Ever since I spend a sleepy, stressed out couple of weeks sleep training Aidan while his dad was shooting a movie in New York, our nights have been pretty easy. For a long time, he basically got up once at around 4:30 or sometimes more like 3:30, but basically it was pretty good, considering he goes to bed at 6:30.
Okay, none of this was anywhere near as good as when he was really little and slept with us and I’d just have to stick a boob in his mouth in my sleep and never really woke up at all. But it wasn’t so bad.
Then suddenly he started waking up twice a night again. For awhile it was at 1:30 and for a few nights in a row, Harlan would go in there and soothe him and get him back to sleep and the 1:30 wakings stopped. Then they started up again a few weeks ago. But worse. Sometimes it was at 1:30, sometimes at 12, a lot of times at 2. We’ve sort of fallen into a 2-4:30-5:45 habit and it’s really rough. We tried Harlan going in there to pat him a few times, but Aidan’s crying became near-hysterical, so I would always end up going in and nursing. Then we stopped trying for a while because he was coughing a lot and I didn’t think it was right to abandon him when he was sick. So we’ve been a bit stuck. Not to mention totally exhausted all the time.
Last night he cried at 10:30. We lay there for a while assuming he’d fall back asleep, since he generally does when it’s early in the night. But his cries became incredibly piercing, punctuated by this high-pitched squeal, sounding as if he was fighting for breath. Harlan went in once, then again, and eventually he fell asleep. But then at 11, he started up again. Harlan went in but it didn’t help at all. The little guy was hysterical. Harlan thought maybe he was thirsty so he went upfront (naked, through the yard) to get his sippy cup, while I sat there tormented on the bed listening to my baby wail and squeak and struggle for breath. It was torturous. The sippy cup didn’t work, Harlan’s soothing didn’t work. I went in. I’d never seen Aidan like this before. He was sitting in his crib sobbing. When I put my hands on him, he pushed them away, as if he was afraid of me. I wondered if he was having a nightmare or what they call night terrors. I don’t know what age they begin. It was awful.
Finally I picked him up and he tried to squirm out of my arms, pulling forcefully away from me as if he saw spiders all over my skin or ghosts over my shoulder. I held him hard and he eventually settled into me. I sat in the glider and rocked him. He kept staring at the light of the small stereo we have in his room. Usually he loves that light, becomes mesmerized by it, holds out his hands toward it as if conducting unseen orchestras and says, “Dat! Dat!” But this time he watched it as if it were coming at him holding knives.
Slowly, slowly he relaxed into me. His eyes were still open, but he was calm. When I tried to move him back to his crib, he cried again. I put my hands on him and told him I loved him over and over and told him I’d stay there until he was asleep. After a few minutes of sitting up sobbing, he moved into his child’s pose and with my hands firmly on his back, he fell into a regular breathing pattern, albeit punctuated by sharp tugs of breath, the kind when you’ve been crying hard and for some time afterward can’t quite still your breath.
I didn’t even nurse him, not until 4 when he awoke again and I brought him into bed and nursed him until he fell asleep in my arms.
When I went to bed last night, at around 9:30, I went into his room to check and see if Harlan had remembered to empty the dirty diaper bin before he took the trash out. As I was leaning over to look at the bin, I glanced over my shoulder and saw boo lying on his back in the crib grinning at me, that beaming wide smile that makes the sun shine. I turned and he rose up on his knees and continued to smile as he picked up his lamb Liam, wrapped his arms around him, and fell forward into a gentle child’s pose, his sweet forehead on the sheets, instantly asleep.
That joy and terror from the same little boy in the same night. I cannot control it. I can only watch and be there and do my best to help him through it when he needs me.