It was 10:20pm.
She’d been in bed for two hours, but in that time I had been in her room 4 times.
Pat her back, insert paci, cover her up. Not every cry had been answered, some just lasted a second and then she would be silent for about twenty minutes. But even when she wouldn’t cry out, I could hear her shifting around in there, trying to get comfortable. She was restless.
Now she was full-out crying. I had a paralyzing moment of indecision: pick her up and rock her or let her cry it out. Neither was guaranteed to work and I was afraid of the guilt over failing.
My heart raced. Her protests became louder. What would Gary Ezzo say? What would Dr. Sears say? What would Tracy Hogg say? Be consistent? Be flexible? What would Daddy want me to do? What would my Mom do? We had never fully subscribed to a particular philosophy. That worked for us most of the time but for this moment it only made life confusing….and I needed to make a decision before Daddy was forced to.
Rocking her won. Logic: 1) It had been at least a month since we’d had an episode like this, so we weren’t in danger yet of ingraining a bad habit (guilt-inducing because that had happened to us around month 10 and we were forced to end it by crying it out somewhere in month 11) 2) I’d had multiple nights in a row of good sleep…allowing me to stay up a little later than usual should this not work. And those combined nights gave me the fortitude to try it tonight. Consequence: Either she would calm down and allow me to put her to sleep, or she would want to play and this would completely backfire. I was fully prepared for either.
She was standing up with eyes locked on the door. She immediately stopped crying when she saw me, but her face was wet with tears and snot. I picked her up and she found the crook of my arm, just as she used to when she was a baby.
We sat in the chair and rocked. Our bodies completely in tandem for the first time all day. She remained still but her eyes were wide-awake. I closed mine, hoping she would follow suit. She didn’t. She kept looking up at me, her eyes never wavering, and I finally gave up trying to “avoid eye contact and over-stimulation”. I stared back at her. We have so few of these moments these days, afterall.
I was flooded with memories:
-the first time I saw her
-the day that she first truly looked back at us as if she were finally using her eyes for their intended purpose
-the first time she recognized Daddy
-the times when she would only lay on her back and gaze up at us for hours, just waiting for us to bestow attention on her
These days, she is such a busy little thing, I can hardly get her to look at me for longer than a second.
And now it is just the two of us, staring at each other in the dark.
I rub the side of her face with my finger, hoping the motion will coerce her to close her eyes.
She does. Then she smiles and shivers. It tickles. Each time I pass my finger over, she closes her eyes in the half-pleasure/half-pain scrunch and gives me a little silent laugh.
I run my fingernails through her thin hair and across the base of her skull. This motion is calming for both me and her. I look at the clock. Ten minutes have passed, then twenty. She is still as wide-awake as ever. But her breathing has slowed, her shuddering has stopped and her face is tear-free.
I stand up and peel her off of my warm body and lay her belly-down in her cold bed. She pops her head up, but I push it back down and cover her up. I work in haste, almost sweating, hoping that I can get her settled and she won’t begin to cry.
Fortunately but unfortunately, we have raised a somewhat autonomous child. Thanks to the all of the helpful books we read as young parents, we have a baby that puts herself to sleep, plays by herself (in small doses), feeds herself and needs alone time….So now the only way she can fall asleep is on her own, without any aid from us. Usually I love her independence and encourage it, but sometimes, on these nights especially, I wish I could take back some of the times we’ve pushed her to grow-up.
Thankfully, this time it works. Even though she is still awake and carefully guards the door with her eyes, she doesn’t cry when I leave the room.
I tiptoe out and when I finally reach my bed, I realize that her sleep smell is still all over my hands. And there’s a little patch of drool on my arm–the one that her cheek was nestled into.
I don’t hear from her again until 9:20am today.
Did I do the right thing?
I’m still not sure. Everyone warns you about the newborn stage and the teething stage and the terrible two stage. But no one tells you about this stage. The “in-between” stage. Not fully baby, not fully toddler. They expect and want independence at times, at others, they are crying at your ankles “up, up”–wanting to be held like the newborn they once were. At times you are overwhelmed with how far they’ve come, at others, you are confronted with how little they can actually do on their own and how much help they truly need from you.
I guess the answer is: “For last night, yes.” It’s a matter of perspective and chance, determination and personality. When those things collide perfectly, then you have good fortune.
Don’t you sometimes wonder why the LORD allows us to be in charge of raising these complicated little creatures?
So if someone could tell me what to do about tonight, I would so greatly appreciate it. Because that chapter seems to be missing in my books.
*written before the events of last week