My biggest dream in life was to be a mother. I dreamt about it, took the role playing “house” with my friends when I was little, and for as long as I can remember, prayed that God would bless me with babies of my own one day. After meeting the man of my dreams (oddly enough on television!), I hoped that that dream wasn’t far off, but besides babysitting and working as a pediatric physical therapist for four years, I had incredibly limited experience. I’m pretty sure I’m not in the minority there.
No matter what age you are, unless you’ve had to endure the struggle of raising your own siblings or had hands-on experience as a nanny, I don’t know many mothers who feel particularly prepared when they get the news that they are expecting for the first time. Personally, I had learned all about the human development in graduate school, but knowing what Apgar’s are is very different than knowing how to calm your tiny bundle of joy who isn’t sleeping through the night. There are thousands of books on parenting, but none comes with a hypoallergenic magic potion to sprinkle on your baby, so I took bits and pieces of anything I read or heard and relied heavily on conversations I had with friends, family, the nurse in Mommy and Me class, and fellow mommies. I knew about a bedtime routine of bathing, reading, feeding, and burping. I kept his room at 72 degrees and made sure he was tightly swaddled into a human burrito so he felt safe and warm. Nothing seemed to be working, until I happened to bring our dilemma up to a fellow parent and got advice that would change the Sutter house forever.
It was January 2008 and Brad Paisley was playing at the Pepsi Center in Denver. After appearing in his “Celebrity” video in 2003, I was lucky enough to call him a friend and make it on an almost annual basis to see him and his band perform. This year he was actually able to hang out a bit and not immediately hop on a plane or bus to hit the next stop on his tour. Backstage, we gabbed about the milestones our baby boys had hit (Huck and Max are only 5 months apart) and how proud we were to be parents. I’m not sure why, but sleeping, or our kids lack thereof, became a hot topic. Not only could Brad completely relate to the struggle we were having getting Max to sleep in his own room, but he offered the BEST piece of parenting advice I probably will ever hear. He said: “Have you tried having him cry it out?” After going through exactly 3 nights of crying, it worked for them like a charm. I was at my wits end and willing to try everything…so the next week we did.
The first night, I sat glued to our video monitor. Even though I had the sound turned down, I could still hear his wails coming from the next room. It was torture. However, knowing his brain was mature enough to actively calm him and that he was perfectly safe, I activated what tiny willpower I had and tried to stay strong. Besides, if I showed up at any point after I had blown him kisses and closed his door, he would learn that I would give in and come to the rescue. It took over 2 hours, but he finally relaxed and realized that he wasn’t going to be rocked to sleep and that dreamland may be the next best option. The next night, it was about an hour and then the third night, he only cried for 20 minutes. Just as Brad had experienced, it took 3 nights and our house was peacefully sleeping…in their very own beds.
Am I telling all parents out there to do this, or else? Of course not. Every child is different and as parents, you do what is right for your family. It worked wonders for Max, so when the time came for our baby girl to move from the bassinet in our room to the crib in her glamourized pink nursery, we didn’t hesitate to repeat the process. It is never easy to hear your baby cry, but I truly wouldn’t change a thing. Not only are my kids excellent sleepers now, but I’m pretty sure getting through those first few brutal nights themselves helped build the foundation of their little pillars of self-confidence.
So, on behalf of my kids, my circadian rhythm, my marriage, and my sanity…thank you to Brad Paisley (and his beautiful wife, Kim). Your advice was the best I have ever received.