From the drawer – The CIO Diaries

Another missive from the drawer. I was thinking about this the other day when I was reading about Jen’s trouble getting Baby Girl to sleep on MUBAR, and about Mimilou’s night-time adventures. What really made me realize I had to share this, though, was this lovely little search hit from the referral logs. Yes, some poor soul had Googled “cry it out deaths Canada.”

I assure you we survived, although I will grant you that actually making the decision to let Tristan cry it out (CIO) and then carry through on the decision was one of the most arduous parenting tasks we’ve faced. Yes, it runs quite long. Sorry about that, but heck, what else have you got to do on a Sunday?

I should start out by saying that at 11 months old, Tristan is already a pretty good sleeper and always has been. However, we wanted him to be able to go to sleep on his own, and our previous (albeit pathetic) attempts to put him down awake were embarrassingly unsuccessful. So, in the same manner we approached everything else to do with getting married, conceiving a child, dealing with infertility, IVF and parenting, we stripped the local library shelves clean of every book on nighttime parenting we could get our hands on.

We read everything from “put your baby down, close the door, let him cry and don’t go back in until the next morning” to “your child is crying and needs you and you will crush his little psyche if you don’t respond to his cries fast enough.” So, after careful consideration (read: neurotic obsessing) we finally agreed that Dr Ferber’s approach was best suited for us.

In general, the idea is that you wait increasingly long intervals of time before going in to comfort baby, and he will eventually fall asleep on his own. On the first night, you go in after 5, then 10, then 15 minutes, and every 15 minutes thereafter until he falls asleep. In the interest of science and the fact that misery loves company, I thought I’d document the whole thing.

I’m edgy all day, worrying about how bedtime will go tonight. I try to be extra cuddly and loving to compensate. Consider giving him cookies for dinner to show my love, decide sugar rush will not help the situation at bedtime. Substitute cookie dinner for myself instead.

7:30 pm, Tristan finishes his bedtime bottle and instead of usual routine of cuddling him to sleep in my arms, I bring him upstairs and rock him for five to ten minutes. Worrying he might fall asleep during rocking thus violating cardinal rule of putting baby to bed awake, I poke him several times.

7:40 pm, Place Tristan awake into crib. Before I can pull blanket over him, he has flipped over and is pulling himself up the side of his crib. Step out the room and by the time I make it to the stairs he is already howling in protest.

7:43 pm, Think “this is not so bad” as I sit rigidly on the dining room chair, staring at the digital clock on the mircowave. At the 4 minute mark, I am standing at the bottom of the stairs, willing the clock to flip to 7:45 so I can go back upstairs.

7:45 pm, The book says to comfort your child without picking him up for a few minutes, then leave quietly. Try patting Tristan gently on the head as he bounces up and down in frustration. Gently put him back down into lying position, from which he springs back to his feet like a marionette on a string. Do this four times. Leave the room to indignant howls.

7:52 pm, Minute 6 of the first 10 minute interval of crying is the longest moment of my life. The only thing that reassures me is that I can tell by his crying that he is not hurt, not sad, not lonely, but pissed off, righteously so. Am grateful that he has his mother’s temprament, and realize that more than anything, tonight will be a battle of wills.

8:10 pm, Have to go upstairs again only 10 mins into first 15 min interval as I just can’t stand the crying. He cries harder the minute I walk into the room, but stops within seconds. No teary hiccups or drawn out sobs, but he does give me a good chewing out. I love him more than ever, knowing he will be very very good at getting his own way in life. He is hot and sweaty from the exertion of his angst.

8:27 pm, Wondering just how long he can hold out. Beloved is in the next room watching Friends, but I can see him occassionally checking on me out of the corner of his eye. Marvel at how men can detach themselves from the screams of their progeny, and begin to wonder if he doesn’t have the right idea.

8:39 pm, Cry along with Tristan for a minute or two.

8:56 pm, Beloved and I go upstairs together, and Beloved begins to pick Tristan up to quiet him. “No!” I exclaim, explaining how ‘the book’ says we shouldn’t do that. Beloved walks out of the room, saying maybe we should throw the book away. I listen to my own comment reverberating around the room and realize that sometimes daddies are smarter than we give them credit for. Pick Tristan up and cuddle him for a few minutes.

9:18 pm, Tristan’s wails have decreased in volume and intensity, but he is still crying. He redoubles his angry protest wails when he sees me. When I pick him up he so instantly quiets and curls into my body that I think he has fallen asleep. I cuddle him for a minute, and when I leave he has once again taken up his sentry in the corner of the crib, wailing and stomping with renewed enthusiasm.

