Right now is the middle (middle? who knows) of the first night of trying to get Mabel to go to sleep without nursing. So far it's been about 45 minutes since books down, and she's had me, and Daddy, and me again, and Daddy again, and a change of venue to our bed and back again, and a visit to the bathroom, and medicine in case she's teething, and now she's playing on her own but will soon call me back for round whatever this is. There's been a lot of crying and pathetic tears and screeching in genuine misery and wailing, "But I don't want to be two and a half". And that's just on her part.
On my part there's lots of second-guessing and wondering and soul searching and grimacing and furrowing of brow and coming close to tears. I'm not sure how long I will hold out, and I'm not sure how long I should hold out. Isn't it meant to be easier, if they're ready? But what if I'm ready, and they're not, and I do it anyway? Would it be better to just leave her alone altogether? But I'm not willing to make her feel abandoned as well as denied. (The abandonment phase comes later.) (That was a joke.) (Sort of.)
If somebody could just pop back from the future to tell me that in a week's time she'll be going off to sleep by herself (or even with one of us lying beside her) with minimal fuss, I'd know that it's right to continue. But if it comes to a multiple-night battle of wills, with no progress in sight, I know which of us will cave first. (Hint: it's me.) Basically, it's crying it out, even if she's old enough to explain it to and to explain her feelings back to me, and even if I'm right there holding her. And even if that means that "technically" it's not CIO at all. All this crying isn't technical, and it's not crocodile tears - she's truly distressed and miserable, because she can't imagine going to sleep any other way, and into the bargain she's not willing to just lie down and try.
... So now she's sitting up in bed (her own bed) talking to a teddy about his day (which bears a striking resemblance to her day) and wrapping him up repeatedly in a baby blanket. It would be nice to think that she'll just continue to do this till she drops off gently by herself, but I'm sceptical. ... More as it unfolds...
And me again. And Daddy again. It's breaking my heart, but the longer it goes on, and the more I hear myself say, "But I can't give you mumeet," the worse I feel it would be to give in now.
But but but but but
And me again.
And I'm here to tell you that I caved. At 9.45 after an hour and a half of crying and talking and a very small amount of lying still while I forgot the words to a song, she was finally so pathetically exhausted but still utterly, stubbornly woeful, that I gave in. So now I feel like I tortured her (or she me, as B points out) for nothing. I thought she'd be asleep in a flash, but it still took 15 minutes - and both sides, even - to nurse her down enough to let me go.
The only thing that keeps me going is the memory - vague as it is - that it was hard with Monkey too. He was younger and less vocal (maybe a better thing, in hindsight, because at least he couldn't break off crying to ask detailed questions about characters' motivation in the book we just read, or to reminisce about a playdate two months ago or the time they had their faces painted in September) but just as miserable, and now he's a champion sleeper. (Which is just as well considering the racket she's been making tonight.) But thanks to the blow-softening power of memory, I can't remember how long it took, or even whether I gave in on the first night and felt as crappy as I do now.
I'll give it a go for three nights. I'll try to go longer before caving next time. But that's all I'm saying, because listening to my baby cry for the one thing I can give her and won't, for the sake of some big-picture fuzzy plan that might or might not work at this juncture, is more heart-breaking than I can do for any longer than that.