When we decided to move from California to Washington, I didn't kid myself into thinking it would be easy. I anticipated problems with the movers. I anticipated problems with the apartment we rented sight-unseen. But I had no idea it would be so tough on the kids, particularly our sleep-deprived 13-month-old daughter.
I should have seen the warning signs when everything went to hell in a hand basket during our week-long transition to the new apartment. Alex, our 3-year-old, slept fine on a nest of blankets, but the baby? Genoa was not having the temporary digs. She and I arrived in our new state an exhausted mess; I was unable to hold a thought in my head, much less a conversation.
Naively, I was sure the baby would be fine once we got her back into her crib. Let me back up for a second here and define "fine." For Genoa, sleeping "fine" meant she woke no more than three times a night to be nursed and placed back in her crib, where she would immediately fall back asleep.
Genoa has never been a good sleeper. Before and after every major milestone -- rolling over, crawling, walking, and the regular appearances of new teeth -- she has completely stopped sleeping. I would be up with her anywhere from five to 10 times a night. My husband would try to help, but it was no use; he didn't have breasts and mine were the only thing that would get the child back to sleep.
By the time Genoa was a year old and I sat pouring my heart out to the pediatrician, I had tried every sleep strategy known to parentkind: nursing her to sleep, not nursing her to sleep, rocking her, swaddling her, laying her in the crib awake, waiting until she was deep into REM sleep before delicately placing her in the crib, laying her on a mattress next to our bed, co-sleeping with her, and modifying her nap schedules to make sure she was really tired at night. I had also resorted to the dreaded Crying-It-Out on at least three separate instances, each with nominal success. Even the doctor was baffled.
Unfortunately, the new apartment only seemed to exacerbate her sleep issues. Not only was she up every hour or two, but it would take us up to three hours to get her back to sleep. Three. Hours. Here we'd thought my husband had taken a month off from work so we could spend time to explore our new city; no, he took the vacation so I could take naps.
An additional problem was the new apartment's horrible sound proofing. I figured if I could hear the upstairs neighbors urinating, they could hear the baby screaming bloody murder every time I dared remove her from my breast. I'm actually pretty sure they could hear her in Canada. After three weeks, both of us were done staying up all night just so the neighbors wouldn't call the police; we had to get the baby back on a sleep schedule. As a last resort, I walked around our building and taped an apologetic note to my neighbors' front doors:
On the advice of our pediatrician, we've decided to sleep train our daughter, Genoa, so she learns to sleep through the night. We wanted to warn you because the process involves letting her cry until she falls asleep. Unfortunately, our daughter is a Screamer with a capital S, which is probably going to make it sound a lot worse than it actually is. She will be safe in her crib and we'll be checking on her frequently, trying not to cry ourselves.
And guess what Genoa did the first time I nursed her and laid her down in her crib awake? She rolled over and fell asleep. That's right. No tears, no fussing, no screaming.
I wish I could say that she's slept like a baby ever since, but that would be a big, fat lie. Genoa slept through the night for a little over a week before, promptly and without reason, resuming her old ways. She's just not a sleeper and, sadly, I can't read her mind. If anything, this whole ordeal has taught me that children, even babies, have minds of their own. Having expectations only made the situation worse. The child will sleep when she's darn well good and ready, and nothing I say or do is going to change a thing.
The only thing I can change is my own reaction to it. For now, on any given night between 2 and 5 a.m., you'll find me in the rocking chair, nursing my daughter and whispering, "I love you just the way you are."
A sleep expert in training, financial planner, and mom of two, MandaJuice is also a Disney Family Blogger. Check out her blog, The Mom Street Journal, where she writes about life, money, and kids.