It was my turn to sit in the dark. Dave and I trade off who will sit in Maya’s room until she falls asleep and we can safely slip out. Tonight was my turn.
We have actually been quite fortunate with Maya’s sleep. Within a few months, Maya was mostly sleeping through the night. I’m guessing that sleep patterns are at least partly genetic and thankfully Maya inherited our sleep genes. We both LOVE sleep. A lot.
In the few months after she was born and before she started sleeping for long chunks at a time, we were up, as most parents are, every few hours. Dave was very sweet. Each time Maya would wake, he would get up, change her diaper, then pass her to me and I would nurse her back to sleep. He was working full time, but insisted on getting up each and every time she woke up.
Dave, however, does not function optimally without sleep. After several weeks of this it was wearing on him. He became, how shall I put this, a rather large grump. One night I suggested that he could sleep in the spare bedroom and get a full night’s sleep and I would take care of the nightly changing/feeding. He replied “Nope! I am her dad and it’s important to me that I support you. You shouldn’t have to do this alone.” What was I supposed to say to that?
The next time I offered, I added, gently, “But you know Dave, it is also supporting me if you get a good night’s sleep because you’ll feel better (i.e. not be so grumpy)” But he was insistent. And true to his word. Every single time she woke up, he would get up with her, change her, bring her back to me and go to sleep. I nursed her, in the dark, and counted the minutes it would take for her to fall back asleep again. Usually it was 20. It often felt like 20 hours.
She slept in a bassinet attached to our bed until she was almost 6 months old and the transition to her crib was seamless. We were able to put her to bed awake at nap times and she would put herself to sleep. “What amazing parents we are!” I thought. Ha! This all changed when she learned to stand. I have noticed that each time we think we have a handle on this parenting gig, Maya changes the rules. We adjust, develop a new strategy. Just when it is working and we’re feeling smug, she changes them again.
We, admittedly, did not follow the recommended strategies advanced in all of the sleeping books. Once asleep she slept so soundly that holding her in our arms until she dozed off didn’t feel like a chore. We both know that she will be our only child, and we are very aware that her childhood will be fleeting. So we submit to her pleas to hold her. When she was teething and woke in the night, Dave would take her into the basement and sleep with her, so as not to wake me. He would say “She’s my little baby and how much longer am I going to be able to hold her in my arms and cuddle with her like that?” We were often weepy in those moments… possibly from lack of sleep.
Now we’re at the stage where she can put herself to sleep again, but insists that we stay in her room with her. We still give her a bottle before bed (I’m sure that’s another huge no no), read her the same bedtime story, give her a snuggle, and put her in the crib. Then one of us leaves, the other turns off the light and tries to get her to go to sleep. She is a pro at prolonging the inevitable. We must tell her stories. She loves ones about when we were little, but doesn’t understand why I don’t know Dave’s childhood stories, nor he mine. She really loves the story about when she pooed all over Dave when she was a baby. Dave or I will tell her the story and she will laugh and say “That’s so funny! I pooed all over Daddy! I was laughing wasn’t I mommy! That’s so silly!”
Other nights we have to change that fact and focus on the poo on the walls as suddenly pooing on her Daddy makes her cry “I didn’t poo all over Daddy!” and I will respond “No you’re right, you just missed Daddy and the poo went all over the wall. Isn’t that funny?” It actually shot out like it was under enormous pressure when Dave was changing her diaper. Dave screamed a truly horrific scream and my mother, who was staying with us, thought Dave had dropped the baby. “No mom, don’t worry, Dave and the room are just covered in poo. Go back to sleep.”
Thankfully Maya has moved on from the poo story and now prefers to hear stories from our childhood vacations. Once those are done, she will find any number of ways to avoid sleep. I will tell her “Mommy is going to sleep now. You can talk to your toys but mommy will be asleep. I love you Maya. Have a good sleep” and she will reply “I love you too Mommy.” Then she will sing “Hallelujah” (KD Lang version) to her Pinky Bear, or, if I’m lucky, the chorus of Pokerface by Lady Gaga. There will be silence. Then she will make sure that the yucky painter guys and the yucky spray guy and Swiper won’t come in her room. If she hears a squeak of the chair she will say “Mommy don’t leave!”
After 10 minutes when I’m sure she is asleep and I am preparing for my escape I will hear a whispered “Mommy I love you.” My resolve to keep quiet and stay “asleep” will disappear and I will whisper “I love you too Maya. Now go to sleep please.” A few minutes later… “Mommy I need a towel.” “Why Maya?” “My hands are wet.” “Why are they wet?” “I put them in my mouth.” “Maya wipe them off and go to sleep please.” A few minutes later… “Mommy I have snotties. I need a Kleenex.” And so on, and so on, and so on.
Most of the time I am impressed by the amount of patience I have, although there are times when I feel like there is something inside me that is trying to escape my body and is pacing like a caged animal, preparing. Those are the nights that I am determined to end these ridiculous shenanigans right here and now!
But there is order in our chaos! This is the preparation for the big girl bed and the big girl nighttime routine. This is how I have envisioned it in my mind. We will get her into her big girl bed, read her a story, tuck her in, kiss her good night and then LEAVE THE ROOM. It will be glorious! But, to tell you the truth, I’m not in a big rush. The nights I spend in her room, alone in the dark, are strangely meditative. I have come up with some amazing ideas in that dark room. And at no other time of the day do I get, out of the darkness, a whispered “Mom I love you!”