Our nine-month-old – usually a fantastic sleeper and boy are we lucky for that – has been waking in the middle of the night screaming in terror for the past couple of nights. He is fairly easily consolable if I hold him (only me), but is unwilling to go back in his crib. He doesn’t fall back to sleep easily.
It feels terrible. Listening to him cry feels terrible, not knowing what to do feels terrible, not getting sleep feels terrible. It’s very stressful.
Last night when it happened, I went to him and held him as he calmed down and fell back to sleep. My husband eventually came in as well. I said that I didn’t know what to do. I was upset and stressed and it seemed like whatever decision was made in that moment would have a direct and measurable effect on our child’s ability to ever love or trust another human being for the rest of his life and I was terrified of making the wrong decision and oh my god WHAT ABOUT THE CORTISOL LEVELS.
My husband started making suggestions. I couldn’t accept any of them and I was, for some reason in that moment, very frustrated with those suggestions. To me, there was no way out. I was short with him, I rejected everything, I wasn’t nice. All of this exchange in the dark, in our baby’s room. When he went back to bed, probably feeling unwanted or useless (which he is not and not), I felt terrible for a new reason. I couldn’t keep it together enough to just be nice.
I woke up thinking, holy crap this is how having children chips away at marriages.
Not that it was our child’s fault, of course. It was mine. I don’t want to let too many of these careless moments slip by, even in the dark, frustrating middle of the night. I worry that their effect is cumulative and when they add up, it’s difficult to clear them out.
Image credit: Carolina Raquel Antich