I am talking to Tough-Love Mommy (TLM) one day, asking her something or other about baby sleep, a topic that obsesses and terrifies me. She shrugs, looks anywhere but directly at me, and proceeds to tell me guiltily about her children’s insanely perfect sleep habits. When my chin hits the floor in awe of babies that sleep like frat boys, she says, “good baby sleep is like Fight Club: the first rule is you don’t talk about it.”
Baby sleep: the reason for all misery in the early months (or year, in our case). It’s nightmarish for every parent at some point or another –except, apparently, for ALL OF MY FRIENDS, whose babies sleep until 8:00 in the morning and take 3 hour naps. I hate everyone. Those bastards aside, though, MOST parents have to deal with the hardest stuff right when they are least equipped to handle it. How can anyone so sleep-deprived deal with sleep journals and controlled intervals and apps that track every minute your baby sleeps? Dick move, universe.
I read all the books. Back and forth on the spectrum that has nursing-until-age-five on one end, and approximating-Eastern-European-orphanage on the other. I just don’t know who (oh, fine: WHOM) to believe. They all claim to be experts, they all have people who swear by their methods, and they all say something different. Oh, and they all intimate that if you don’t do it their way, BAD THINGS will happen. And it will be your fault.
One of them says that you should never rock your baby, because it will always need to be rocked. You should hold your crying baby upright against your chest and stand perfectly still. Ummm…even someone who has never held a baby will rock; it’s instinct. For the first few weeks after I came home from the hospital, I rocked on my feet even when someone else was holding the baby. Another one said you should never pick your child up until he’s crying so hard he throws up, because then he’ll associate crying with being comforted. Which, as it turns out, is… bad? And one I will never forget: you shouldn’t develop a long bedtime routine, because then you’ll be stuck doing it every night. Isn’t that the best part of having a baby? Call me crazy, but if you don’t want to be stuck scrubbing a naked giggling baby, putting him into footie pajamas, reading him stories that require touching the fuzzy/furry/squishy page, and watching him fall asleep in your arms, perhaps what you are looking for is a ficus.
I get hung up on the fact that all mammals sleep curled up with their babies, and that sleep training asks us to ignore all our most basic maternal instincts. I hate it. On the other hand, there’s maternal instinct and then there’s SURVIVAL instinct. At some point, dude, you have to SLEEP. As TLM told me, “don’t worry– you’ll know when he’s fucking with you.” And I did. After months of feeling like N would never sleep if he wasn’t strapped to a human body, he learned how to do it. Hallelujah! Saints be praised! My baby can now fall asleep on his own! Without crying! He doesn’t need me to rock…wait. Hold on. Now I’m depressed.