. Then she started making noises, whines and grunts, little shouts. And then she stopped. Her head went down, then up again, just for a second and then down. I knew it was done but I waited. One, two minutes. No movement except for the rise and fall of her back on the exhales. And then I started to cry. The beautiful silence. The echoing absence of tears. She wrestled with the sleep but she didn’t fight it. She danced with it, apprehensively at first, but then she relaxed and let herself be taken by the heaviness of it, the weight of her tiredness.
I know it may not be like this tomorrow, but today I will celebrate. I love her so much and I think she is totally incredible.
And, I love you.