These days, just the thought of bedtime makes me cringe. Crazy, right? Bedtime has turned into such a stressful and exhausting process in our home. We have had the same bedtime routine since the beginning of “bedtimes” in this house. We bathe both kiddos with a delicious smelling homemade baby wash that I make myself with chamomile-infused coconut oil, lavender essential oils and a few other all-natural ingredients designed to gently clean and relax our little love bugs. Then we brush teeth. I just bought both kiddos new battery-operated toothbrushes. This has changed our lives for the better. Now instead of the screaming fits in protests of brushing teeth, 2.5 year old Miss M and 18 month old Mr. C are excited to brush their teeth and giggle as the spinning head on the toothbrush tickles their gums. Then we do diapers and pajamas and stories. Normally, I rock Mr. C and listen to “Beautiful Boy” and then return to Miss M’s room to read her a couple more books then tuck her in and say goodnight. The whole routine normally takes 30-45 minutes from bath to bed and then Hubby and I have a short, adult-only evening before retiring to bed ourselves.
I’m not sure exactly when or why it happened as the days and nights have all blended together into one hazy, sleep-deprived period of time but approximately one month ago, Miss M decided that she is no longer interested in sleeping in her bed. She started waking up in the middle of the night crying out “Mommy!” and I would run across the hall, scoop her up, bring her back to bed with me and she would snuggle in and fall back asleep. This quickly became a regular occurrence. Every night between 2am and 4am, I would wake up to a panicked little girl who seemed scared. I wondered if she was having nightmares but wasn’t sure what to do about it. Over the past few weeks, Miss M has become very cuddly and has needed a lot of one-on-one time with me which I don’t mind at all. I have been working a lot and have been under a lot of pressure and I think she senses that and needs some undivided attention. I make a big deal of talking to her at bedtime and asking about her day and talking about our hopes and dreams like pooping on the potty someday and sleeping in on the weekend. Then we read our books and we say goodnight to all 15 or so of her dolls and stuffed animals that share her bed and then I kiss her goodnight. At some point over the past few weeks, she decided that she was no longer interested in this routine. She wanted to sleep in Mommy and Daddy’s bed. She is incredibly smart. For the past couple of weeks, the second her wet, little feet are out of the tub, she bolts for our bedroom and tucks herself into our bed. For being such a tiny person, she is able to anchor herself to the bed and it takes a lot of maneuvering and coaxing just to get her dressed in her pajamas. She will look up at us from the middle of our bed and ask to be snuggled, which in her words is “Swuggle? Swuggle! Swuggle Mommy! Mommy Swuggle! Swuggle!” So, I climb into bed and cuddle her, play with her hair and tell her that I love her very much and that she needs to go sleep in her own room. As soon as I say those words, she jumps up screaming and crying, climbing on top of me, wrapping her arms around my neck like a baby koala and demands more swuggles.
Compromises are off the table. I have tried snuggling with her in our bed and then bringing her to her bed. She screams and cries at the baby gate at her doorway until we give in to her. She is a very emotional little girl and can make herself sick from crying so we are cautious about not letting her get too upset but at the same time we wonder if we are being manipulated a little bit. Is she throwing these hysterical fits because she knows they will “break us?” Or is she just going through a phase where she needs more cuddles and attention and swuggles? We have no idea. What we do know is that the never-ending bedtime is really impacting all of us.
When Miss M cries at her baby gate when we try to put her in her room, she wakes up Mr. C so then I have to free her (at which point she miraculously shuts off the waterworks, takes a deep breath and smiles) so she can happily run across the hall and jump into our bed while I go in and start all over with Mr. C, picking him up, wrapping his blanket around him with his favourite remote control (Yes, he sleeps with a full-sized remote control. He doesn’t leave the house without it. No teddy bears needed for this guy!) and rocking him while singing lullabies then tucking him back in only to return to start all over with Miss M. Because our bedtime routine now takes hours, Hubby and I really don’t get any time to talk to each other or even just sit and watch a TV show before going to bed…unless I give in and let Miss M watch an episode of Dora the Explorer in our bed. Most nights, Hubby is hanging out in the living room by himself while I swuggle Miss M. By the time she finally settles (into our bed, sprawled out horizontally like a starfish), I am exhausted and just fall asleep myself.
Besides not having any time to spend together, I am also going a little bit bonkers because I don’t get any time alone. Ever. I drive home from work, pick the kids up, drive home, unpack the car, make dinner, play with the kids, bathe them and then start the bedtime routine around 7pm which over the past 3 weeks hasn’t finished until well after 10pm. Then I fall asleep and deal with kicks in the nose and knees in the back from my new, tiny, tossing and turning bedmate as I try to catch a few zzz’s. This routine is not working but I don’t know how to fix it. It seems to only get worse. I want “bedtime” back. I miss it. I miss having a couple of hours at the end of the day to take my “Mommy hat” off and unwind. Right now as I write this blog in my bed, it is 9:52pm on a Sunday night and Miss M is sitting beside me, making her sock monkeys dance across my keyboard. Sometimes I think I am going crazy but convince myself that I’m not crazy simply because if I was crazy, I wouldn’t know, so my awareness of my mental state must mean that I’m not. (I don’t get much sleep so this theory makes complete sense to me!) I’m just tired.
