10 March 2008


When I go to bed, the house is quiet, peaceful, still, dark. I creep in to check on Maddie and Riley, listen to their breathing, marvel at their beauty, tell them I love them and wish them sweet dreams.

In my own room, I drift off, giving thanks for another day, asking for peace for us all.

The scream is like a knife in my gut. My back tenses, my jaw clenches. I check the clock. Only 45 minutes into my night. I am wide awake, anxious, and filled with dread. The screaming continues. Maddie.

I get the flashlight, pad into their room.  She's not really awake. A pat on the back and a kiss soothe her. Come morning, she won't even remember this.

I'm not so lucky. I lie awake, waiting. Waiting. Chanting. My mantra? Help me, help me, help me . . . 

Screams. Mama! Mommy-ahhh! Mama! Riley. Tightness. Clenching. Clock. It's been thirty minutes. Flashlight. Creeping. Hug. Whispered reassurances of love and safety, suggestions to hug Froggie and talk to Maddie. Mama will always love you, Mama will always try to help. Back to my room.

Help me. Help Riley. Help me. Help Riley. Help me. Help Riley.

Screams. The tightness never left. Clock. Ten minutes. Wait? Go? Wait for five. After three, go. Hugs, reassurances, suggestions. Departure. 

Help me. Help Riley. Help me. Help Riley.

Screams. Again. Five minutes. And again. And again. Over an hour. Next time: Screams, clock, flashlight. A small, frightened boy in my arms, in my bed. Restless, fussing. Help me. Help Riley. Peaceful at last, both of us, me curled on the edge of the bed, Riley sideways, feet in my back.

Awake. Why? Clock. 3:30 a.m. Riley sound asleep, me wide awake. My mantra alternates with thoughts of John, of work, of Riley and Maddie, of anger and loss, of exhaustion, sadness, and fear. Questions: Keep Riley with me? Move him to his bed? I can't sleep with him here, I fear more screaming if I move him. I wish, I wish with all my heart, that I were not making these decisions alone.

Riley back in his own bed, asks for Froggie, gives him a hug. Me alone with my mantra. Help me. Help Riley. Help me. 

Screams. Maddie. Why is she not in my mantra? Of the three of us, she is of late the best at helping herself.  Clock. 5:00 a.m. Pat on the back, rescued Binky. For her, nothing but a dream.

Mantra. I doze, but it feels like I never sleep. And then come the screams. Riley. 6:00 a.m. The usual routine. But this time, sleep for the boy. 

My mind is up for the day. My body resists. Shower, chores. The day is cold and sunny, bright with the promise of spring.

7:45 a.m. Sweet Maddie chatter. Silence from Riley. We need to get to school, to work, to the business of the day. I open their door, my weary heart filled with love. Maddie greets me, excited and happy. Riley rustles, stands, blinks, and extends his arms. "Mama, hold?" 

Of course, sweet boy. Of course.


Becky said...

It sounds so hard, Snick. I'm sorry.

Mrs. d. said...

Wow. What a bittersweet night. Your sweet, loving children contrasted with the agony, solitude, exhaustion and sadness of going through all of this alone. I am so sorry that you have had such a rough time. I have a 7 year old (who sleeps right through the night, always has) and a 13 month old who lately is doing a similar awake/screaming thing at night. It's impossible to get back to sleep. Your description is so accurate about the stabbing feeling of being awakened at night by that sound.

My husband is being treated for Stage IV cancer. I have imagined life as a single parent. Lived it temporarily while he was incapacitated by treatment. I wish you as much peace and rest as possible. Thank you for sharing your life with us.


moo said...

maybe it's night terrors? That's not uncommon, especially if he's acting like he's not really awake and doesn't remember it in the morning. It's awful for you, but it's not hurting HIM.

You might want to get a rec from your pediatrician for a good child psychologist. Riley is young for testing/therapy, but the therapist might be able to give you some good coping strategies.

Parenting is always harder when you are exhausted.

BrooklynGirl said...

I'm no stranger to sleepless nights, but I can't imagine how exhausted you must be.

2beautifulgirlsforme! said...

Oh - what a night. I can't imagine doing all that alone. The time change screwed up both my kids too. I have resorted to putting my 3 yr old's mattress on my floor so she will sleep and I can too.
Good Luck. Beautiful writing as always.

Thinking of you.

Anonymous said...

I know you probably don't want to hear this- but I really think you ought to look into the sensory intregration for Riley. I really think it would help h

Karyn said...

