Last night was the 7th.. 8th?? night in a row that Lowell has slept at least a solid 8 hour stretch. He’s a year old.
I am a new person. I am more sane. That’s not an exaggeration. The difference in the way I feel and my ability to function this week versus 2 weeks ago is like the difference between a drunk and sober person.
My anxiety is at nearly nonexistent levels, with the help of the sleep and my continued meds. I made the mistake of thinking I could stop the anxiety meds when I started sleeping and feeling so much better last week, but no. I soon learned that was a bad idea when by Saturday I wanted to rip my own skin off at the sound of my kids screaming.
So, back to the meds, which is FINE. Because, truly, the meds and the sleep have put me in a happy place that I haven’t been in in a lonnnnnnng time.
And because I can so clearly attribute this level of clarity and calm to my sudden ability to sleep for 8 hours without waking to a baby’s cries, I am feeling a deep regret for not working to attain this sooner.
Oh yes, I am talking about sleep training. Yes, I’m talking about the kind that would have my not-newborn baby crying in his room for controlled segments of time. I’m talking about the kind of sleep training I did with my other two babies.
I think it’s worth noting that at ages 6 and 3 they both seem to have a sincere love and attachment to me still. You know, for what it’s worth.
I contemplated working on sleep training with Lowell, our 1 year old, since he was about 7 months old. But honestly, in that moment, getting up and putting a boob in a baby’s mouth is easier than listening to cries, which I can never sleep through.
I was so desperate for sleep in that moment, that I couldn’t commit to more sacrifice for the long-term.
Lowell stopped sleeping in our room around 6 months old. I simply could not sleep in the same room with him very well. My anxiety leads to me waking often at the smallest baby noises, and consistently checking on him if he’s in the same room. In the same bed? Forget it. I’m wrecked with nerves. So nursing him while co-sleeping at night beyond 6 months old just was not an option.
I needed to sleep-train my baby because of my anxiety. And yet, in large part, it was my anxiety that kept me from doing so. For me, anxiety makes me overanalyze everything and hyper-critical of my own actions.
The voice of my anxiety was telling me that I would hurt my baby. That I’d make him hate me. That I was a bad mom for valuing my sleep over his needs.
My anxiety voice was not making that stuff up on it’s own. It read it in comments all over the internet, on a blog post I wrote about sleep training my daughter after my anxiety peaked with her, and even well-researched blog posts from medical professionals that make some valid points.
This summer, a study was released that summarized that “interrupted sleep can be as physically detrimental as no sleep at all.” I was living that reality. It didn’t matter if I went to bed at 9 and didn’t crawl out for the day until 9 the next morning. I was waking 3-4 times in that 12 hour stretch, and felt like I didn’t get more than a small nap.
Hands down, THE biggest trigger of my anxiety is exhaustion, and so the cycle just kept perpetuating itself. Anxious because I was exhausted. Exhausted because I was anxious.
From where I am now, I look back and really regret not sleep training Lowell, for not at least trying. I regret letting my anxiety amplify those voices and fears, for letting them be louder than my need for self-care.
I regret not recognizing that while, yes, his cortisol levels may shoot up, causing distress for a few nights, he’d have wound up with a more present, less anxious, and much happier mom much sooner.
This isn’t me trying to convince anyone to sleep train their baby. The deeper message here is that I regret letting voices and the judgements of people I don’t even know or care about mean more to me than my own instincts.