Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Scream it up, Kid.


Nice Huh?
Isn't that exactly what you think of when you think of a baby? Well, there's a good chance it is if you, like a lot of people in my life, are in love with the Cry It Out method. CIO sounds like a decent idea at first. Isn't the conventional wisdom that babies need to cry? They need to exercise their lungs, right? So why shouldn't I go about my merry while Snapdragon is wailing in his crib? Why should I bother with this on-demand feeding nonsense instead of a reasonable schedule that respects and preserves my needs as a liberated woman? Why shouldn't I plop him in his crib and try to catch the end of my favorite TV show?
Because I feel it's wrong.
On the surface, it does seem a little reasonable. Kids cry. Babies cry. Toddlers cry. They all cry. I even cry sometimes, and so on some level, it seemed like something to be expected. There will be crying, and you can't let the kid dominate your life.
Got it? Good.
That was my approach to Mongoosine when she was a baby. I also wasn't home a lot. I was working and going to school and she spent a lot of time with my mother. My mom had raised my brother and I and she was sure that the crying was just the way it was supposed to be, and who was I to argue with experience? She'd ran a daycare for a while and clearly knew more on the subject than I did.
I'm not saying that I never tried to meet Mongoosine's needs and just let her cry unless doing something for her suited me. Far from it. But on the whole she spent a lot of time crying herself to sleep in her crib in the evenings and afternoons.
I'm not proud of this fact, and that's not the point.
So what changed between Mongoosine and Snapdragon? Was I hijacked by a group of Attachment Parenting terrorists who brainwashed me into thinking that this moist bundle of noise that is a baby should be foremost and that his every crying whim needs to be placated?
No. Nothing nearly that sinister as babywearers with an anti-american agenda. Nothing as insidious as cloth diapering guerrillas and their co-sleeping propaganda.
It was something much smaller.
Not even the size of the head of a pin.
I had a stroke.
In the time it took me to write this blog post I went from a fully functional full time student-teacher, so close to my degree and certificate I could taste it, to a confused woman in excruciating pain who could neither maintain her consciousness reliably nor speak.
It's the speaking part that stuck the longest.
Have you ever been nearly completely incapacitated and unable to speak? Sure, I could unsteadily walk around. My hands still worked. My legs still worked, I could still think. Hell, I could even still sign like an infant, so I wasn't completely cut off from communication, but I couldn't speak, and it was terrifying.
What does this have to do with CIO?
I remember being hungry and not being able to communicate it to the "caretakers" around me. I remember being scared to death and having a panic attack when I went for my first ever MRI and they didn't bother to explain it to me. They didn't take the time to say "this is what we are going to do with you, see, here is the machine and it is only so deep, you won't be very far into it" etc. No. They pushed me in the room, had two nurses arrange me on a table strap my head down and slide me into the machine. They did tell me to hold still. They said something about it being loud.
But all I could see was the plastic walls of the MRI, and feel something at the same height hit my knees which they'd positioned awkwardly.
First of all, I am very claustrophobic. Secondly, I was having a very difficult time understanding all the various sensations while trying to cope with the fact that I couldn't talk.
My grandmother had a stroke when I was a small child. It took her decades to get to the point that she could walk again, and her speech hadn't specifically been affected. I was afraid I might not ever speak again, that I might lose the ability to walk, or worse, and being slipped into a casket sized diagnostic machine without being told what was going on wasn't helping in the least.
When they flipped it on and it started to whirr and groan, much more loudly than I had ever dreamed it would, all I could think was "what if it breaks and I'm stuck in here, unable to move, my head strapped in place, and incapable of shimmying back out?
I know I cried.
I also know that I couldn't speak to ask for some sort of reassurance. I couldn't say "please explain what is going on more precisely so that I don't have to be afraid." I couldn't ask how long the test would take. I couldn't say that it had been hours since I'd had water and I was painfully parched already. I couldn't explain that I was terrified and ask if there was some accommodation which they routinely made for claustrophobic persons. I know I'm not the only one.
So instead, in my fit I did as any good infant and started flailing my legs in full fledged panic attack meltdown.
This didn't go over well because it screwed up their test. Yes, it also meant that I had to go through this for longer, but they did come in and try to ascertain what was wrong. Turns out they have a little mirror they can use which allows you to see into the room so you can remind yourself that although your head is in a funky machine, you're really in a big room and it will be okay. That thing hitting my knees? an armature to aid in the positioning of my IV bag. Why it was on the opposite side and needed said armature is beyond me. It all seems a touch silly in retrospect, but at the time, with no sense of how long I'd be left in there, alone in a tiny enclosed space without clear understanding of what was going on, I was like an infant again, screaming alone in my crib, not sure if anyone was going to try to help me feel like the world wasn't ending.
That really changed my perspective on the crying issue.
If there are needs, real needs, and no other way to express them, then crying is apt to ensue. And just as it isn't humane to leave an adult terrified for their health and terrified of their situation, it's wrong and inhumane to leave a child in the same position.
I'm sure some of you are thinking "you survived, stop whining." But I'm going to guess that you've never, in your adult recollection, been put in a position of hunger or fear without the means to handle it yourself or convey to those around you what your needs are.