Ooof. My thoughts are with you today. You must be so exhausted; do what you can to nurture yourself. You captured so perfectly what those kind of nights are like. Again, you are such a talented writer.

so-yun said...

that was a moving post. beautifully written. i hope you are able to sleep better tonight.

glove said...

Oh, dear dear dear. Big sigh.

Julia said...

Oh, this is heartbreaking. It's a heavy burden, too heavy for one. I am sorry you have to make all these decisions by yourself. I am sorry every scream is yours to manage.

Erika said...

I marvel at your grace.

Rev Dr Mom said...


Vacant Uterus said...

Help Snick. Help Riley. Help Mads. Amen.



ansel said...

Well put.

As my mother always said, "This too shall pass."

I'm sure it doesn't sem so, but you're making a memory.

tousquireste said...


OTRgirl said...

Phew. You've been talking about how hard the nights have been, and I believed you. This post, however, gave me a much more visceral sense of the pain. Ouch.

Caustic Cupcake said...

I'm sorry, girl. My heart goes out to you.zw

Anonymous said...

I agree with a previous poster... you should talk to Riley's doctor about his behaviors. If there is an issue with him, perhaps it can be fixed or at least mitigated a little to bring you all some peace and sleep.

Anonymous said...

Oh, how I wish you didn't have to do this alone. It's hard. You're doing great.

FWIW, it sounds like it could be night terrors. Is he still asleep and inconsolable? If so, you can't do much but wait until he grows out of it. He's none the worse for the wear because he's still asleep and doesn't remember anything in the AM (like moo said), but it does make for a frazzled mama. Those screams can make you hair stand on end and your nerves feel exposed for weeks to come.

Again, I'm sorry you're going through it alone.

Wonder Woman

littleangelkisses said...

Boo used to get night terrors around 14 months or so...it was horrible for us but he was still asleep. I cannot imagine going through it alone. My heart goes out to you. Your post brought me to tears, it's beautifully written. I wish you all a peaceful night.

Kerry Lynn said...

I'm tired just reading your post!
I thought he had worked through this :-(
I was up with Jackson for an hour last night and even though I just wanted to go back to sleep I just held him tight and marveled at how much I love him.

Mizasiwa said...

Hey there, Im so sorry and im sending you what little good vibes i can ... I have the same problem with the Angel boy only its been going on for what seems like forever, last night i got to do the same with his sister for a change but i know tonight it will be him again... reading your post was like reading my normal nights i am sitting here with eyes watering they sting so much from lack of sleep.
That terror of waking up to screaming... it lingers forever!!
Iv tried everything even buckled and put him into our bed when i just couldnt anymore... there is no shame in doing that and it wont be forever if you decide to do that! it worked for us... for a time only the kid can kick like a mule and i was starting to look like a domestic abuse victim!! (flicked himself backwards/sideways into my face and i landed up with a blue head... very funny honestly!!)
its not easy but from what you have told us about him he may jsut be very very sensative and is picking up on your sadness? No matter how you hide it kids are smart that way. Would it be so bad for him to stay with you? Not sure of your stance on this as i cant access a lot of your archive for some reason....
Regards, love wishes strength thoughts and all that good stuff to you i know it doesnt help but we are all thinking of you!!

Mamallama said...

Oh Honey, I'm so sorry. I remember similar nights with Travis.

Check out this article on night terrors, it's interesting.


Mama Nabi said...

Sigh... I think this was about the time when LN used to sleep-sob... and I mean SOB... It's a hard phase. Good news is... that it won't last too long. Hang in there.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with the earlier comment regarding the possibility of sensory integration issues.

Please, please, please consider calling your local early intervention agency and requesting an assessment for dear little Riley. Hopefully, there's nothing there ... but in case there is, the earlier the problem is identified and dealt with, the better the outcome.

All early intervention (birth to 36 months) services are federally funded, free (regardless of your income), and confidential. Many services are provided in your home, on a consultative basis ... meaning you will be offered practical therapeutic solutions and options to help Riley.

renovationgirl said...

How incredibly stressful and exhausting. I truly don't know how you do it. I know you have to, but still...you do it with grace and that say s a lot about you. Hope tonight is a better night.

Emily nearby said...

Snick - what about a referral to Dr. Ferber at Children's? We went - they listen to his sleep history for 45 minutes, then confer and come back with a plan. The greatest part was the validation that what we were going through was not normal (I took our son at 18 months, for waking and screaming ....) and then a plan - a plan you might have come up with on your own, but there's this added verification from Dr. F himself. Ask your ped! xoxo Emily