Sometimes there are nights that take you to the brink. When you are completely exhausted, your bones ache and you desperately want to sleep, but you can’t because your children need you. And their needs are more important than your own.
Your eyes sting with tears, you feel hopeless, frightened, worried and utterly defeated. It’s happened to all of us at every stage. First with infancy and the incessant crying that can’t be comforted. Or older with teething or other illness. And then for some of us, there are the overtired spells of screaming all night, and nothing we do can stop them.
Our oldest has always been a screamer. She cried and cried and cried as a newborn. First, we thought it was reflux after she came home from the NICU and never slept. Then was it colic? We rocked her, I nursed her, wore her in a sling, ran the vacuum, even tried the blasted pacifier, but nothing could appease her. It wasn’t until she was five months old that we understood she was overtired, and the frequent night wakings were because of her extreme exhaustion. We put her on a strict schedule and sleep trained with an early bedtime and things improved.
But still, there are those times when things don’t go perfectly.
Fast forward five years and the night wakings are still happening, especially when there are transitions in her life. Her dad is on the road and I let her stay up late for the Super Bowl. Couple that with a cold and her grandmother visiting, and this child’s sensory system is overloaded. One occupational therapist diagnosed her with sensory processing disorder. Another said it was just behavioral. Whatever it is when her schedule is off, so is she.
And she wakes. And she cries. And she screams a sound so loud and forlorn that it makes your blood turn cold. And there’s nothing I can do to help her.
I can’t rock her. I can’t take her into another room and turn on the lights or the TV to snap her out of these crying jags. The shower won’t wake her either. The violent and traumatic screaming is terrifying for the whole house, but there’s nothing I can do but wait.
I sit outside her door, I pace the hallways praying she finds some peace and comfort, I text my husband and ask for strength and support, but she still cries. Trapped between a state of sleep and the present.
Suddenly though the wailing will stop, sometimes after 10 minutes, sometimes an hour. I tiptoe back to her room to see if she’s asleep. On this night she’s awake and she says, “Leave me, alone mama.” I try to hug her but she pushes me away. “Lila why were you screaming? Can I help you?”
“I’m sorry mommy, I don’t know why. My throat hurts.”
I bring her water and gently kiss her forehead before she pushes me away again. My heart shatters into a thousand pieces as I desperately want to hug her and give her all my love. I want her to know she’s not alone and that I can help her. But she doesn’t want me.
Sometimes we can’t fix everything, kiss the boo boo’s and make it all better. We can’t take their pain away, or give them the comfort they need. All we can do is be there when they’re ready for us.
A few minutes later she said, “Will you hug me now?” I held her as tight as I possibly could and whispered, “I love you, no matter what.”
No matter what I’ll be there, to hold her hand, take care of her when she’s sick, or listen to her scream when she can’t sleep in the wee hours of the morning. Because that’s what moms do until she doesn’t need me anymore. I pray that day never comes, but until then, I thank God I’m her mom.
No matter what.