THE EARLY DAYS
I’ll never forget the lovely night nurse who took care of me when Jack was born. Her name was Elizabeth. I called her Saint Elizabeth.
Saint Elizabeth offered a big smile and kind words of encouragement every time I saw her. “You’ve got an eater on your hands!” she beamed one night as she rolled Jack in my room from the nursery.
I smiled back weakly, wondering how I was going to care for my newborn without her.
HOME FROM THE HOSPITAL
When we got home, my husband and I soon realized that while Jack was utterly adorable, he also was an around-the-clock eater and an insomniac. We tried everything to help him sleep. We swaddled him loosely, tightly, and in between. Put him in a bassinet, a crib, our bed, an infant sleeper, and a swing. Laid him in every possible sleep position – back, tummy, side, and tilted. All to no avail. Our beautiful boy wailed any time he left our arms.
After weeks of alternating two hour shifts each night, we called our pediatrician.
“He’s a big baby and has gained back all his birth weight (9 lb., 2 oz.) and then some,” she said reassuringly, “so he should start sleeping soon.”
But he didn’t.
A few weeks later, haggard and worried, I brought Jack to the doctor’s office. I knew in my heart something was preventing him from sleeping, and, after some tests, Jack was diagnosed with acid reflux. It was then we realized Jack was nursing around the clock not only for nourishment, but also to soothe his inflamed throat, which was raw from stomach acid. We immediately began a regimen of different medications until one finally eased his discomfort.
But he still wouldn’t sleep.
When Jack was 6-months-old and strong enough to stand in a Johnny-Jump-Up, we discovered he loved to bounce himself to sleep. At first we tried to be “good parents” and carried him to bed after he had fallen asleep, but, inevitably, he woke up every time. When he was a year old, we tossed out our parenting books and let him bounce and sleep in his jump up, and, for the first time in a year, we all slept.
EFFECTS OF EXHAUSTION
As Jack grew older and outgrew his Johnny-Jump-Up, though, his sleep troubles returned. At 2 1/2 years old he began banging his head and hurling his body on his bed for hours, exhausted, wailing, desperately trying to fall asleep only to wake from nightmares so intense that he would scream for hours throughout the night once he had.
My heart was in pieces.
One night in February of this year, I woke up with Jack to console him from a nightmare and began carrying him downstairs so his cries wouldn’t wake Kristen, but I lost my footing, slipped, and fell. I clung to Jack, desperately trying to protect him from the fall as the back of my head hit half a dozen steps. I managed to get Jack safely down the stairs and to a couch, before I went into our kitchen to grab some Advil, blacked out, and woke up on the cold tile floor. Jeff was traveling for work at the time, so my mother came over at 2:00am to care for the children as I was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance with a concussion.
Even though I walk through the valley of deep darkness, I fear no evil, for You are with me. (Psalm 23:4)
This chapter of our family’s story was difficult to write as so much of it still feels raw and real. My restless heart needed to release this, though. And I’m thankful to take a step closer to the Peace I so desperately seek. Sometimes we have to uncover the pain that lingers in the dark, so something beautiful may rise and grow in the Light.
We hope you will join us as we continue to explore and uncover the fruits and labors of sleeplessness. We invite and encourage you to share your own stories throughout this series in the comments, via facebook, or email.
You are such a gift. We continue to be blessed by you each and every day. God’s Peace to you and yours, dear friends.
MORE OF THIS SERIES
Want to read more posts from the Sleepless Series? Click on the links below!