My son screams nearly every night. Sometimes he calls my name, sometimes it’s just loud cries. At 2 years old, we are well past the newborn stage, but suddenly I feel like we’re back there again with how often I’m awake during the night.
He’s never really been a good sleeper. My worst, in fact. Thankfully, with him being my third child, I was used to the sleepless nights. So him being up all night didn’t affect me as much as it had when I was a new mom.
But while those newborn days and nights were tough, I finally (two years later) got used to him sleeping through the night. It only took 15 months to get there. So you can imagine my surprise when I was being awoken at least three nights a week to his screams. Only these screams were much more frightening than the ones I’d heard when he was a baby.
As soon as he starts screaming, I rush into his room to find out what’s wrong. I try to pick him up from his crib to comfort him, but that only seems to make it worse. He starts to flail his arms and legs everywhere. The screaming gets louder, so I whisper in his ear that I’m right here. That doesn’t work. I try to rock him back and forth. That doesn’t work, either. No matter how I try to console him, his screams and cries do not diminish.
I try to look at him in the eyes, but it’s like he doesn’t see me. He doesn’t ever acknowledge that I am in the room with him or trying to make it all better. For the first time in my life, there is absolutely nothing I can do to comfort my child. And it’s absolutely terrifying.
Finally, after bringing him in my bed and letting him cry for a little bit longer, he falls back asleep. He wakes up the next morning next to me with a smile on his face as if the events from hours ago never happened. And as far as he knows, they didn’t.
That’s the crazy thing about night terrors: unlike dreams, your child never remembers them. The traumatizing moments of anguished screaming are long forgotten by the time that they wake up in the morning.
These night terrors have been happening so frequently that I took my son to the doctor just to make sure there was nothing else I should be worried about. He confirmed they were night terrors and gave me the unfortunate news that there is absolutely nothing we can do about them but wait — he will, in time, eventually outgrow them. But what’s heart-breaking is that the doctor suggested I don’t touch him at all while he’s having one, as that only makes it worse (which I learned first-hand.) Somehow, I have to bring myself to just sit close by, and watch him cry uncontrollably.
So these are our nights now: helpless, the both of us. I continue to wait impatiently, night after night, praying for it to be over soon. And I watch the same blank stare come across his face, over and over again — it’s unlike anything I’ve seen.
It’s true what they say: Your child may not remember the terror that they go through at night. But the thing is, you will. And that’s what’s most terrifying of all.More On