“She’s ready for her own bed now.” That’s what I announced to my husband yesterday afternoon. I had thought it the week before last and the week before that and, honestly, two months ago. But yesterday I said it aloud to hold myself accountable. To make it real.
I gave myself a generous pour of rosè with dinner and felt confident in my plan. I would go through our bedtime routine and put her down in her crib, but this time if she cried and resisted, I wouldn’t pick her up and bring her to bed with me or wear her until I myself went to bed. This time, I would sit with her and try to soothe her but let her lay in her own crib while she cried.
It’s been 16 and a half months of co-sleeping with my girl and I regret none of it. I love laying with her and nursing her to sleep. I love feeling her snuggle so close to me that I’m not sure where I end and she begins. And I love when she opens her eyes in the morning, smacks me across the face, smiles and shouts “Mama!” as if every morning it is a new surprise that I am there next to her.
I don’t love the sore back I always have from contorting my body around her frame, so tiny during daylight hours, but seemingly ever-expanding as she goes full starfish at night. I don’t love the lack of evening hours where it seems every other mom I know is getting all of the things done that I never seem to get to. I am envious of my friends who can put their baby safely in their crib before heading out to date night, knowing that the sitter has an uneventful evening ahead of them. And of course, it would be nice for my husband and I to have our bed back to ourselves so we could fight over who is taking up more of the bed without waking up the baby who is obviously taking up most of the bed herself.
So there we find ourselves, Baby Girl and I, rocking in her darkened room, her big eyes getting heavier as she nurses and holds tight to her favorite book. She is very tired after a full summer day and as I lay her in her crib, I whisper again what I have been telling her all day. “Mommy will put you in your own bed for a good sleep.” And she nods as she has all day. But as soon as her sleepy body is out of my grasp, the tears come. Big, full tears soaking her cheeks. I return to the rocking chair and tell her she is ok. I tell her that I am close by and she should go to sleep now. And she lays in her bed and she cries. I try to distract myself. I text my mom friends for words of support and encouragement. I close my eyes and remind myself she is ready for this step. Lately it seems she even wants her own space. And I text my husband to tell him we aren’t having any more babies.
She cries. And she cries. And then she gags. Like really gags. And I jump out of my chair and run to her and pick her up because I am not a masochist and I know just how much it sucks to clean vomit out of a crib while holding a sleepy baby. And the second her little body is up in my arms and she wraps herself tightly around my neck, she stops crying and she falls asleep.
I hold her for some moments, as much for me as for her, but after she is calm and breathing steadily, I lay her back in her crib. And she cries some more. And this time, she stands up and calls to me over and over and over again. The first time your baby says “Mama”, you know there is no other word you would rather here. The first time your baby cries, “Mamaaaaa!”, you know your heart could never feel more broken. But this is for her own good, I remind myself. I am here in her room with her. I am soothing her. She knows I haven’t abandoned her. More texting. More crying. Another round of gagging, holding, placing back in crib. Crying turns to desperate shrieking. And then the Googling begins.
According to Dr. Google and its opinion on gently guiding baby into independent sleep, my baby does not go quietly into her crib and enjoy her solitude because she may be missing me too much and may need more time with me during the daylight hours. I try and remember the last time she and I were apart. I believe 4 days ago, I took a shower alone? Was it 10 days ago I left the house without her? I think to myself that this can’t be the issue because more closeness between us would involve surgery. I close the internet. I sit back in the rocker and close my eyes. When I open them, I have had enough. She has had enough. It has been nearly 90 minutes of our sleep dance and mommy is tired and thinking of tomorrow when we will be attached at the hip again and her brothers will need to eat and dress and play hide and seek and have full-out toddler tantrums that will require more than a little patience and for that I need rest.
I lift her from the crib and she falls limp in my arms and within minutes of laying next to me in my bed, she sleeps.
I did not fail tonight. I did what I needed to survive being her mom. Being my boys’ mom. There is always tomorrow. For now, I breathe in her scent and kiss the top of her head tucked under my arm, and we sleep.