My friend's baby is put down to sleep between 7 and 8 pm every night. And every night, around 9 pm, my friend goes back to her lab to do research. I stay behind. I catch up on dishes or drama watching, read my scriptures and then sit drowsily on the couch, waiting up for my friend to return safely.
And then, sometime around midnight, right when I'm about to succumb to sleep, the baby starts crying. My friend has been following the self-soothe method and, after watching her get frustrated with her husband for not following the rules, I'm determined at least to follow her wishes.
So, there I sit, outside a seven month old's room, listening to his crying and counting down the minutes until I go into the room to pat him for a minute, hoping that the patting will pause the raucous noise before the patting time is over and I exit the room to listen to him cry it out again. I sink to the ground again to listen, wondering, worrying that the crying is keeping up all the neighbors too and that my friend is accruing a large list of non-friends. Usually, after about forty-five minutes of listening to that baby's frustration at the world, his mother comes home to feed him and I retreat, emotionally and physically exhausted, to my bed.
Last night was slightly different; my friend wasn't near her phone. So my messages went unheeded. I sat there, listening to the baby, wondering what to do. He was absolutely miserable and hungry - but if I were to follow my friend's rules, I was supposed to just leave him. And yet, I wasn't convinced "cry it out" was working. I sat torn, guilty for leaving him, guilty for thinking I should not leave him.
I looked up information online and found, at least, that this is the sort of emotional struggle every parent feels. So, after waiting a prescribed amount of time, and realizing that my friend might not reach her phone for a long time, I went into the room and picked that baby up. He was happy in my arms and stopped crying, and within a few minutes, had settled his head into my shoulder. Within ten minutes, he was asleep. When I tried to put him back in his crib, he woke up and screamed again. And then that happened again; this baby was not going down without being fed. He would accept the alternative of being held though so we reached a sort of mutual understanding: I would hold him if he slept and I wouldn't put him down until his mom returned.
I almost wondered if he knew this was my weakness - to holding a sleeping baby. All of my frustration and anger with him, and my friend, and the process dissipated. When my friend returned to feed her very hungry baby, I stumbled to bed.
I know nothing about what it's like to be a parent. I feel I know a little of what it's like to deal with a baby who wakes in the middle of the night. I'm not convinced I'm ever going to be full of the same amount of love towards my babies as my friends express they have towards theirs. But somehow, even then, I still want the opportunity to try.