Written by: Denise Stern, Let Mommy Sleep
Whether you’re a first time mom or a seasoned veteran of parenthood, one question unites us all: “Am I doing this right?”
I’ve had plenty of parenting fails but I’ll never forget the night we all cried it out. On this particular night, my sweet-natured 22 month-old son had night terrors and my twins were 4 months old; still teeny girls getting up through the night to eat. After soothing my son back to sleep, he got out of his toddler bed and inadvertently locked himself in his room. When he realized what had happened, he started screaming with fright. Naturally, this was the exact moment the twins woke for their 1am feeding.
And of course, the little key we use to pop open locked doors had fallen behind the door frame.
Of course, the back-up key fell behind the other door frame.
And of course, my husband was traveling for work.
All three of my babies were screaming and crying. Screaming from fear, from hunger, from confusion. They were screaming from not knowing where mom was or if I would ever come to comfort them. Then, they realized their siblings were screaming which led to more hysteria. Three children in a red alert screaming panic in the middle of the night is a very special brand of parental torture.
I hope you never know it.
So what do you do? Help the anxiety-riddled toddler with no quick way to get him out of his room? Or begin the hour-long feeding cycle for the hungry twins?
I chose what you might have chosen, too — run to the garage and dump random drawers until I found something to unlock the door to break my son out of his room. Then, I held him as tightly as I could while I did the world’s worst job of preparing two bottles for two babies with one hand. I’m not sure how long the house resonated with screams at 1 am. But I do know that if anyone’s brain cells were destroyed from excessive crying they were surely mine.
I share this with you because even when we’re trying our best, sometimes we still get the worst. Despite our best efforts to soothe, baby might cry for hours. Even after we prepared as best we could, breast milk might be slow to come in and baby might need formula. And if we’re sleep deprived to the point of literal torture, we may need to place baby in the safety of his or her crib to fuss for a moment while we do our own version of crying it out.
Our social culture has done a great job of bringing everyday parenting struggles to light in empowering ways. Posting our #parentingfails on social media, sharing our stories of postpartum depression to educate others, and joining the local parenting club to find fellowship. Our American culture, though, has also done a great job of creating impossible early parenting standards. Not to mention ways to judge each other.
The fact is, so many parenting moments are unwinnable. But if we’re holding our babies close, in the middle of the night or otherwise, that’s almost always enough.
Yes, you’re doing it right.
Denise Stern is a mom of 3 who started Let Mommy Sleep and LasVegasBabyNurses.com to help local newborns and their parents stay healthy and happy!