For the last three nights the baby has been going to sleep at 9PM as a result of trying out the dreaded Ferber Method, which had been recommended to me months before Harry was even born by a friend living in China.
We had tried the method one or two times before without much dedication, and with all of the confidence for success on my side of the equation—Koreans, apparently, do not typically try this approach, and according to A. some of them are still co-sleeping with their kids after five years. But Harry was a little sick last week, barfing up almost whatever we gave him (but acting utterly nonchalant, as though spewing all over yourself and everyone around you was no different than burping), and growing even worse than usual in his sleeping habits.
The boy was quite a dictator, forcing us for months to play with him for hours, late into the night, often to eleven or twelve, even though he was exhausted and in no mood to do anything. He would require us to help him walk about the house to examine random objects, which would bore him after less than a minute. Then, after getting drunk on goat milk and falling asleep, he would scream for us two or three times a night, requiring further filler-uppers from an exhausted A., who would usually be sleeping alongside him.
It was an uncomfortable but not unbearable arrangement until Harry got sick and decided to go back to his old ways, that is, of sleeping for less than two hours at a time, all the time. At that point I decided enough was enough. For all our squeamishness about the boy’s deafening shrieking—I was wearing earplugs for most of the day, every day—we had to try a new approach. And so, after he got better, and after screaming at one another for an hour or so in what was easily our worst fight ever, A. and I ultimately decided to give it a try. Although she didn’t want to torture the wee lad, she admitted that she was tired of hauling him around on her back for an hour or two every night, waiting for him to pass out.
And so. He screamed for forty minutes the first night, and woke up two or three times, screaming for about thirty minutes each time. But we were firm, and eventually he passed out. All of us were exhausted the next day, and absolutely nothing comes close to the despair one feels in allowing one’s child to cry on and on, but on the second night the amount of screaming decreased drastically, never exceeding thirty minutes and usually terminating after just fifteen. We gained more confidence after we realized that the technique was working. And now on this third night he has gone to sleep after a mere fifteen minutes of blind animal rage. I have high hopes for tonight, because his behavior during the day has changed so drastically I considered the possibility that someone had switched him with a similarly beautiful child of mixed descent at daycare—one with far better manners. Pre-Ferber Harry and Post-Ferber Harry are almost unrecognizable in the way they approach the world.
I always complained about him here, and to anyone who would listen, and I’m sure a lot of people thought that I just didn’t have what it took to deal with babies, that I didn’t want to have one, or that my annoyance, my fury, my sadness, was due to anything except the personality of the baby himself. But seriously, guys, he is so much better now. Before he was unable to go for thirty minutes without shrieking violently at you to entertain him. Now he sits very contentedly, or writhes about on the floor, and I even caught him pulling himself up to a standing position with the help of the couch, an action that is somewhat advanced for his age (one week short of eight months). He seems so much happier, smiling and laughing far more often, and his baby babble has been growing slightly more complex. His attention span has increased. He even runs a little bit when I hold his hands to help him walk. He has become ten times easier to be with. He is fun. A pleasure. I do not feel so completely drained and exhausted after I have spent three hours alone with him. Even his screams are not so loud anymore. He barely protested while he was being dressed to go outside this afternoon—and he usually acts as though he is being taken out to be shot.
Mitt Romney is declaring victory in Florida, and I want to declare a far greater victory here—we’ve passed over the hump, it’s smooth sailing from now until I draw my last breath, and the universe ends.
A. and I know when the boy is going to sleep, which is the same thing as saying that we have something resembling our old lives back.