A couple of weeks ago, Liam's perfect sleep schedule started to veer off course.
First, he woke up crying in the middle of the night. It was such a surprise I didn't even think before running into his room to hold him and give him milk. He settled down pretty quickly and went back to sleep. Then the next night, he did it again. The next night? Same routine. I started having flashbacks to the newborn days - days we are lucky to have survived. This family does not operate without sleep.
Then, just to completely throw us off, he woke up really early one morning - like in the 6:00 range - and tried to convince me he was ready to start the day. While we may not have a lot of rules in this house, waking up when it's dark outside is a definite no-no. I stood by his crib bleary eyed repeating, "Sorry Liam, it's just too early." When he refused to reason with me, I had no choice but to toss a bunch of books in his crib and shuffle back to bed. Mama needs her beauty sleep!
Even when he manages to sleep until a decent hour these days, it's not the same as it used to be. Instead of waking up slowly, talking to himself and singing songs for as long as it takes me to come get him, he now goes from completely silent to crying, "MAMA!!!" just like that. No five minute warning, no chance to quickly make and drink a cup of coffee, definitely no chance for a shower - nothing! I don't know what happened but I'm clinging desperately to the hope that this is some kind of teething side-effect. It's possible, right?
Teething or not I know that by going to him every night we have trained him to keep waking up. Our only choice is to un-train him by ignoring his cries.
This brilliant epiphany came to me when I was rudely awakened at 2:50 this morning. As Liam cried for me, I laid in bed feeling very strong and victorious. Just a few more minutes of ignoring him and we could go back to sleep and let life as we knew it resume. Bill obviously didn't get the "cry it out" memo. He kept sighing loudly and rolling over, non-verbally asking, "why the heck aren't you doing anything?!" Finally he threw off the covers and started to get up. "No, no, no - you can't go to him - you'll train him that this is OK." Even in the dark I could tell he was looking at me like I was crazy. He was concerned because Liam was coughing a lot; I was convinced it was either because he was crying so much OR because he knew I was onto him and was upping his game (I obviously don't think clearly in the middle of the night).
Finally I decided to appease both boys by offering Liam some water for his cough. Just water - no holding, no milk, no reason to do this again tomorrow night. Hard as it was to not pick him up, I stuck to my guns. I offered the water, hugged him, and then told him to go back to sleep as I left the room.
I got back in bed and told Bill we had to ignore him until he went back to sleep. Since our room is right next to Liam's and connected by a door that even when closed is not a great sound barrier, ignoring a crying child in the middle of the night takes a lot more effort than you might imagine. Last night, it took more effort than Bill could muster.
After a few minutes of me trying to convince him otherwise, he went to Liam and rocked him until he was ready to go back to bed. Then he told me he thought Liam was crying because he didn't feel well. Sure enough, he still has a cough this morning. Darn.
Fortunately for my karma, I got an almost immediate chance to make up for my shoddy parenting. After Bill got Liam back to sleep, a thunder storm started. Our dog, Cloey, is terrified of thunder. Since she sleeps in our room, we've all grown to hate these storms. When she's not pacing around the room, tap-dancing on the hard wood floors, she's shaking and whimpering. It's annoying on an average night but on a night that we were already up for an hour, it threatened to push us over the edge. We thought for sure she was going to wake up Liam so every time she started tap, tap, tapping around the room saying, "harm-harm," we would both shoot out of bed to shut her up. This is no way to spend a night. Finally I grabbed her dog bed and took her into the office with me where we both slept. No sense in all of us having a lousy night's sleep. Or, lousier than it already was.
Once I wasn't concerned about Cloey keeping Liam up, I was able to go right to sleep. Hopefully my awesome cry-it-out technique will teach her to self-soothe next time there's a storm.