So that is why almost immediately after said picture was snapped, Snapdragon was treated to some serious cuddling and nursing. I've decided CIO isn't right for me, and therefore it can't be right for my children either.

9 reflections:

Jessie Kaitlin said...

Thank you for not supporting CIO!! That's all I hear somedays.. "Just let her cry" Even from hubbs. Aarrggg. Why should I let her cry and be scared? It's just not fair

Megan R. said...

I think CIO is definitely a personal decision for each person. We use CIO with Chunky Monkey, and it's worked great for us. But really, he doesn't cry much. He's sad when I first put him in his crib, but usually by the time I get back downstairs, he's no longer crying, and is asleep. It's just different for everyone. Thanks for sharing!

Slee said...

@ Megan
There is, in my opinion, a huge difference between letting a kid cry for a few minutes and what more and more I see/hear of people doing when half an hour has transpired and their child is still wailing away. It makes me sad when someone says "we just let him cry it out. sure it takes him forty five minutes some nights, but man he sleeps sound when he's done."

Danielle said...

Great post. I couldn't agree more!

Upstatemomof3 said...

See now I feel so guilty for the twenty or so minutes I let Big Sister cry today. She was exhausted, and hungry and she would not eat, she would not even sit at the table. She cried when I held her, when I tried to feed her, and finally I put her down figuring she would sleep. She fell right to sleep but after 40 minutes she woke up crying (well, whimpering) and I waited 15 - 20 minutes (until she started calling crying). But now I totally feel like I should have gone earlier. I will absolutely remember this post next time. Thank you so much!!!

Kelly said...

Great perspective on the issue. I do some crying it out but only after about 6 months and when I know my baby is fed and changed. I never let it go too long and rush in there if it's hysterical crying

Jennifer said...

I could never do the cry it out method. I tried 1 time with the first and it was absolutly horrible. For me it is attachment parenting all the way. It just feels natural and seems right for us. I have friends who swear by the CIO method and that is great for them but just not for me. Different strokes for different folks. BTW Great Post!

Itty Bitty Baby Bunz said...

I really appreciate your perspective here, Slee. I'm sorry you had a stroke, but it is an eye opening story you tell here about communication and its importance to an individual. Thought provoking....thank you for sharing!

Monkey Snuggles said...

What an interesting perspective on the subject. In theory, I am not a fan of CIO. I would never let my baby cry for half an hour in his crib. However, the reality in this house is a little less clear cut. Miss G,my oldest, was nursed or cuddled to sleep at naptime or bedtime for quite a long time, probably until she was almost a year old. At that point she wouldn't fall asleep in my arms, didn't want to fall sleep in her crib, or in my bed or anywhere else. So, eventually we did let her cry it out. By that point it was easy to tell the difference between the "I'm annoyed that you want me to go to sleep" cry and the "I'm so tired I can't even deal with myself" cry and a cry indicating that something was actually wrong.

Baby J on the other hand, was never a cuddler, would not tolerate co-sleeping or being worn (though I tried!)and by 4 or 5 months was always laid down in his crib wide awake where he cries for anywhere between 5 seconds and 5 minutes and then falls blissfully asleep.