The one thing that saved me from the hellacious ride that was "crying it out" with my firstborn, was knowing my daughter would never remember the experience. I can't same the same for myself, of course, and as her mother I can safely say it was one of the most harrowing weeks of parenting I've ever experienced. However, while she was learning to go to sleep, I was learning things about myself, thanks to crying it out, that made the entire ordeal nothing if not beneficial. Maybe I would have learned these things another way, but I need to know I didn’t suffer through seven nights of ear-piercing screams in futility so I'm going to credit "crying it out" and call it a day.
So far, the biggest parenting challenge I’ve faced is my kids' never-ending fight against the things I do for their own good. I remind them, now that they are no longer babies, that I don’t make them upset or angry because I want to or feel like it; I do it because I’m trying to keep them safe and help them grow up to be decent, self-sustaining and all-around good people. My daughter wanted to be held all night when she was a baby. Neither my husband and I could give in to that want with any sort of assurance that we were setting her up for success, later in life. Having her cry it out was how my daughter eventually learned to fall asleep on her own, and how I learned that I could do the hard things it takes to be the parent I wanted to be.
I also learned some other pretty important stuff, and I won’t ever forget these lessons or the (very helpful) knowledge I acquired during those "cry it out" years. To do so would be to have cried it out in vain, and there's no way I'm letting that happen.
You’re Too Dependent On Advice
With my first child, I figured everyone knew more about sleeping than I did. For example, I think I had five books on the subject. Now that I’m past that crying it out stage, I realize why there were so many books on the topic; there is no one size fits all technique. All families are different and each of us needs to find our own way and on our own terms. (I didn’t need a book to tell me that. I think it could have been summed up in a bumper sticker.)
You Don’t Listen To Your Gut Enough
Crying it out made me realize how much I was second-guessing my decisions as a new mom. I had never done this before, so how was I supposed to know the “right” thing to do?
Thankfully, I learned to listen to my instincts. They were faint at first, mostly because I never thought I had any, but once I put the baby books down and stopped trolling parenting websites for information, I focused inward. I knew my daughter’s cries were not revealing any trauma she was experiencing. I made those half-minute intervals, in between her crying jags, so meaningful. I clung to them as a pure indicator that maybe, that night or at least that hour, I knew the right thing to do to help my baby find peace at night in the long run.
You Will Literally Do Anything For Your Baby…
I think the one thing all parents know they'll do for their children, no questions asked, is give up sleep. We all know it comes with the territory long before we welcome our little into the world.
Plus, it wasn’t like I could even sleep through my daughter crying it out, anyway. However, when she would quiet down for a few seconds on the third night, I became even more alert, as if waiting for her to start crying again. Even when sleep eventually came to her easily, the silence kept me on edge. It’s been almost nine years since I’ve truly been able to sleep at night.
…But Not For Yourself
Not sleeping well is a sacrifice I feel I just have to make but, in all actuality, I don’t. I really do need to work on getting what I need, without apology. Lack of sleep stresses me out and I don’t parent well when I'm exhausted and on-edge. I’m starting to turn this situation around; on weekends our kids are not allowed to come into our room until 7 a.m. I’m hoping to push it to 7:30 next year. Dare to dream (literally).
Lack Of Sleep Will Make You An Emotional Basketcase
As if being exhausted wasn’t enough, the emotional roller coaster that results from lack of sleep just adds insult to injury. This horrific cycle led me to establish some crying it out ground rules, the first being: I could not sustain this method indefinitely. If our daughter didn’t get her act together in the crib by the seventh day, we were abandoning this technique. She made it just under the wire, and so did I because I don’t think I could have gone one more sleepless night.
There Will Be Times When You Don’t Want To Be A Mother
Crying it out with my daughter was one of those times when parenthood seemed highly overrated. There have been others, to be sure, but this may have been the first experience I had feeling so angry, so exhausted, and then so horrified that I could be feeling any of those things. I was ashamed that I felt, even for a moment, that I didn’t want to be a mother. Over time, I realized it was normal to feel this way. And never once have I ever regretted having kids. I just, sometimes, max out on the mom thing and need a break.
You’re Reluctant To Ask For Help
I have always been reticent to ask for help, as if I have some sort of setting on my Type A personality that makes it hard for me to accept I’m not always capable of doing absolutely everything. Motherhood has been humbling in that way, and I’m a better person now that I realize I need to enlist help. I’m also a saner, and less stressed person, which ultimately makes me a better mom.
You Needed Your Partner More Than You Thought
In the first few months of motherhood, I don’t think I valued my partner’s role as much as I should have. I was the one breastfeeding and getting up several times to do so, and I was home with the baby on maternity leave. I made the bulk of the decisions when it came to our baby because I was with her the most.
But at night, when I would fall apart listening to her cry it out, my partner was there. For her, sure, but mostly for me. My partner assured me she was OK and he convinced me we were doing the right thing. He helped assuage my doubts and bolster my confidence as a flustered, sleep-deprived parent, and that made all the difference in the world.
You Don’t Give Yourself Enough Credit
As much credit as I give my husband for weathering the crying-it-out storm, I need to give myself, too. There is no getting around the fact that it was awful hearing my child cry and willing myself not to go to her. It was soul-crushing, heartbreaking, and effective.
You Can Probably Survive Anything
Even though crying it out worked, I am not sure I would choose that method again for any subsequent baby I may or may not have. We didn’t have to cry it out for my second child because he slept pretty well through his infancy and would only wake up to feed, only to pass back out again. We don’t intend to have another child, but if we did and chose to cry it out again, at least I know we all would survive.
Still, having gone through it once, I truly don’t want to ever go through it again.