My son’s sleep patterns have always been a bit of a challenge: starting very rough, smoothing out when he first moved to his crib, then hitting the four-month-old sleep regression that didn’t end until we began to sleep training at eight months. And now, we’re amid a teething-induced sleep regression.
Last night, I just couldn’t get him to fall asleep. Rocking in our glider, he finished his bottle, and instead of approaching the door of la-la land like usual, he seemed like he was ready to run laps around his bedroom. He was more awake than he normally is at this point, but I still followed our routine and laid him down in his crib. He screamed the entire length of the pre-appointed 10-minute window that I give him to try and settle himself into sleep. So much for the routine.
Entering his room when the timer went off, I held him for just a few minutes, calming him down, and then laid him down again. This time, the cries came in small waves, showing me that he was starting to settle down, until minute eight, when our buzzer rang and any hope of him sleeping disappeared like a balloon into the sky.
Once more, into his bedroom, I picked him up and began to soothe him, then sat back down in the glider. He laid down with his head on my chest, his butt straight up in the air, arms spread out, legs in a little tangle.
Having gone through most of my lullaby repertoire when I gave him his bottle, we now sat in silence as we rocked. My ankles crossed on the ottoman, and I rubbed his back, looking at the letters of the personalized message on the bottom of his onesie.
I know that I need to give him the tools to fall asleep on his own. I’m a terrible sleeper, and I’d like to spare him from spending hours just trying to fall asleep; but at that moment, I couldn’t put him back in the crib until I knew he was down for the night. He needed his mommy, and I needed to hold him.
As a working mom with a long commute, I’m out of the house on an average of 12 hours per day during the week. Some days he’s still asleep when I leave, and sometimes when his grandmother, his primary caretaker, has him at her house, he’s asleep for the night when he comes home to me. Sometimes, that happens on the same day.
There will be no true work/life balance for me with my current schedule, and I knew that would be the case. I don’t get to have all the hugs and cuddles (or wrestling matches during diaper changes). I try to play cool when he cries when Grandma leaves our apartment for the night. I wasn’t there when he rolled from his back to his stomach for the first time. I haven’t given him all the new foods to try, and I saw pictures of his first dip in the kiddie pool.
So I want to hold him closely when he is expressing that he needs me. I want him to understand how much I love him and care for him even though I don’t get to spend all day with him. I want him to know that even though I work outside the home, I will always find a way to be there if he needs me.
And sometimes, I’ll let my dinner get cold, leave the DVR full, delay getting into my pajamas, or hold onto a conversation I was going to start with my husband to reassure myself that I’m still needed.