I had finally hit my first Mommy-stride. Formula feedings every few hours were a thing of the past. Jars of mushy sweet potatoes, turkey, bananas, and the like had been replaced with flavorful table food. And bottles had been traded in for sippy cups (except for that treasured before bedtime bottle of milk). Baby boy was moving up the totem pole of budding independence. We were coasting.
But then something happened.
It was as if the Commander-in-Chief of Babyland said, “Oh! So you really think that after nearly two years, you are going to enjoy some uninterrupted sleep? Not so fast missy!” Those short-lived glorious few months when my son went to bed by 6:00 p.m., and soundly slept straight through the night until 5:00 a.m., suddenly came to a screeching halt.
The Milk-Monster was back. And it was obvious that he intended to stay a while.
Like days of old, his demands were non-negotiable. Milk at 9:00 p.m. Milk at 12:00 a.m. Milk at 3:00 a.m. And a final round of milk at 5:30 a.m. to kick off his day. This was in August and the saga continued until almost a week ago.
I blame myself for allowing the Milk Monster to overstay his welcome. I was told by those who successfully chased him out of their homes that I could have rid myself of him over the course of three to four days, but that I lacked the commitment.
Lacked the commitment? Were these people crazy? Nothing says commitment like 22 months (and counting) of single-parenthood.
Upon further reflection, I realized that they were partially right. For the past several months, I was committed–just not to defeating the Milk Monster. Instead, I was committed to his arch rival, Sleep. Winning the war meant sacrificing those few coveted hours with Sleep to go toe-to-toe with the Milk Monster throughout the night. Nearly two years of walking around in a functional post-baby fog made that so not an option. If pathetically slithering out of my bed three times a night to fetch what the Milk Monster wanted staved off his wrath, which was sure to keep me up, I surrendered with no shame. And I have since paid the price.
The vets all said the same thing. I had to make up my mind that there would be no more through-the-night feedings. The Milk Monster was a bully. I was not to yield, surrender, or negotiate with him. They warned that he is a formidable opponent. He yells, writhes, kicks, and even cries to get exactly what he wants. It was suggested that I avoid the cold-turkey method. Instead, give him three ounces on the first night, two on the second, one on the third, and none on the fourth night. They urged me to eliminate one of those night time feedings. Immediately. The frequency of the night-time feedings were just as vital, if not more, than the amount of each feeding. I had my marching orders. I was ready.
Night One: The Milk Monster mopped the floor with me. He wanted what he wanted, and was not taking “no” for an answer. He made it clear that there would be no concessions or negotiations. For my neighbors’ sake (and probably more so for my own), I had to end the noisy and tumultuous standoff. The Milk Monster still ruled the roost.
Night Two: It took the Milk Monster about an hour longer than normal to rouse me out of bed. I looked him squarely in the eyes and told him to wait one second. I had exactly what he wanted. When I returned, I hit him with the “Fifty-Two Fake Out.” I watched as he greedily sucked down the measly two ounces before falling back into a deep slumber. Midnight was another successful round. I was able to pacify him with just one ounce. When he awoke at 3:00 a.m. to strong arm me into giving him what he wanted, I tried a little tenderness. I quietly pleaded with him to stop yelling. Rubbed his back. Snuggled him closely. Whispered in his ear that he needed to relax and get his sleep. He put up a good fight, but could not maintain his stamina. The Milk Monster was going down.
Night Three: A restless night. I waited and waited for the Milk Monster to rear his tyrannical head or show signs that he was ready to rumble. But nothing. At least not until midnight. I triumphantly strolled to the fridge and brought back the Milk Monster’s ounce. He snatched it, quickly gulped down what he craved, and knocked right out. The Milk Monster did not stir until his usual wake-up time of 5:00 a.m. Victory was on the horizon.
Night Four: Another restless night. In between the cat naps, I intently listened out for the Milk Monster. 9:00 p.m., midnight, and 3:00 a.m. quietly came and went with no sign of hide nor hair of him.
When my son grabbed my face at 5:30 a.m. to wake me up, as he does every morning, I could not believe it. The Milk Monster had been vanquished.
Sleep and I have since reunited. And it feels so good.