Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Breaking the Rules

I wrote this piece for MomsEveryday, but I need it posted here as well…I need to know for certain that she'll see it someday.

On her first day of life she fell asleep on my chest.

Since that day she's fallen asleep primarily in her crib and then her big girl bed, and on rare occasions sleep has won her over while in her daddy's arms, on her grandpa's chest, or in her carseat or stroller. But not in my arms. Never in my arms.

I believed - and still believe - very strongly in the importance and benefits of sleep training. I couldn't have survived those first few months of my babies' infancies without a regular nap schedule (I recognize now that postpartum depression contributed to my inability to relax and "go with the flow" during that time period), one that included consistent nap times, durations, and locations. During the napping years - which have officially come to an end...excuse me while I shed a tear or two - my kiddos slept like champs, and to this day they handle bedtime and sleeping through the night in stride. I worked hard to give them the gift of good sleep - and to give my husband and me the gift of peace during nap time and at night - and all four of us are happier because of it.

It's kind of a "which came first, the chicken or the egg?" situation. Do my kids prefer sleeping independently because I sleep trained them? Or were my kids successful at sleep training because they were predisposed to prefer sleeping independently? It's impossible to say for certain, but if I were the betting type, I'd wager that my two children fall into different categories. I think my first-born prefers sleeping independently because I sleep trained him, and that my second-born was successful at sleep training because she was predisposed to sleep independently.

I never felt as though I was missing out on anything because my girl wouldn't/couldn't sleep in my arms; she gave me plenty of hugs and kisses and love while awake, and I felt grateful for the ease with which she slept in her bed.

Until a couple of weeks ago, that is, when she developed an ear infection after suffering from a week-long head cold and started crying in her sleep. The only way to console her was to let her sleep on me on the couch. As she drooled down my neck and sweated through the front of my shirt, tears streamed down my face. All I could think about was how it had been nearly five years since she had fallen asleep on my chest. FIVE YEARS.

I don't regret sleep training my children, not even a little bit. But a small part of me wishes that sleep training had included a chapter on breaking the rules. I missed out on five years of nap time cuddles (and drool and sweat) on the couch that I can never get back.

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