9:26 pm, Silence. No wind-down, no on-again-off-again sputters, just cry then silence. I realize I am holding my breath and let it go. Resist the urge to go directly upstairs, but wait 5 long minutes first. Realize these 5 minutes far longer than the first 5 of the night. Also realize time is as elastic as my poor nipples after 11 months of breastfeeding.

9:32 pm, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry, so I back out of the room and do both. I quietly call Beloved upstairs and show him what I’ve found: my little man, sitting on his butt against the crib rail, his legs stretched out straight in front of him, and his body folded double so that he is sleeping face down with his head between his knees. I gently turn him on his side and cover him with the blanket, and he never stirs.

Okay, the example in the book says the baby fell asleep after just a few minutes on the second night, right? And that it should get shorter and easier each night? Apparently Tristan hasn’t gotten around to reading the book yet.

7:15 pm, Freshly bathed, jammied and bottled, we take the long walk upstairs. Kind of like our own little “Green Mile”. Tristan seems content, not suspicious of the evil intentions of his once-trustworthy mother. He almost dozes as we rock and cuddle, and as I stand up he is in that “zoned” state with the thousand mile stare. As soon as his body crosses the threshold of the mattress, however, his desertion radar kicks in and he is instantly, hysterically, fully awake. I can just hear his little brain saying, “Oh no you don’t! Not this again!”, as I stride out the door, head held high, swaddled in the courage of my convictions. Dr Ferber would be proud.

7:40 pm, First 10 minute interval done and I am congratulating myself on how much easier it is the second night. Back upstairs I go, and we commence the “pat, pat, pat, murmur, murmur, murmur” routine.

7:43 pm, Getting much braver tonight. Actually sit on sofa next to Beloved and stare sightlessly at TV while analyzing every nuance of Tristan’s cry, waiting for the blissful silence. Surely there will be silence soon. Since digital clock on microwave no longer in my sightlines, am clutching cheap Ikea kitchen timer like a talisman. Don’t have the heart to set it to 15 mins yet, so try another 10.

8:05pm, Into our first 15 minute interval, ask Beloved, “Isn’t this supposed to get easier?” Beloved, engrossed in TV program, shrugs nonchalantly. Crying is not so indignant as last night, but still going on strong. Tristan’s, too.

8:17 pm, A few minutes after regretfully setting timer to 20 mins, I realize Tristan has stopped crying. Do a silent dance of glee in my head, and am just about to go up and check on him when crying begins again in earnest. Crumple into boneless heap of dismay.

8:22 pm, Tristan wails “Mamamamamamama!”, effectively severing my heart in two and nearly taking my resolve along with it. Beloved tries to tell me he is just blubbering, but in my heart of hearts I know he is saying his first word. Okay, second word, the first was calling the dog. Realizing this helps me recognize my place in his personal heirarchy. Decide to send the dog in for the next comfort session.

8:30 pm, Manage to convince Tristan to stay in laying down position long enough for me to cover him with blanket. He is obviously exhausted, and does not cry when I leave the room. Tiptoe into living room, just as fresh wails rain down from above. Crying continues sporadically, stopping just long enough to elevate my hopes each time. Decide stop-and-start crying is worse than continuous crying.

9:00 pm, After an hour and a half of telling us what he really thinks of us, Tristan once again lets me place him down on the mattress and cover him. He is so tired that I have to practically run from the room before his eyes close. AHA! We did it! He went to sleep alone in his room. Well, almost alone. I don’t think my left foot cleared the doorjamb before he was out. But it counts, right?

I am spineless. Seeing Tristan’s eyes droop and close during his bedtime bottle, I “accidentally” let him fall asleep in my arms. I creep carefully up the stairs and am almost halfway there when I look down to see him watching me with quiet suspicion. I retreat guiltily to the living room to cuddle him back to sleep. Every time his eyelids start to flutter, he thrashes himself awake again. I tolerate this for 45 increasingly agitated minutes, and he finally falls asleep in my arms again. Halfway up the stairs, and once again I’m staring into his bright baby blues, wide awake and regarding me with “Where exactly are we going, mother?” in a thought-bubble over his head.

Exasperated and out of ideas, I leave him howling in his crib while Beloved and I have a 10 minute argument in the hallway on the merits of CIO and exactly how long we are prepared to do this. You know, one of those whispered arguments you usually have in somebody else’s kitchen during a party, when one of you is really drunk and the other one is letting you have it for… well, you know what I mean.

