Sleep training is good for blogging

I am killing time between "check-ins" with Dee, who is ostensibly learning to put herself to sleep. So far, so bad. She's been screaming for over a half hour, despite my "check-ins."

Sleep training sucks.

She just discovered a toy in her bed, I can hear her playing with it. She's -- oops, was -- distracted momentarily from screaming and I can feel my blood pressure dropping a little -- if only temporarily.

The emotional tether by which I am bound to her vibrates so violently, so insistently, when she makes sounds of distress that it feels like physical pain to me. When I was "sleep training" her older sister, Kay, I sobbed hysterically right along with her (if in another room). With Dee, I still feel the anxiety of letting her suffer, but two years of life with now-toddler Kay have also taught me that my daughters' cries will not kill me -- or harm them. It's the things that make them cry that matter.

Dee is in her crib. She's safe. She's not too hot. She's not too cold. She knows where she is. She knows I'm nearby. And she's sleepy and it's time to sleep. She is crying because she thinks she needs me to sink into dreamland. But, she really doesn't. And the sooner we both learn that, the better for this whole family.

Oh, my baby, I am so sorry there will be times when you are scared and confused and feel deserted. But you aren't. You aren't. Here I am, not 10 feet away, ready to leap into action if anything bad happens. Loving you, loving you, loving you.

She's quiet now. Really, she is. It's a miracle.

Earlier today I was having one of my three mornings a week to myself and journaling. Journaling is a lot like blogging except that there is no expectation or possibility of interaction with a reader. If I happen ever to have any readers at this blog, then chances are that you probably understand this concept without my further elucidation.

I only mention it because today, as I often do during a lull between thoughts while journaling, I read past entries. Today I was reading about the first days after Dee was born. And just now, thinking about the difference in sleep training Kay, and sleep training Dee, I am reminded of the deep knee to the gut feeling I had that first night we brought Dee home, realizing that I was never going to get to be the same singly and exclusively devoted mother to Kay again, and further that I never would be singly devoted to Dee.

Even on these afternoons when Kay is with my mom, when I always think that I'm going to pore over Dee the way I used to with Kay, I don't. More typically, I take her along on whatever errands I've decided must be done, or move her from room to room as I straighten, or answer email, or fold laundry, etc. I study her so much less intently than I used to study Kay. By the time Kay was 8 months old -- the way I remember it now, anyway -- I was totally tuned into what skills she was developing, what her most recent accomplishments were. I'd seen every first. With Dee it just isn't that way.

I treat Dee more like the companion her sister can be -- less like the slowly unfolding miracle that a baby coming to her personhood can be. I was awestruck by Kay everyday, aware of each incremental movement toward a new milestone. Dee still hits me like a bolt of lightning on a regular basis, but more because "suddenly" she is doing something new like it is old hat. Paradoxically, I think of her as more of a baby than I remember thinking of Kay. Sometimes with Kay I was so eager for each new development that it was as though I could her at the next phase easier than I could see her where she was. With Dee I chronically fail to recognize how far along she really is; I see her as younger than she is.

I worry that these differences will add up to something harmful to one or both of them. That the way I treat one is not enough like the way I treat the other and that I will nurture rivalries between them that will cause their hearts to doubt my love, and my heart to ache.

Suddenly, Dee is awake again. Crying. Both our hearts ache right now. And right now, I can fix that. Bye.


  1. "Sometimes with Kay I was so eager for each new development that it was as though I could her at the next phase easier than I could see her where she was. With Dee I chronically fail to recognize how far along she really is; I see her as younger than she is." How strane is it that I uttered this same thought to you just moments ago...even before I read your blog. Thanks for this.

  2. i deal with the same feelings about leo. especially since i'm home longer with him than i was with clyde. of course, i've just been telling myself he's so much smarter...surely due to more time with me! but really i probably just missed a lot (and forgot some) of these things with clyde.

    i don't know. as the youngest sibling to a very-different-than-me brother, i do think everything affected how we came out (are still coming out?), probably including where our mother was at in her life when we were babes. on the other hand, the minute each of us burst from the womb, everything is different. everything (even our biology)! and i just think that's what makes the life interesting. or at least that's what i tell myself to soothe the anxiety.

  3. Seeing as how I'm not a mother (although I *have* been called a 'muthah' a time or two), I cannot purport to understand the depths of the emotions you've laid out here. However, having helped raise two children who we think turned out to be pretty well-adjusted adults, and who know beyond any doubt how well they've always been loved by their mother and me, I think I can make an observation with reasonable certainty.

    Rivalries between siblings are often unavoidable, and can be but aren't always born and/or exacerbated by the parents. A lot can be traced to personality traits that you as their mother may or may not have any real control over.

    My wife was/is a phenomenal mother, and we as parents made the conscious decision to always treat our kids equally, and without bias. I really think we did this, yet jealousies still existed.

    Happily now in their twenties, my son and daughter are becoming the close friends I always told them that they would be — and you should have seen the rolling eyes I got at the mention of *that* notion years ago.

    The bottom line in this rambling comment, Phoebe, is that you by your very nature are and always will be a selfless mother and incredible role model for both of your girls. And likewise you will be to both of them exactly what they need. Of this I have no doubt, and I don't think that you should either.

  4. Thanks for the vote of confidence, AJ.