If I were a Real Housewife of Memphis, my tagline would be… I don’t always sleep but when I do it’s because (ok, who are we kidding, I don’t sleep)…
I am not sure who to blame for my obsession over my child’s sleep, but I think it may have something to do with the countless sleep books gifted to me at my baby shower. These lovely books all said something to the tune of: A child who doesn’t sleep will surely grow up to become an obese, ADHD, sociopath serial killer. No pressure to get your child to sleep though… In reality my sleep OCD stems from the fact that my first child has never been a great sleeper (complete insomniac) since day 1.
Moments out of the hospital, I was working off my baby weight pacing the house rocking and shhh-ing (my nap-prep steps got up to 24K at one point, according to my Fitbit).
Once my baby was old enough (read, I mustered up the courage), it was sleep train game time. We did some variation of the Ferber Method meets Sleep Lady Shuffle topped off with the No Cry Sleep Solution that seemed to kinda, sorta work for a moment. Then at about 2yrs, a mess of sleeping disasters ensued. We were back to the night wakings, 4:30am starts to the day, nap boycotts, and what appeared to be RLS based on what we saw when watching the baby monitor.
Fast forward to exactly 2.5yrs and this girl was over tired and over the idea of sleep all together, day or night. The night before leaving for family vacation, she decided to jump the crib, protesting that cribs are for babies (and babies who sleep at that). She. Wanted. Out.
Knowing that while on vacation, our only crib like option was the pack-n-play, there’s no way that thing stood a chance against a class 5 hurricane of a persistent 2.5yr old.
Let’s recap the situation: New place, new bed situation, terrible sleeper = Parent’s worst nightmare (sleep topic pun intended)…
Reasoning with myself, I realized that if the “queen of the night” was going to sleep at all, the only option was for me to sleep with her (read: pin her down in bed next to me until she falls asleep) in an adult bed. And that’s just what I did. This will forever go down as the most non-vacation, vacation in the history of “vacations.”
Returning home after the week away, putting my daughter back in the crib was out of the question – literally, I asked her. “Will you go back to sleep in your crib?” “No.” There you have it.
Big kid bed transition it is… At some point I convinced myself that all she’s ever needed is a big bed and a spacious room fit for her majesty. She’d now sleep 12 hours a night and take those 3 hour naps during the day just like all the made up stories I’ve heard about other kids…
Building up to the magical day, she was pumped. That night, at dinner, she was a member of the “clean plate club,” bathed like a dolphin, got a star for brushing her teeth without ingesting the whole bottle of toothpaste, gathered all 7 of her loveys and jumped into bed. Bedtime routine done and kiss good night was as far as we got.
No need to get into the gory details so I will recap the next 3 weeks with stats:
• 0 naps for anyone (including the dog)
• 30-60 episodes of middle of the night Running of the Bulls into Mama and Dada’s room
• A 25 wk pregnant walking zombie of a mother (me)
• A father who started bringing a pillow to work and “putting in a few extra hours at the office”
The sum of this equates to what we adoringly call “The Lockdown” – the night we decided we could no longer take our current, no sleep situation as it was not healthy for us or our child.
Within the next 30 seconds, we Tim Taylor, Home Improvement style, turned the door handle around so that the lock faced out, tucked my daughter in, explained to her that she would no longer be able to come out of her room and we no longer would be coming into her room until the sun came up.
This is where things turned from unattractive to down right ugly. Without getting into specifics, our poor child sprinted around her room like fly stuck inside a car, yelling and screamed any and every heart wrenching comment you can imagine. The meltdown lasted for 10 minutes. The longest 10 minutes of my life. During those 10 minutes, I held the monitor inches from my ugly crying face, bit my nails to the quick, paced until my Fitbit was smoking, and dry heaved into a trash pail. And then, it was over. My daughter got into bed and went to sleep. FOR THE WHOLE NIGHT. And most every night since (barring illness and/or an off night).
For those of you horrified by what you just read, judging me as an insensitive, cold-hearted parent, I’d like to enlighten you with what I learned and why this strategy worked so well:
My daughter is a child that needs limits and boundaries. She pushes us to see how far we will go. If we do not set limits she does not learn right from wrong, where to draw the line, or who to obey.
The reason she was waking up 30 times a night was to check and see if we were there with her and, well, because she could.
When we were not, she wanted us to be there and would come get us (screaming). By locking her in her room, it was clear she would be going to sleep by herself (without us). When she woke in the middle of the night there were no surprises. She knew we would not be by her side. There was also no question as to whether or not she could come get us. She knew the answer was no. The door was locked. The lack of ability to do something was stable and calming to her. There were no longer any questions. Her anxiety dissipated and she was able to comfortably sleep on her own.
We’re a year out from the “Lockdown” and to this day my daughter still asks us if we’ve locked her door before we leave. Often times we don’t because she no longer needs it, but she asks because she wants us go through the motions to ensure herself that she is safe and secure.
This is where I take a bow for ensuring we have one less obese, ADHD, sociopath, serial killer on the loose.