Crying it out, (or "CIO" as the annoying people on the mothering websites call it), is the method by which an infant cries to learn how to fall asleep without being soothed. Lots of people love this method, with an equal amount hating it. Whenever anyone I've talked to discusses this they leave out the grueling details of what they as a parent do while this is taking place. What do you do while you stare at the clock and find that two minutes of crying and screaming feels like five hours of a root canal with no Novocaine?
I take this opportunity to lock myself in the bathroom, put the fan and water on, change into my pj's and occasionally clean the toilet. All this productivity to deal with my anxiety and keep me from running to my baby's aid. If I don't do these things I find myself pacing back and forth with each change in the tone of her scream. One sends me away from her room, one towards it, always faced with the question, "What should I do?"
As we started this grueling process last month, my daughter would get so upset that she would start to choke. One night, after filing my nails and cleaning the shower, I turned off the bathroom fan and heard a nice retching sound followed by something hitting the floor. I ran to the living room and my husband instantly reprimanded me for panicking.
"You can't go in there," he angrily whispered, " We're going to have to start this process all over again! You have to calm down!"
Didn't he understand? I'm a mother, I don't have to calm down and will get even more angry when someone tells me to calm down! Plus, my supermom sense of hearing alerted me to the fact that our daughter just threw up!
He agreed to check on her after a few minutes of coaxing. She apparently didn't vomit and so the process started again. This time she cried for less than five minutes while I took my makeup off, straightened the bedroom and balanced my checkbook.
She's asleep a good two hours before I check on her. I open the door and it hits me: the stench of milk and stomach bile. There is nothing more poignant than the smell of milk vomit. There it was on the floor, at the foot of her crib and as I got closer, also on the crib rail. She had thrown up! I knew it!
She's sleeping peacefully on her belly as I crouch closer to be sure she's not sleeping in her own vomit. Tears well as I look down and find a piece of tomato from dinner on the sole of her little foot. I'm enraged and let loose on my husband who is somehow confused that he missed this and doesn't say much as I start to clean up the mess. I'm festering with anger as I go over and lift her up. He tells me to leave her alone and that she will be okay. But its NOT okay. My baby will not sleep in her own smelly, vomit stained pajamas.
I lift her up, gingerly change her pj's and put her down, choking back tears as I rub her head. She is asleep as I clean the rest of the mess up in the dark while whispering "I'm sorry, I'm sorry."
I was a bad mother, succumbing to the parental peer pressure of letting my kid cry it out. I let all of those people get into my ear with their "you should do this" and "its the only way she will learn", ignoring my maternal instinct to rush to her aid. She needed us and we ignored her. When she cried loudly it was when she got sick. She was scared and we let her cry.
She slept soundly that night and woke up with smiles the next day. Since then she has become a good sleeper, the crying has waned, and my bathroom is a bit dirtier.
I'm thankful her infant memory saves her from thinking we've abandoned her and wanting to run away with the circus when she's older. Mommy's memory on the other hand, will be easily recalled. I'll confirm years from now, when my daughter has her own child, that the crying it out method certainly does work. It only took me seconds after crawling into bed, hands smelling of soap and rancid milk, to cry myself to sleep.