There aren’t many sounds in the world that would rival a baby’s gut-wrenching cry. Especially when you hear it for almost 45 minutes straight.
Last night, he fell asleep while eating and woke up again around 10pm. He wasn’t hungry; he had just eaten, plus he stopped crying once his dad rocked him to sleep. But just as his dad crept back into bed, he was up again, crying. For the second time, his dad goes back to rocking him to sleep. And again, he woke up.
For this third time, I rocked him to sleep and still got the same results as his dad; just a few minutes of laying in his crib, he started wailing again. At this point, I realized that I couldn’t rock him in my arms for the rest of the night. And since he wasn’t crying out of hunger, I didn’t pick him up from his crib. And he cried, and cried, and cried.
I sat by his side, rubbing his back, whispering “It’s okay, baby” and shushing him. His dad meanwhile sat next to me, rubbing my back since I was crying along with the baby. I felt horrible, and was torn between picking him up already but then risk canceling out anything learned from this experience, or continue rubbing his back but then feel like a horrible mom for not picking up her crying baby.
I chose the latter. The crying eventually trickled down to small whimpers, to quiet ruffling while he was trying to get comfortable, and finally to quiet stillness and sleep. He didn’t wake up again until his normal feeding time of 4:30-5am.
So now I’m just dealing with the guilt that comes with not picking up your crying baby. “Is that considered crying it out?” and “Was that even necessary?” keep running through my head. There’s an actual Ferber method of letting your baby cry himself to sleep and I always told myself I wouldn’t resort to that. And while I did stay by his crib and rub his back to let him know I wasn’t abandoning him, I still wonder if I just damaged his trust in me.
I try to remind myself that I didn’t pick him up not out of anger or sleep-deprivation, but to help him get back on his long sleep stretches. I also tell myself that I did soothe him with rubbing his back and with consoling words, the same things I would have done, minus rocking him in my arms. Not picking him up felt like the right thing to do, and I can only assuage my guilt by standing behind my choices.
Why then is the guilt still there? I suppose because there are various schools of thought regarding sleep training and I tended to stay on the side that said to pick up your crying baby. Perhaps because I hadn’t thought it through and acted in the moment. I also wonder if his frequent wakings would have eventually tapered off in a few days and he would have resumed his normal sleeping schedule, especially since he’s taking antibiotics right now. And because I have a nasty habit of second guessing my choices.
I’m not new to guilt; there have been plenty of times already where this feeling has surfaced in my short five months of motherhood. Thankfully babies are some of the most forgiving people in the world. I suppose they would have to be, considering that parenting is often a “learn on the job” type of thing. I will tell you though, that I can’t wait to smother my little boy with lots of hugs and kisses and see him smiling at his mama.