Sunday, September 26, 2010

muddling through our choice to CIO when we are deadset against it

This isn't right.  It's 1:50 a.m.  My daughter is wailing despondently in the room immediately adjacent.  I can't see her, but I know she is standing at the furthest edge of her crib, her head on the railing.  I have been going in at 2+ minute intervals, giving her a hug, putting her back down with Bear-Bear and turning on her "fishies" acquarium.  She stops crying, I rub her back 10 times or so and leave again.  Rinse repeat.  It feels terrible.  Awful.  It feels, at this dark hour, as if I am helping no one and failing at my job.   

Most people who have tried CIO (or cry it out) will tell you it works.  God, I hope so.  (Though I many for whom it hasn't and yes, they tried it properly.  Kids just aren't one size fits all). 

People trying to comfort me about making the decision to try CIO have told me that I shouldn't feel guilty, that no one else can know what it right for me, for my family.  This is probably true.  But I still do.

I know deep within my myself that I do not believe CIO is right.  In fact, I still believe it is fundamentally wrong.  Even if it works.  This isn't intended as a judgement against those who believe in it or use it (I'm a different strokes for different folks kinda gal and I have many good friends, whom I love and respect immensely, who have chosen this approach to their sleep woes with great success).  But I belong, unabashedly, to the Dr. Sears-esque school of parenting.  I believe it's my job to be in there with her when she needs me.  Even when she needs me ten times a night (even though I know very well it was likely Dr. Sears' wife who did the bulk of nighttime care in their house!).  I worry that CIO works because it teaches Girlio that I won't respond to her needs.  I worry that CIO messes with attachment and can have a long term emotional impact (though, again, CIO proponents will insist this is not the case - I wonder how these things get 'measured.')  That's just me - the girl raised by therapists

So - one might wonder -what the hell am I doing, then, blogging and crying along with my baby at 2 in the morning?  A fine question.  Parenting has some darn slippery slopes...

I not doing this because I haven't slept for 15 months, per se, though this is certainly true, and certainly unpleasant.  I am doing this because while not sleeping for the last 15 months, and in particular for the last 8 months, I have had some dark moments at night.  Really, really dark.  I have thought horrible, terrible things about my child, whom I love more than is possible to articulate.  I have felt the fleeting urge to shake her, to throw her, to scream in her face.  I have had horrifying glimpses of understanding as to why people with less inner and outer resources than me sometimes hurt their children.  I have clenched my teeth and inwardly shook with the kind of rage that should not be directed at any child, ever.   That is outcome of prolonged sleep deprivation.  And nighttime is just the tip of the iceberg.

People always ask incredulously how I manage to function during the day, when my sleep is so lacking and so interrupted.  And the answer is, all too often, badly.  My parenting is often sub-par.  I get frustrated too easily.  I yell too much.  I am often too drained to focus on the kids much at all.  My exhaustion makes it difficult to maintain relationships - I haven't talked to my siblings in ages because I can't talk on the phone when the kids are awake (they hate me being on the phone and it's too hard to carry on a conversation with ankle biters, well, ankle biting).  And by the time evening rolls around I'm too tired to be coherent enough to converse.  It affects my relationship with my wife - because we're both too tired to chat, to connect, to have a date.  And I've noticed that while driving Boy-o to school in the mornings, I have to really struggle to pay attention to the road and have received quite a few horn honks of late.  

The long and the short of it is - it ain't good.  It ain't good at night and it ain't good in the morning.  Something, as they say, has got to give.

If this works - and again - I really, really hope it does because we're starting to crack up a bit here - I probably will not become a CIO convert, or decide that it's really the kind or gentle alternative, as many CIO authors claim.  I'll still think it goes against my personal parenting values and philosophies.  I'll still think it sucks and I'll still feel like I failed at my job.  And I'll still likely feel like it broke my heart into a million tiny pieces.  (I'm not being mellowdramatic, either - I am having a really, really, exceptionally hard time with this decision ***).

We tried CIO not because it was right for our family, but more properly, because it turned out to be just a bit less wrong than the alternatives.

