On Wednesday night, the same night I wrote this, which was also the same day that I said we would hold off on sleep training until after Christmas, we had the worst night ever in the history of Charlie. I don't even want to think about it, it was so bad. Charlie slept for a total of about one hour - no exaggerating. He was up constantly almost immediately after being put down for the night.
Roy and I took shifts so we could each try to get some sleep. My shift sucked, but I have no doubt that Roy's did as well. I burst into tears several times and ended up leaving Charlie alone in his crib for quite awhile to cry. (Of course, I checked on him at regular intervals.) I left him alone because even if I was there and holding him, he was crying. I was completely frustrated and sleep-deprived to the point where I was afraid I would get really, really angry.
I am not proud of doing that, not at all. I feel insanely guilty for leaving him there alone to cry, especially after my epiphany the next morning. In the grand scheme of things, though, what I did was necessary for my entire family. Because all of us mothers, fathers, and caretakers are sometimes an instant away from snapping. Especially in the wee hours when your kid is screaming bloody murder and you can do nothing to stop it. It's true.
The next morning, Roy took Charlie for a bit so I could take a nap before he left for the day, and Charlie, having slept so little all night, fell asleep in his bouncy chair in the bathroom while Roy got ready for work. He slept for two hours, and so did I. When I woke up, the house was blissfully silent, and I had no idea what had happened to our little screamer.
It was then while I was lying in bed that I had a great, big, huge epiphany. After talking with a number of people about sleep and reading various theories on sleep habits, I realized something that made me feel even more guilty.
Roy and I were the reason why Charlie was sleeping so badly. In our attempts to always be attentive and help him get to sleep, he had no idea how to fall asleep or stay asleep on his own. And we weren't being consistent at all, because we were always trying new things to make it work for Charlie.
And then I knew what we had to do. I knew we had come to our last resort.
Last night we did our normal nighttime routine, only this time Roy didn't let Charlie guzzle his bottle into oblivion. He put him in his crib drowsy but awake, and the crying began. Roy left the room and closed the door and checked in to verbally reassure Charlie (but not pick him up) after three minutes of crying. He left the room again, and we checked in at five minutes for more verbal reassurance. We made it up to ten minutes, and that was our limit for the evening. We checked in every ten minutes several times.
After an hour of crying (and that was a really, really hard hour), Charlie finally fell asleep. He woke up around 1 AM, and Roy fed him half of the amount of formula he normally gets, set him back down in his crib, and left the room. Charlie did cry again, but he stopped within a minute or so and was asleep again within five minutes. He did not wake up again until 6 AM, and I fed him again, and when I put him back in his crib, there was some minor protesting. But he fell asleep again on his own and woke up again at 8 AM.
He was very happy to see us and didn't seem to be traumatized at all by having to cry for awhile last night. And we were very happy to see him!
And all of us, well rested.
Here are the things that I learned last night:
1) Charlie does not need us to help him sleep. He needs us to get out of his damn way and let him do it on his own.
2) Charlie does not need to be fed twice nightly anymore. He probably doesn't even need to be fed once.
3) Charlie does not need a middle of the night diaper change.
4) Charlie can (and probably will) begin sleeping through the night soon.
Everything makes sense now. I feel more rested than I have in a very long time. I'm very glad that we decided to do this, even though hearing Charlie cry was harder than hard. In the end, I think we'll all be happier.
(I'll be doing this for Charlie's naps from now on. No more stroller or car rides! Today is the first day of teaching Charlie how to nap, and I'm nervous, as I'll be handling it alone.)