(this is a post from last winter I forgot to publish
because clearly at the time I was very, very sleep deprived!)
It is the simple things that make me so grateful, so happy, so able to drift off to sleep. Just two words that I now know he can use: "Yes. Ear." Who would have thought they had such meaning?
--I'm desperately hoping for sleep tonight. Dan feels much better and his antibiotics SHOULD have kicked in by now to relieve the ear infection that I think is the reason that we've been up at 3, 4 and 5am on and off for the last two weeks. I thought it was time to maybe "go there" with some heavy duty sleep meds, besides the melatonin we use now. However before we went there (to psychiatry for meds) I went to his pediatrician to rule out a possible ear or sinus infection, or --ahem-- a pinworm infection. Because he eats dirt.(But that's another blog post for another day, okay?)
She found a goopy, red and infected right eardrum. I have never been so relieved in my life to hear that someone had an ear infection. An answer to the problem and possibly an easy fix. It had been long enough to say we're not waiting this one out, and she could tell by the look in my eye that we needed antibiotics, stat, so she didn't even hesitate on that prescription. Sign here please.
After 24 hours on Amoxicillin, his nose is much less runny and green, his energy and appetite returning, and his ability to cope with anything is MUCH improved. I'm desperately hoping that he will be able to sleep.
Dan's always been a very early riser, with occasional forays into our bedrooms at 4 or 5, but it was never this frequent, and I began to feel the years peel off my life as my body suffered from ongoing sleep deprivation the likes of which I haven't felt since I was much younger and carried forward by post-partum hormones. I was sleepwalking through the day, unable to string thoughts together.
How did I do this when I had babies? I don't remember. Probably because I was too sleep deprived to retain it. Worst of all, I began to feel resentment and frustration toward Dan. WHY couldn't he just sleep? Is it a behavior? Illness? Gut issue? Self-regulation or sensory issue? Anxiety? Where do I even start addressing this? Overwhelmed, groggy, and so without the brain power I usually need for problem solving I was just paralyzed and indecisive. The pediatrician seemed the best start. So when she suggested it may be the ears I laughed out loud. She probably thinks I'm weird now but she would have figured that out eventually anyway.
I also tried asking Dan. Finally. I Should have started there. But again, not my best cerebral moments, okay?
Last night he got up at 3 and when I asked, told me his right ear hurt. Here's how the conversation went:
I asked, "Dan, look at me. Does your head or your ears hurt? Do you have an owie?" (pause, waiting. Repeat.)
Dan: "Ear yes. "
Me: "Your ear hurts?"
Me: "Which one hurts? This one or this one hurt?" (pointing)
Dan: "This one" (pointing to the right ear)
Me: "This one hurts?"
Me: "Okay, I'll get the ibuprofen."
And suddenly all the resentment, frustration, and fatigue melted away. Now I remember: THAT's how we do it when they are babies. They need us so desperately, they tell us so in the only ways that they can, and parents know how to listen and respond instinctively. We are good at waiting, watching, reading those subtle signs that tell us they're hungry, tired, painful, scared. We don't resent them for being hungry, tired, poopy, scared. We just do it because they need us so intensely for that period of time. This too is just a period of time. We will figure this out eventually.
Also in that 3am moment I was profoundly grateful and relieved he could actually have that conversation with me. Finally. Lots of prompts, yes, but he learns fast once he gets it. For months we've been practicing identifying body parts and feelings on the iPad for just this moment. I get to check off yet another skill he has to survive in the big world: Telling people when you hurt.
--Something we take for granted with most children who tell us every little owie, seeking comfort. How many owies have I not kissed? How many headaches have I not soothed, sore throats have I ignored simply because he couldn't tell me and maybe I just thought he was being cranky that day.
Thank you so much to our therapists and teachers for all your hard work on communication. After all these years of working the impact this moment has means so much for his quality and control of his own life, his long term safety and health, not to mention my peace of mind. It is a huge moment. So what a relief, even at 3am, that he can finally tell me when something hurts.
I'll bet you we all sleep well tonight.