I have just spent the last hour going through my posts regarding sleep loss with kids… or, let’s really be honest and say sleep loss with Josh, because for all the antics that the Kaper gets into, it’s Josh who sleeps like crap, it’s Josh who wakes up three or four times a night and it’s Josh who has the bad dreams that plague him, the fears that creep up in the night, it’s him who sees monsters in the shadows and hears hissing in the pipes.
We go through phases with him. He will go weeks and sometimes months when he will wake up every few hours all night long, waking the house with blood curdling screams, terror in his eyes and no words to describe the horror he has just experienced. He walks down the stairs to go to the washroom but monsters lurk in the hallway so you wake to find him screaming outside the bathroom door, to scared to do more than stand there and cry. After a point it becomes a cycle or pattern and he wakes himself up because that’s just his new body clock, which of course sets a new body clock for me. Every time we go through a phase like this we pull out all the tricks and usually at some point we find the golden ticket and a new trick that works. There are only so many golden tickets though and I am running short on new ideas.
Here’s the thing. I think part of his problem is genuine fear, he wakes up a few times with horrifying dreams (the terror is real, I see it with my own eyes). Usually those first few nights he comes to my bed, snuggles in as tightly against me as possible and grips my hand turning my fingertips white. I hold him and can actually feel the tension ease from body (as blood flow returns to my extremities). As a Mom, there is something so instinctual about being the person who can bring that kind of peace to her child. Comforting him, easing his fear, being the person he comes to when he’s afraid; it fills a need in me. That’s the cold hard truth. So, I let him snuggle closer, I run my hand through his hair, I whisper words of comfort in his ear, and soon I listen to his soft snores. As the nights continue I start to notice that he’s coming to my bed A LOT. I start to feel the lack of sleep catching up to me and I complain to my husband about it; and I get the look. You know that look, the one that says ‘you did this to yourself’. He points out that if I just sent him back to bed all would be well, we would all get some sleep.
The next phase of these ‘wakeful times’ with Josh is when I realize my husband is right, and that I am my own worst enemy. So, when I feel Josh snuggle in beside me I resist the urge to snuggle and I take his hand and bring him back to bed. We chat, he usually asks me for a prayer and a song (have you ever tried to sing when you are barely awake and just woken?? – that noise alone should bring nightmares). I kiss him goodnight and he goes back to sleep…. for like, an hour! Then he’s back beside my bed saying he’s had a bad dream, or that he can’t sleep. I get up, take him back to bed, kiss him, say a prayer, croak out a song… and there you go, that ‘s the routine for the next number of nights. Now, I am getting really frustrated because the reality is that I actually get much less sleep getting up and putting back to bed than I did by just allowing him to crawl in beside me. I have to wake up enough to stumble to his room, sing a song, pray, stumble back to my room, wait and listen to see if he will stay there, lie awake for a few minutes while I try to sleep again, only to have it all begin again in an hour. You get to the point where you know you are actually being terrorized because if he’s sleeping, you aren’t, you are lying in your bed thinking… ‘when’s he going to wake up?’, ‘was that a cry?’, when is he coming back?’…
Phase two is I think the worst, and the longest phase, but next comes the third phase. In this phase I have generally become bitchy and sleep deprived. I put Josh to bed at night and promise him the world if he would just sleep through the night, this is the phase when I also have come to the realization that it’s no longer nightmares that are waking him (most of the time) but rather he just wants me to keep him company while he can’t sleep. He wants snuggles and songs and prayers and Mummy love. I am being manipulated. I use bribery with zero remorse, I beg, I plead, I have even caught myself (without even bothering to stop myself) using manipulation tactics myself. When I myself lie down to sleep I lie there begging God for one good night. Then I lie there listening to every little sound wondering & waiting. I get to sleep… and then bam! Screaming, crying, that blood rush that happens to you when you are woken in the night by the sounds of your child calling you, the adrenaline surges through you, and you get to his room and he says ‘I can’t sleep, I need a prayer, I need a song, I need….’ and all I want to do with my whole heart is scream ‘what about what I need???’ This phase is what I call the guilt phase because now I am so tired, so frustrated and so bitchy that anger mixes with the adrenaline and I am no longer the Mummy who snuggles her scared child, I am no longer attempting to croak out a horrible little tune in the dead of night, now I am the Mum who stands beside his bed saying ‘it’s the middle of the night, go back to sleep’. Most of the time he does, to be fair, by the time we have reached this phase he has usually moved fully into ‘habitual wake ups, rather than nightmare wake ups’ so going back to sleep isn’t a problem for him. However, as I crawl back to bed I have the weight of guilt, anger, frustration, hopelessness and it’s all mixing into the adrenaline. It’s no longer Josh who can’t sleep… it’s me. This phase is usually shorter than the second stage but has been known still to last weeks.
The next phase (four I think we are on). Is when Josh actually sleeps through a night… and I wake every hour on the hour wondering when he’s coming…
Stage five. I go to bed wondering will he sleep all the way through tonight and generally wake a few times to check the clock and listen for distant screams.
At some point, (weeks or months later depending…) we move back into our normal, our whole family is sleeping and it’s amazing and we all love each other so much, everything is beautiful and life is grand phase. That is a wonderful phase… I think about those times often, dream about them even (when I actually do sleep).
I am not sure why I started this post… about this particular topic (other than the fact that it’s seven AM and I am already finished my third cup of coffee…) However, it’s been therapeutic to see it written out… the phases move, they ebb and flow, and even though all seems hopeless right now, I will live to sleep again.