We’ve really worked up a whispery head of steam before we realize that a roaring silence we neglected to notice is pouring forth from Tristan’s room. I check my watch and it has been less than 15 minutes. We pause and look at each other, and discover we’re trapped upstairs and afraid to creep past his bedroom. We wait it out in vaguely embarrassed apologetic silence for another couple of minutes, then decide to risk creeping down the stairs. While Beloved rounds the corner and heads for the relative safety of the living room, I take a deep breath and ever so q-u-i-e-t-l-y peek into Tristan’s room, and just about jump out of my skin when I see him standing in his crib placidly sucking on his soother and waiting for me.

Thoroughly unnerved, I pick him up and cuddle him for a minute, then put him back down again. He whimpers a few times, and I sing him a lullaby – likey stunning him into submission by my singing voice – and while he is lying quietly I creep from the room. When I go back 10 agonizing minutes later he is asleep exactly where I left him. I have no idea if this is a breakthrough or not as I am now so completely stressed that I feel worse than the two nights he cried for 90 minutes. Spend the rest of the night composing spam e-mail to Ferber.

7:50 pm
, Tristan is freshly bathed, jammied, bottled and cuddled, but as wide awake as me after two jolt colas. I cuddle him on the sofa for a couple of minutes, but he is wired. Oh man, I think, here we go again.

7:55 pm, Lift Tristan into his crib and am rewarded with the usual cry of indignation. I pat him and coo at him for a minute as he springs to his feet. He is wailing as I walk out of the room, but I’m getting a bit cavalier about the whole thing now. Settle on to the couch in the living room and set the timer for 15 minutes.

7:59 pm, Silence. Check timer – elapsed time, two minutes. Shake timer. Look at Beloved in shock. Press ear to baby monitor. Can hear him moving around, but no crying. Sit on sofa in disbelieving anxiety.

8:08 pm, Still silent. Desperate for cup of decaf from freshly brewed pot in kitchen upstairs, but afraid noise of pouring will break spell.

8:13 pm, Timer buzzes to indicate end of first 15 minute interval and I nearly throw it through the window in surprise. Now I am flummoxed. Am I supposed to go upstairs? Can still hear Tristan moving around, but he hasn’t uttered so much as a whimper. Dehydrating for want of coffee. Decide to go up and check on him. Learning lesson from last night, not surprised to find him maintaining silent sentry in his crib. Feel rather silly patting him on the head and comforting him when he doesn’t seem the least bit upset. Lie him back down, and he cries again as I leave the room.

8:15 pm, Crying stops before I reach the bottom of the stairs. Coffee tastes wonderful.

8:45 pm, Timer indicates end of second interval. Sporadic crying of less than 1 minute duration and some shuffling from above. Have no idea whether to go up or not. Decide must investigate. See 8:13 entry for details. Manage to convince Tristan to stay lying down, and he doesn’t cry as I leave the room.

9:05 pm, Sweet golden silence. Peek into room and baby is fast asleep. As I sit here an hour later, my ears are still straining to hear him. It couldn’t be over, could it? Woo hoo! Does this mean we’ve done it? Now I never, ever have to do it again, right? Now he will always sleep through the night and go down with no problems, right? RIGHT?! I can’t hear you! Are you laughing at me?

Author: DaniGirl

Canadian. storyteller, photographer, mom to 3. Professional dilettante.

6 thoughts on “From the drawer – The CIO Diaries”

  1. hi, i recently came across ur blog and i have to admit … i’m hooked.
    its tough to hear the baby crying and thats why even at 2o months we still are nowhere near getting our little one to sleep alone. maybe we should take some inspiration from you.

  2. GO DANI!
    I wish I had your strenght. I don’t. I still lay down my guy at almost 4yrs old to put him to sleep. Honestly i know one day I will have to stop and let him fall asleep on his own but I like the cuddletime . It’s a private moment for him and me. ANd I know there is not one(another child) coming behind. Sometimes I wonder what I would do with all that time but then I realize I will have all the time in the world when he is grown. I’m probably wrong to do this but I’m wrong with alot of things. To bad. i did the same thing with my daughter and I don’t lay down with her anymore at 14 yrs. LOL!
    You are a rock…I’m a whiney!
    Great read for a sunday.

  3. Noob, I thought I posted this already, but I guess not. Just extending a double welcome – to blog and to Ottawa.
    SCM, going the CIO route was incredibly difficult with both boys, but it was something I believed was very important – that they learn to go to sleep by themselves. I just wish parenting weren’t so HARD sometimes! 😉
    xo Danigirl

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