Diary of a Night-Weaning Co-Sleeper
Night 1: Saturday
Our alpha male is gone for the weekend, so this seemed like a good time to start night-weaning the Man Cub. Or as good a time as I was going to get. It’s a little like saying there’s a good time for a colonoscopy, or to go have your driver’s license renewed. Where “good” = “minimal collateral damage.”
Truth be told, 3 AM isn’t a “good” time for anything, least of all trying to calmly and soothingly (which is a word at 3 AM) explain to a one-and-a-half year old who has heretofore nursed on demand that, “We can’t do milk until after we sleep.”
“Oh, sure,” he said. And rolled over to go back to sleep.
And then I sprouted wings and the Bears won the Super Bowl and I woke up.
Horrifying, blood-curdling, the-neighbors-must-think-I’m-skinning-him-alive screaming. You know at the end of The Passion of the Christ, how Satan lets out that shriek-y kind of yell? This was worse. I actually started to believe that I was abandoning him in a deep, dark hole, the way he was screaming.
But I expected that. I read a lot of stories and most of them started like this:
The first night, he cried and screamed for 20 to 30 minutes. Each night got a little easier, and by the end of the week he hardly made a peep. But those first couple nights were just terrible!
I would like to meet these women. And shake their hands. And slip them large sums of cash under the coffee table in exchange for whatever they’re sedating their toddlers with.
Because 20 minutes came and went.
And then 30.
And then 45.
After about an hour of writhing and flailing, and trying everything the clever little man could come up with –
Maybe if I lead her to the couch … Maybe if I lead her to the love seat in the nursery … Back to the bed …
He passed out.
Alpha texted the next day:
How was last night?
Screamed. For. An. Hour.
Remind me to stab you when you get home.
Night 2: Sunday
Late to bed tonight, which is normal for a Sunday night ’cause we get home late from Nana’s house. Man Cub woke up when we got into the nursery, so I let him nurse a little to quiet down. And I explained, like the interweb said to, how tonight was going to go. And he smiled and nodded. No joke.
3 AM: Screaming
At least I’d learned from the night before to preemptively close the bedroom windows. Did I feel like I was sleeping in a green house with a wailing howler monkey? Of course. Was I worried about keeping the neighbors up? Only a little.
He cut down on the screaming tonight, though, and we were back to sleep in about 45 minutes. I can deal with that kind of progress. At this rate, we’ll be done and not nursing or screaming in the middle of the night in three days. Right on schedule. You know what I love about toddlers? How they always mind a normative schedule, and maintain perfectly predictable behavior patterns.
Night 3: Monday
Last night without Husband. First night with a normal 8:30/9:00 bedtime.
Which means he is now screaming like a vicious, frightened animal sure of his imminent, painful demise, but it’s only midnight. Progress tonight means he did not try to get out of the bed. He didn’t even stand up in the bed. He has at least learned that this is not location-based torture, and that I mean to withhold my love and affection and the very thing that nurtures his tender soul within him wherever we are. Not just in the bed.
But he resigns to his fate sooner. 30 minutes or so, and we’re sleeping.
Just kidding. Now it’s 4 AM and he’s writhing. I consider laying hands on him to perform an exorcism, but get tripped up trying to figure out if I’m being funny at 4 AM or if I’m serious. I never decide. The demon leaves him and we sleep.
Night 4: Tuesday
Husband is home. I’ve prepared him for the worst, and miraculously the worst does not come. Normal bedtime, one wake-up, some tossing and turning and half-hearted whining and we’re back to bed.
In the morning, though I am relatively rested, I am still delirious enough to almost – almost – wish he would have put up more of a fight. I am now convinced husband thinks I have been exaggerating, or a sissy, over the past three nights. I realize this is ridiculous. I have had little sleep.
Night 5: Wednesday
What on earth happened to bedtime? Why is he so wide awake? No one is that wide awake at 11 PM. I needed to be working. He was supposed to be in bed hours ago, and I was supposed to have gotten a few hours of work done, and we were now supposed to be going to bed. Why is he dancing around the kitchen with a shoe?
It’s 11:30 and we’re all going to bed. We’re all cranky. This is not a good start. Husband prays. Man Cub nurses. We sleep.
FOR AN HOUR
Just kidding about the sleep, guys! Gotta have our midnight screamfest. He tries to get off the bed. I restrain him. Husband has not been present for a screamfest yet, and tries things I wish I had warned him against beforehand. He will not take water. Make as little movement as possible unless he’s really yelling. Don’t make direct eye contact. Don’t show your teeth. But I hadn’t thought of it.
Husband is now sleeping on the couch.
5 AM and he’s awake again. Missed it by that much. Twenty minutes into the yelling, Husband sticks his head in and asks me to give in to his demands. I am appalled. I do not negotiate with terrorists.
But neither do I argue with achey, sleepy, potentially cranky husbands at 5:20 AM.
Fraught with shame and guilt, I cannot sleep. I am up for the day.