What happened to ‘tough mom’?

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I thought it was supposed to go like this: when you have your first child you make the mistakes. You have the best of intentions but, once the child arrives, you have trouble following through because you hate to see your baby sad, or upset. As you add children, and experience, you come to realize that you aren’t going to scar the child for life if you don’t pick it up every time it makes a peep. It’s easier to put your foot down and nip things in the bud before they become a problem. I thought it was supposed to be that way…..until Eliza was born. Somehow I have done things backward. I had very high standards and very strict rules with Madalyn, and I stuck to them. I knew she wouldn’t die from crying and I didn’t want to become her pacifier. I wanted her to be self-sufficient, and as early as possible. And it worked, by gum.
When JZ was born I probably relaxed my standards a bit, simply because he had a different personality and what worked for Madalyn wasn’t necessarily going to work for him. But I held, determinedly, to much of the plan I’d had the first time around.
But then came Eliza, and I fell apart. I have turned into a giant wuss; a sentimental and emotional mess. I can’t stand to hear this baby cry. Even when she’s being completely unreasonable and I know there’s nothing wrong with her I have this nagging mental image of her somewhere, alone and abandoned, and crying for me, and I can’t ignore her. It’s almost a visceral reaction; very nearly physically uncomfortable for me to hear. Why is this? Is it age and loss of patience? Exhaustion, causing inability to cope? Or has it really taken me three children to finally bond properly with one as a baby? Don’t get me wrong; I do get annoyed when she’s up for the third time in two hours at night, wanting me not only to pick her up but nurse her, as well, even though I know she isn’t hungry. And sometimes I think, “That’s it. I’m putting my foot down tonight. Enough is enough.” This lasts an hour, maybe two — an eternity of getting up every five or ten minutes, laying her back down, returning her pacifier to her, and crossing my fingers. It doesn’t work — it never does — and she keeps getting up, reaching out her arms to me, and I, eventually, can’t bring myself to keep breaking her heart. So I cave in and pick her up, even though I know I’m just enabling her. But she snuggles close to me and her little body relaxes and I think it’s not so bad to be wanted…..if only I could be wanted and still get a good night’s sleep.
All of this leaves me at an impasse. What to do next? Try to ride it out? I’ve tried that. I’ve been trying it for eleven months and what have I to show for it? A nearly-one-year-old baby who is still up every two hours all night long; three on a good night. I am literally impressed and excited when I wake up and realize she’s slept three hours because, for us, that’s doing really well. But what to do? I can’t let her cry it out….I just can’t. No matter how tired I am, how fed up I get, or how much I realize that she’s just spoiled, I won’t be able to stick it out. Do I move her crib into another room? That might help….or it might not. And, if it doesn’t, then I not only have to get up every two hours all night long, I have to hike down the hall and sit on the bedroom floor to nurse her. Not much of an improvement, in my opinion. I could night-wean her. That’s what made JZ finally start sleeping through the night. I just started sending Robert in to get him every time he woke up. However, I don’t have that option for much of the week. I’m the only person available to take care of her. We have attempted to get something done in the few nights he’s here but it’s just not long enough to permanently change her habits. I am honestly beginning to think that our only relief will come when either, a) I wean her completely or, b) Robert gets a job here and is available to help me implement a plan.
Till then, I am left wondering how I turned into such a soft touch, and why it happened now instead of seven years ago, or five.

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About msmaryb

I'm a native Californian who lives in Oklahoma. I'm a full-time student, pursuing a Bachelors in Anthropology, following which I hope to attain a Masters in Archaeology. I have three kids, one husband, no pets, and a lot of friends - most of whom live inside my computer. I love to read, write, watch tv (shut up, we can't all be brain surgeons), shop, and travel. I'm trying to set foot in all 50 states before I die. I have 38, so far. I love the Beatles and Maroon 5, and if you think those two things are incongruous, well, they are. But that's me. When I love something, I love it 100%. I don't do anything halfway. I want to know everything there is to know, so I'm trying to cram as much into my brain as I can in the short amount of time I'm allotted in this dimension.

2 responses »

  1. I have never been able to do the cry it out thing either.
    I feel for you- we struggled a lot with T when he was younger. Correction… I struggled a lot(dh just slept through it all). I sucked though and eventually just put him in bed with us. So I was a big sissy about it.
    Good luck with all of it though. I know what that sleep deprivation can do and it’ s not fun by any means. Hugs!

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