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I'm trapped in a prison of my own making. And I feel ashamed.
I remember a conversation I had with my old pastor and his wife. They shared how they left their son to cry in his bedroom all night so that he'd learn how to sleep. It worked for them. The next night he cried less and by the end of the week he was sleeping through the night. They did that with all their children and he, they claimed, had by far been their hardest.
I couldn't bring myself to do the same with my first, Vivianne. Stories like that make me feel weak. I just can't deal with a crying baby. I stress. I worry. I can't seem to resist being the answer to their cry. I try to be tough – like the other night when I put Annie (my 15-month-old) in her crib to cry it out. She was in there for an hour before I folded.
Her crib is in the same room where her sisters sleep, so I sent them to my bedroom so I could tough it out with Annie. I was so tired. Her dad was on his way, but wouldn't be home until midnight. No one was sleeping. Everyone was exhausted and I felt bad for making her sisters suffer too. I'm damned if I do and damned if I don't.
She was a sad, wet, overly-tired mess. She was practically hyperventilating. She didn't want binkies, or to hold my hand through her crib walls, she refused any form of comfort unless it meant she could leave her crib. Her dad finally got home and held her and rocked her to sleep. It was what needed to happen to calm everyone down, but it undid the last five hours in five minutes.
This is my sweet girl at 6:28 p.m. and another picture of her at 11:42 p.m. I'm a third-time mom. I should have some tried-and-true theories about how this works, but Annie isn't backing down and I have a whole household that's being affected.
I like holding my babies and rocking them to sleep. I like the pause it gives me in my busy day to hold their little bodies close to mine and feel their weight shift onto me as they begin dreaming. I'm going to miss that when they are older. I like holding my babies. What I don't like is when they stir from a dead sleep as soon as they sense you getting up to put them in their crib.
I don't feel in control of our sleeping situation and that's embarrassing, tiring, and relentless. Not only is Annie giving me problems, but her older sisters have started upping their game, too. I'm outnumbered three-to-one at night because my husband works evenings and I'm just so tired of the battle.
How do I get back on top? This is a king-size bed, but I'm barely on it. My baby is "winning" but really losing, and my stiff body and overall grumpiness isn't helping anyone. By the time bedtime rolls around I'm just exhausted. When my older children start jumping out of bed for one more cuddle I. Just. Can't.
There are some perks: the baristas know me and my drink of choice and prepare it for me while I'm waiting in line at my favorite coffee shop's drive-thru. I do have a fantastic husband who helps as much as possible even though he gets less sleep than I do. I have adorable kids that I love deeply and obviously love me deeply.
I don't have any sleep solutions right now because nothing I've tried is working. I'm in the trenches and rather than sprinkle this with some overly simplified advice for other people in the same place, I'd rather just say that this stage SUCKS. Being tired all the time is hard. It makes me forget the small joys, the love my kids are demonstrating even in this, and that some day I will get my bed back.
Images by Kelly and Tré Wilbanks
Opinions expressed by parent contributors are their own.