And there's the slippery slope of parenting.

*** I used to be an unplanned pregnancy counsellor for quite some time.  And in my experience, I found that out of the folks who chose to have an abortion, the ones who had the toughest time with it were the ones for whom it went against their personal or religious morals and beliefs.  I am guessing that the same principle applies here, to me with our decision to try CIO (with the caveat that I am not comparing this problem to terribly scary experience of having an unplanned pregnancy).


  1. totally with you on it... I am a reluctant supporter.. only because over time the efforts paid off. It was slower for us that we would have liked, with a few regressions and tough times... but I now have a 28 month old who sleeps through the majority of the time. Not always, but more often than not. And my parenting is the thing that has benefitted.. along with HER mood. GOOD LUCK

  2. It is a matter of it being the lesser of two evils. A necessary evil if you will. You can't go on the way you are, it's not a matter of "Oh I want to watch this movie in peace so I'll stick my baby in a crib and let her cry with the door shut".
    You have reached a point where the benefits outweigh the risks, you can't carry on with no sleep! It is better to risk attachment issues (which I dont think she will have) than risk falling into the darkness that comes with long term sleep deprivation.

    Good on you darling for making a choice that is right for your family.

  3. Damnit. I hate your comment section because you have to post comment and then enter a password and hit post again. I lost my comment. *sniff*

    Basically I said that I totally understand where you're coming from. Riley never slept through the night regularly until about 3 years of age. Not fun. But I never left her to cry because I just couldn't do it and it didn't seem to work for her.

    Jackson has co-slept and it started taking me 2-3 hours to get him to sleep and I was having those same exact dark thoughts so I had to do something. We did a strange CIO mix. I will nurse him and then put him in his crib. Sometimes he's asleep and most times he's not. I will offer him a bottle and stay in the room a bit. If he's being really cranky then I leave because when he's the furthest from sleep, the only thing that seems to get him to sleep is to let him cry a little and wear him down a bit. I leave him for a few minutes and go back in. Sometimes I rub his belly and he's fine as he drinks his bottle. I will stay in the room a bit and sometimes I can leave. I'd rather spend an hour than 2-3 hours so it works well. Most nights there are few tears. I hated CIO but doing it in spurts made me feel like he was just frustrated that bedtime was bedtime and nothing he could do about it but he knew I'd be there consistantly so I felt better--like I wasn't abandoning him. So I get you on the guilt thing...but also on the something's gotta give.

  4. I don't know if what we are doing is cio. I don't think so, but it does sometimes involve some crying. I am so on the this right or wrong..what the heck am I supposed to be doing so that she will fall asleep? Am I consistent enough? I don't know what the answer is.

    She does sleep pretty well except when we hit each milestone such as crawling, standing and teething.

    Basically she goes in her crib awake and now mostly puts herself to sleep. If she doesn't or wakes up we go in and sit with her for 10min, singing patting, shushing or whatever, leave for a couple of minutes and then go back again. It sounds simple but when she is really screaming I feel the sky is falling and want to flap like a chicken and run around the room. Fi is much better at soothing her than me and I think it is better for us to have the non-milky mommy do it.

  5. Stacey - I'll try to fix the comments thing. We are also not "properly" doing CIO. I don't do the longer wait times in between, I go in consistently 2-3 minutes. It seems to be working really well. Girlio, unlike your little guy, falls asleep no problemo, but won't stay asleep for any length of time. The weird version of CIO we are doing seems to be working out... her night wakings have drastically reduced. But it's still freaking hard and I';m still pretty ambivalent.

  6. I think you did fix it! Yay!!

    Our kids are night owls. They don't want to go to bed and it usually takes some time to get them asleep. Jackson wakes during the night too and I end up bringing him into our bed. You know, I figure whatever works that night works. Some nights I can give him a bottle and change his diaper while he's in the crib and other nights he won't accept that and only wants to breastfeed.

    If I could get him to sleep through the night and not toss and turn from 3 am onwards, that would be awesome!!! I feel like I'm getting the worst sleep.