Here’s something I’ve never admitted, not to even my husband David: I have seen a depressed baby.
The Internet says it is critical to get your baby on a sleep schedule as soon as possible. The tagline for this directive is “Give your child the gift of sleep!”
When other methods fail to deliver said gift to our child, we steel our nerves and dive headfirst into The Ferber Method, otherwise known as “Cry It Out”.
Dora puts up quite a fight. Sometimes she cries for longer than I am comfortable sharing, sometimes she hardly sleeps at all. “Stand firm”, the experts say. David and I feel weird inside but we stand firm-ish.
By day eight we notice a difference: she cries less when we put her down. Maybe we’re winning. I am already thinking about my post for the New Moms & Sleep message board about how we totally did not believe in this method but once we got through the tough parts we were home free in the Land of Nod, thank you Doctor Ferber!
By day ten the difference is clearer. She cries much less when we put her down, and the cries are more protest than cry. But when she wakes up, there’s no mistaking that she’s lost her verve. She smiles wanly at her favorite yellow dangling lion toy. The lion is such a sure bet for a giggle that we keep him reserve, for blow-out diaper changes only. Her eyes have lost their shine. It’s like this for two days until it hits me like a ton of bricks that my beautiful eight month old baby girl is depressed.
It is almost unfathomable that my brain would even form this thought, yet at the same time there is also no question about what I am witnessing. A mother just knows.
We ditch Ferber and his asshole method and within twenty-four hours Dora is back to being her active, gurgling, non-sleeping self and I don’t even care about the non-sleeping part. She springs back overnight, like when you water a parched plant. I can’t stop holding her and whispering, “I’m so sorry. My baby girl, I’m so sorry. I just didn’t know.” It is not the last time I will drop these words in her ear.
I make a deal with God to never again complain about how she can’t fall asleep alone so long as God agrees to just keep her happy.
You’ve got just one job, God.
Neither of us holds up our end of the bargain.