The topic of “Crying It Out” was not the conversation I thought we were going to have during this visit to the pediatrician’s office. I had brought my daughter in with suspicion of an ear infection during a flare up of her asthma. Ears, sinuses, lungs–these things I was prepared to talk about. I wasn’t prepared to have a conversation about her sleep habits. Yet the wise old pediatrician gently walked me into it, and I heard the words I’d vowed we’d never employ with our children. Cry it out.
“Crying It Out” was one thing I wasn’t planning on doing with ANY of our children, no matter what. I’d read plenty of literature on sleep solutions that did not involve crying, and slowly, but surely, those methods were working to undo the bad, new-parent habits we’d gotten our daughter into. But, for medical reasons that are too lengthy to discuss here, I didn’t have the time to make slow progress anymore. She needed to start sleeping better and using the “Cry It Out” method was his recommendation to a speedier resolution.
One of those bad sleep habits we’d fallen into was nursing my daughter to sleep. It’s what I’ve done since the day she was born. I love it. And I didn’t want to give it up.
Well, fast forward a few days and when it was time for bed, my daughter didn’t fall asleep while nursing.
I saw the writing on the wall.
It was time to let her cry it out.
The problem was, I still couldn’t do it.
So, my husband and I decided we’d ease into it and give the “Cry It Out” method a modified approach: One of us laid down with her until she fell asleep. (The typical “Cry It Out” method involves leaving your child in their crib and room by themselves.)
And it only takes you watching your baby cry it out once to realize why most people don’t stay in the room with them. Those baby tears… When I saw them rolling down her plump little cheeks, something inside me broke.
Crying Out to the Lord
Just a few days before, one of my sweet friends lost her baby just four weeks into her second trimester. I was angry at God. She’d had a rough first trimester. The pregnancy was a complete surprise. And I didn’t understand the point of it.
“Why God? Why did you even let her conceive a child if you were just going to take it away?” (No cliche Christian responses with this one y’all. Just being honest.)
I have many other friends who’ve miscarried, but it was like hers was the straw that broke the camel’s back. And when I didn’t hear God say anything back to me right away, it only made me even more angry.
“Why aren’t you talking with me about this God? I’m angry, and sad, and upset.”
As I rubbed my baby’s back while she cried herself to sleep that night, God gave me an answer about my friend’s miscarriage. And as I processed His answer, I understood His heart for me a little bit more than I ever have before.
Even though there are times when I cry out to Him when He feels far away, He isn’t. He’s right there next to me. Holding me. Carrying me. Just like I was right there in that moment with my own child as she was crying out for me.
My daughter is too young to understand why I won’t pick her up and nurse her or rock her back to sleep, and she’s angry. She’s crying out to me, but I’m not answering her the way she wants me to, as quickly as she’d like, and sometimes not at all. She doesn’t understand that what I’m doing, or not doing, is for a reason much bigger than helping her sleep. She doesn’t understand that it’s harder on me to watch her so unhappy, or hurting, or struggling than it is on her.
I thought about what it must have looked like when God watched His Son be whipped, a sharp crown of thorns thrust onto His head, nails driven into His wrists and ankles. Even Jesus cried out, “Dad! You bailed! Why aren’t you here??”
“My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46)
What an array of emotions our Maker must have been experiencing. Knowing exactly why He had to let His Son suffer and using restraint to not come to His rescue.
Last night when I put her in her crib and watched her drift to sleep, I had this overwhelming feeling that maybe, just maybe, the whole reason she had sleep trouble at all, was that so God could show me and my husband more of His heart for us, His children.
Hebrews 12:4-11 (MSG) says,
“So don’t feel sorry for yourselves. Or have you forgotten how good parents treat children, and that God regards you as his children?
My dear child, don’t shrug off God’s discipline, but don’t be crushed by it either. It’s the child he loves that he disciplines; the child he embraces, he also corrects.
God is educating you; that’s why you must never drop out. He’s treating you as dear children. This trouble you’re in isn’t punishment; it’s training, the normal experience of children. Only irresponsible parents leave children to fend for themselves. Would you prefer an irresponsible God? We respect our own parents for training and not spoiling us, so why not embrace God’s training so we can truly live? While we were children, our parents did what seemed best to them. But God is doing what is best for us, training us to live God’s holy best. At the time, discipline isn’t much fun. It always feels like it’s going against the grain. Later, of course, it pays of handsomely, for it’s the well-trained who find themselves mature in their relationship with God.”
Reading this passage for the first time through the lens as a parent in the middle of “Cry It Out” sleep training completely blew my mind.
If my daughter could speak to me those first few cry it out nights, she’d probably be asking me, “What did I do wrong? Why aren’t you nursing me to sleep like you have before?? This is so hard!”
But sure enough, as hard as it was to listen to my daughter cry it out and as hard as it was for her to go through that method of sleep training, now she can go to sleep without nursing and without crying. And those medical issues that sparked the entire “Cry It Out” discussion are no longer a concern.
How amazing is it that God calls us His children? That the hardships we walk through God is using for His glory and to bring us into a deeper, more mature relationship with Him.
What trials or valleys have you walked through that God used to bring you into a deeper relationship with Him? Did you see that experience as training or as punishment as you walked through it? I’d love to hear.