Tonight was no different. We finished baths and before I even had a chance to get Miss M’s pajamas out of her drawer, she was gone. I peeked across the hall into our bedroom and there she was, tucked into our bed. I told her she had to sleep in her bed tonight like we had talked about all day. She threw a fit screaming “Swuggle! Swuggle Mommy!” I brought her into her room and read her a book even though she just screamed “Swuggle! Open Gate! Open!” at the baby gate in her doorway and ignored me. I picked her up, placed her in her bed, tucked her in, told her I loved her and walked away and closed the baby gate behind me. I knew she would be following right behind me, still screaming so I decided to have a nice, hot shower to try to relax and unwind (and have one less thing to do in the morning since it’s more than likely going to be another long, sleepless night.) She screamed and cried. I tried to stay strong and let her settle herself down. She had to give up and go to sleep tonight. She was exhausted. She nodded off at the dinner table tonight because she didn’t have an afternoon nap today because she pulled these exact same stunts at naptime. As the whining stopped, I felt a pressure lift from my shoulders and I felt victorious. I was proud of her. What a big girl! I got out of the shower, wrapped myself in a towel and tiptoed to her door and peeked in expecting to see my sweet little angel, cuddled up, sleeping soundly. Instead I saw Hubby lying next to her on her bed. Miss M was wide awake, walking her sock monkeys up and down his chest as he laid beside her trying to convince her to go to sleep. “What was I supposed to do? She was hysterical! She was going to make herself sick!” Ugh. As frustrated as I was, I don’t blame him. It’s hard to leave your baby to cry but what we are doing isn’t working so we need to try being strong and tough tonight. We have no choice. She needs to get some sleep, we need to spend some time together without a sock monkey kissing our foreheads while we talk or having to kiss a unicorn mid-sentence and plus we have other things to do. The never-ending bedtime routine has caused me to fall incredibly behind on laundry, baby sock matching and floor destickifiying. It’s a downward spiral.
When Hubby tucked her in and left her room, Miss M screamed at the gate again. He was ready to relax and have some down time and I had some homework to do for a course I am taking so I needed some time alone to do it. We agreed that while we don’t agree with the “Cry It Out” method, we have to just let her soothe herself. I said goodnight to her, gave her a hug and a kiss and then retreated across the hall to our bedroom and closed the door. I attempted to do my reading assignment for my course tomorrow. I read all of the words but my brain was not concentrating enough to make sense of them. Miss M was screaming and calling out for me and demanding swuggles and demanding that the gate be opened. She must have cried out “Mommy! Daddy!” over 200 times. I am not exaggerating. We had to stay strong. We had no choice. We have tried everything and exhausted all other options. We need to fix this issue. I have to prep for this course. Miss M has to go to sleep. I tried to send her telepathic messages to beg her to stop crying and go to sleep. My nerves were shot. My patience had run dry. My head was pounding from her screaming. My heart was fluttering. I was burned out and frustrated. I put down my reading assignment and started to cry myself then told myself to “get it together.” More crying wasn’t going to resolve the crying.
Hubby and I chatted via text while he sat on the couch downstairs and I sat behind a closed door on our bed upstairs.
Hubby: She’s stubborn.
Me: I know.
Hubby: She’s just like her mother.
Me: I KNOW.
Miss M cried and carried on then would get tired and I would think that she might have given up but then she would start up again. She was delirious at this point but still refused to sleep. She continued to whine at the gate then scream at the gate then babble away to herself then start all over. She did this for exactly one hour. ONE HOUR. I could not believe it. I felt trapped inside our room. The second I open the door and she sees me standing there, things are going to dramatically escalate. I texted Hubby:
Me: Can you unlock the back door? I’m thirsty but can’t cross M’s doorway so I’m thinking about jumping out of our bedroom window and then walking around back to get a drink.
And then I heard him unlock the back door. I laughed out loud. He actually opened the back door. I was joking. I was definitely not going to jump from our second-floor window for a glass of water. Neither of us can think with all of the screaming happening in the background and our hearts breaking into a million pieces from leaving our little girl to cry alone in her beautiful room with her warm, cozy double bed that she refuses to sleep in. I finished my assignment. I think I did anyway. My brain hurts so I give up. I opened the door. I opened the baby gate. I took a deep breath and gave Miss M a big hug. I didn’t know what to say. She caught her breath and looked up at me through puffy, red eyes and said “Swuggle!” then ran across the hall and climbed up on to our bed where she has been for the past 2 hours….NOT SLEEPING. How is this child not sleeping? We started the bedtime routine at 6:30pm. It is now 10:37pm and she is still up. 4 hours and counting. We played Good Cop. We played Bad Cop. We compromised. We negotiated. We swuggled. We had a nice bath. We drank warm milk. We read stories. We sang lullabies. We talked about going to sleep. We swuggled some more. I am completely out of ideas and patience and energy. I honestly don’t know what to do but we need to do something.
Suggestions are welcome. There is nothing we won’t try. Seriously. Help me. I’m begging.
The Mama with the dark, puffy eyes and grey hair
andbabymakes3imean4 is one mom’s adventures while tap dancing on the brink of insanity with 2 babies, 11 months apart. If you liked this post, please subscribe to my blog to be notified of future posts. You can also like my page on facebook by clicking here! Thanks for reading! xo