So, as I type this at you, Baboo is screaming her head off in the next room and I am slowly losing my tiny pointed mind.
We are sleep training, which at the moment means that I’m sleep training, as Adam is at work and also would die of heartache if he were here.
We originally said we wouldn’t sleep train. We both felt strongly that it was cruel to let children cry it out and we weren’t going to do it. Adam found a bunch of studies online that said that sleep training was basically child abuse and destroyed babies’ brains and souls and made them into loveless, hollow shells who couldn’t form connections to other people. So obviously, we were against it.
Then Baboo stopped sleeping for more than three hours at a stretch, months after sleeping six or seven hours in a row, and I decided that sleep training sounded like an amazing invention, like antibiotics or streaming video services — you know, stuff we hobbled along without as a species for hundreds of years, but without which modern life would be impossible.
“I can’t do this anymore,” I’d tell Adam at 3 am, holding a bright-eyed and wide-awake Baboo, after getting a whopping 45 minutes of sleep myself. “I’m going to disintegrate with exhaustion.”
And that’s what it felt like, too, like I would melt like a bad guy who drinks from the wrong Grail in an Indiana Jones movie.
“I know,” he’d whisper back. “I’m sorry. Let me tag in.”
“Baby, you can’t. You have to be at work in four hours. You have to get some more sleep.”
And on and on.
The worst part was that our household schedule was precariously balanced between work and baby care. In order to make things work, I needed three full workdays per week and at least an hour per day to catch up on paperwork and email and check things. But instead, I was spending 16 or 18 hours a day on baby care during my days on, and stealing an hour for work after that. Most nights, I slept three hours.
On Adam’s days taking care of Baboo, I could catch up on sleep and work … but the math never quite worked out. One of us always had an appointment or an emergency would come up, and I’d lose hours of work time during the day, which had to be made up at night. My sleep always suffered.
It’s hard to say why Baboo stopped being a good sleeper. Teething might have been part of it. But I think the real problem is that she learned irregular habits from us. We let her take her naps on us, because she cried in the crib, and stayed up soothing her at night until she fell asleep on our shoulder.
Finally, I had it.
“I want to sleep train,” I explained calmly to Adam during another 3 am crisis. “This baby no longer sleeps. It can’t be good for her to sleep for seven hours a night and catnap on us for 45 minutes during the day.”
OK, that’s a lie. Here’s what I really said.
“I WANT TO SLEEP TRAIN. I DON’T CARE IF IT’S BAD FOR THE BABY. NOT SLEEP TRAINING HER IS BAD FOR ME. ME, DO YOU HEAR? I WANT YOU TO HELP ME SLEEP TRAIN THIS BABY BECAUSE OF ME, ME, ME.”
Adam recoiled slightly, like my hair had turned into snakes and those snakes had started snapping at him.
One thing they don’t tell you about having a baby is that you and your partner will disagree about things — important things like sleep and finances and who does what around the house — and that you’ll have to hammer out a compromise in order to proceed. No one can win. No one can lose. If you as parents can’t come to a decision as a team, your family will turn into two armed camps.
We came pretty close.
“How are you feeling today?” Adam asked me solicitously after a long, sleepless night.
“Weirdly better than I should. But, you know, tired.”
“You seem better than last night,” he said. “I thought you were going to build a baby coop out in the yard.”
“Would there be heat and a water bottle?” I asked. “Because that seems like AN AMAZING IDEA. I HOPE YOU DON’T THINK THAT I’VE GIVEN UP ON THE IDEA OF SLEEP TRAINING, BECAUSE I ASSURE YOU THAT I HAVE NOT. I WANT TO SLEEP TRAIN. LET’S SLEEP TRAIN. WHEN CAN WE START SLEEP TRAINING?”
Our compromise was that we’d sleep train, but only after getting a bunch of books and agreeing on an approach. My friend Ilisa recommended Ferber, which I wasn’t sure about, because I’d heard that he advised parents to lock their children in the cellar and put in ear plugs, and then have a silent disco in their homes while smoking marijuana jazz cigarettes and laughing about how stupid babies are.
But it turns out, Ferber doesn’t actually say any of that. Instead, he recommends “progressive waiting,” which is basically putting your sleepy baby in her crib and then leaving for three minutes, coming back in and soothing her, then leaving for five minutes, then soothing again, and then leaving for 10 minutes. You do this over a series of days, and your baby cries bloody blue Jesus. But because you keep coming back in and reassuring her, supposedly she won’t grow up to put you in a home at the first opportunity.
I’ll let you know about that last part.
My parents came to visit us this weekend and sent us out on a date and then sneakily started Ferberizing Baboo while we weren’t there to fuck it up. She went to sleep in half an hour — about three cycles of leaving-and-soothing.
Now I’m here trying to do the same for naps. It took 45 minutes this morning, give or take, but now she’s sleeping peacefully, in her crib. If you’ve never been in this spot, I probably can’t express to you what a miracle this is.
For now, I raise my iced coffee to my parents, my friend Ilisa, and Ferber. Let’s hope we’re not messing this baby up. But I have to think having a mom who isn’t exhausted and can earn a living is better for Babs than being allowed to sleep on a parent 24/7.
Anyway, I guess we’ll see. It’s not like the stakes are high, ha ha ha ha ha ha sob.