Her cries startled me awake.
The green lights on the clock read 3:01 AM.
It’s the same time every night.
To the minute.
I don’t even need to look.
Nothing wakes a sleeping mother like the sound of her baby crying.
I fumbled for the video monitor, hit the button to see her.
She was thrashing around in her crib.
I don’t understand why she’s waking up these days.
She is excellent at putting herself to sleep.
Every night. Every nap. She goes into the crib awake and falls asleep on her own.
No sleep crutches for this baby.
And she can’t possibly be hungry. She is, by all accounts, a very chubby baby. And she nurses throughout the day.
I don’t know the reason she thinks she needs to eat every three hours.
She wasn’t doing this before.
That’s why I know she can sleep through the night.
But, for whatever reason—growth spurt or neurological development or simply her own timeline—she’s not these days.
As I lay in bed, waiting to see if she would settle down, I was anxious.
Tired and disoriented.
Worried she would awaken her brother.
Sad. I don’t want my baby to be lonely or hungry or scared.
Chronic sleep deprivation is unlike any torture I have ever experienced.
I want to sleep.
I need to sleep.
It is central to my ability to mother my children.
To finding the patience and energy to be the mother they need.
The one they deserve.
The engaging mother. The tolerant one. The laughing one. The one who doesn’t clench her teeth over spills or use a sharp tone when a two year old stops to smell the roses.
The books say I can leave her alone.
She can fuss herself back to sleep.
And, in my desperation, I tried it.
I let her cry for what seemed like an eternity.
Sat in my bed and watched her on the monitor, sound turned down.
Agonized in the dark over her misery and my anger.
Fought the tears that threatened to flow. For both of us.
Finally, I had to acknowledge that she wasn’t calming down.
She was more distraught than before.
I nursed her and put her back down.
She peacefully drifted off on her own.
And I reached a conclusion.
For whatever reason, she isn’t ready.
She can’t do it right now.
And, at her age, I’m not willing to make her.
So, for now, we wait.
We’ll try again in a couple months.
But tonight, I suspect I’ll be getting up.
And I’ve decided that’s okay.
Choice and perspective make all the difference in parenting.
This decision—to get up with her—is mine.
I’m making it in the interest of both of us.
I know it’s coming.
I know she needs me.
I’m hoping we both get back to sleep more quickly than we did last night.
And I’m looking for other ways to get more sleep.