Every week, Preen tackles motherhood sans the rose-tinted glasses. Our columnists L. Juliano, Marla Darwin, and Rosanna Unson tell their personal experiences like it is—at times frustrating, oftentimes confusing, but always enlightening.
Before I even gave birth, my husband and I would recoil at every mention of sleep training and “crying it out.”
Both of us are sensitive marshmallows and the thought of not picking up a baby when it cries was just too much for us to bear. Sleep training is another one of those emotional and personal topics that get parents to firmly draw the lines. We picked our side and thought that was that. We were committed to sucking it up and living with sleep deprivation indefinitely.
It wasn’t until a Christmas road trip to Baguio when our resolve crumbled. My instinct to pick up my daughter whenever she cried in the car began on the day she was born when we brought her home from the birthing center. To me, crying always signified a need and the first time I soothed my baby this way cemented itself as a core memory for us.
I have no regret in doing this for my daughter during the newborn stage. It was during this road trip as she turned four months old that it started posing a problem. She has been used to being extracted from her car seat the minute she started fussing. If she hated her seat belts, I wouldn’t buckle them on—and because we live in the Philippines with its lax automobile rules, we were able to get away with it. Are you car safety advocates freaking out? You should!
So back to Baguio. Baby girl at that point preferred sitting on my lap and being able to see the road—so from Manila up to the nauseating turns of Kennon Road, I held her in various positions for six hours. The only time she napped was when she was feeding off me (I call this “breastsleeping”) and the rest of it was spent holding her up when she felt like stretching her legs or holding her to my shoulder when she felt like bawling her little eyes out. I was whipped! I catered to the whims of my petite dictator and I saw no problem with it, all because I couldn’t stand seeing her in distress.
Her father supported me in all of this but could only helplessly glance at us during the whole ordeal. He’d try to sing children’s songs then gave up when he realized he forgot all the lyrics to them and ended up belting out Toto’s “Africa”, courtesy of the Master of None Spotify playlist blaring in the background.
I arrived in Baguio with my arms about to fall off and ready to hurl myself off one of its cliffs. This is the price I paid for choosing to be my child’s doormat instead of being her parent.
When the time came for us to head back to Manila, I was already dreading the road circus that awaited us. My mother-in-law knew about our laissez faire car seat situation and she warned me about getting my daughter used to being strapped in before our trip to the US. Never mind our bleeding hearts, we could actually get fined and/or jailed if we did all that nonsense in the States.
She told me that letting her cry it out in the car seat will only take around 12 minutes then the baby would calm down. My brother-in-law chimed in and reassured me that this moment was bound to come sooner or later and this was also a test for me as a mother. I liked how he saw it as the precursor to all the “I hate it but I have to do it” moments I’ll have to weather with my daughter.
I marched up to my husband who was bringing the car over our way and told him about the cry it out plan. “Alright, let’s do this,” he said.
Our baby started wailing a mere seconds after being placed in the car seat. I took a look at the clock and start timing her frantic screams. We endured her crying trying to exit Baguio city proper. I couldn’t stand looking at the way she looked at me. My husband didn’t fare any better and was also distressed. “Why don’t you hold her hand to let you know you still love her?”
I did and my baby promptly screamed even louder. I have the habit of assigning emotions to inanimate objects and it was too easy projecting my guilt. She looked betrayed and her eyes seemed to be communicating, “I KNOW YOU’RE THERE! WHY WON’T YOU CARRY ME?”
Even worse, the 12 minutes my mother-in-law promised me already passed and she was still crying. Seconds and minutes are pockets of eternity when you’re dealing with a crying baby. We agreed to take her out of her misery once we hit 30 minutes. (We improvised the figure; we did not read up on crying it out at all.)
But after a total of 20 minutes and halfway down the mountain, my daughter gave one last little heave and passed out—FOR FOUR WHOLE HOURS. She woke up during a pit stop in Bulacan, cried again for five minutes when we strapped her in for the last leg, then slept all the way to Manila.
When she woke up, baby girl smiled and it looked like she still loved us. Consider us a bit more sympathetic to Team Cry It Out.