My husband and I have a daughter who was adopted from China when she was 11 months old. I call her “Sweet Pea.” Most children adopted from China have experienced the loss of their birthmothers and suffered from physical abandonment, multiple caretakers and varying degrees of deprivation and/or neglect. Before the adoption was finalized, we did our due diligence. Our research included a great deal of information on “attachment.”
A securely attached person is someone who is confident with a strong sense of self worth. They’re empathetic beings with the ability to engage in healthy relationships. Conversely, the most unattached people are people without empathy, a conscience and/or people who are unable to relate to others except as objects who exist to meet their needs.
In other words, they are violent psychopaths. No thanks. I got enough problems.
So, we set our sights on “attaching” to our daughter, and having her attach to us. We read somewhere that it could take up to a year for Sweet Pea to attach to us. A YEAR. That’s a long time and I’m not exactly a patient person.
The whole “attachment process” was kind of a pain in the ass. When we got home from China, we didn’t let anyone hold Sweet Pea. We didn‘t let anyone diaper her, change her, kiss her—nothing. No one. Just us.
My husband is a director at an overnight camp for kids in Northern Michigan and I, at this point, hadn’t made the transition to living and working at camp full time so Sweet Pea and I were traveling back and forth every 3-4 days with each trip being 3-½ – 4 hours. I was tired, I was alone, and I was struggling, big time.
I wanted nothing more than for my little Sweet Pea to be a safe, secure, confident little girl, but I also wanted her to sleep. I wanted to sleep. But where sleep and attachment met, I was under the impression that I needed to “be there for her,” every time she woke up FOR A YEAR. (That way she would know that she was loved and safe and secure.) I was supposed to be there every time. No matter what time. No matter how many times. Every single time. For A Year.
I made it three months.
It was time for some sleep training. Everyone who does sleep training has their own special formula. My husband wasn’t around, he was at camp, so I did what felt right for me and Sweet Pea.
I put her to bed, I walked out of her room, I filled a very large bowl with a crap load of candy and I listened to her cry. And cry. And cry. I went to her room after 5 minutes, told her I loved her, kissed her and walked out. I then stuffed my face with candy, listened to her cry, ripped my heart out, waited 10 minutes and went in again. I threw the same lovefest as the time before, kissed her and walked out. I waited another 15 minutes, threw down some more candy, plucked out 27 new grey hairs and listened to gut wrenching cries coming out of the monitor that sounded strangely like “I hope that Snickers is really satisfying, beyotch, and by the way—you are the worst mom in the world.”
But it worked. It took three nights total, but it worked. I got my girl to learn how to put herself to sleep and she stayed asleep, so I started to sleep too.
It was all good, until it wasn’t.
Sweet Pea got bored with all that uninterrupted sleeping. She wasn’t going to let me off that easy. I may have taught her good sleeping habits, but that didn‘t mean she was going to always use them. She was all: “OK, mama, I’ll see your Sleep Training… and raise you Night Terrors.”
I don’t know if you are at all familiar with Night Terrors, but they suck more than anything that has ever sucked before. Each one is totally different, but the response and results are almost always the same. This is pretty much how they go:
You are woken up out of a warm bed and a deep sleep to blood curdling screams coming from the monitor and (in my case) clear across the house because our bedroom is nowhere near our kids‘ rooms. You pop up like a freakin’ Jack-In-The-Box, try to get your bearings and audibly say: “WHAT THE F&%#$???“ You quickly try to remember who got up for the last Night Terror experience and hope it was your spouse.
It wasn’t. You’re screwed. You’re now out of the bed. You trip over at least three decorative throw pillows on your way out of the room as you feel beads of sweat beginning to form above your lip. Meanwhile, the screams are getting louder and louder. Your heart is racing faster than your feet and you curse yourself for thinking it was such an “awesome idea” to put your kids’ rooms on the other side of the house, but you finally make it to your little beloved’s bedroom. You fully expect to see a man in a ski mask holding a chainsaw in one hand and one of your child’s arms in the other, but you don’t.
What you see, instead, is this:
Your child is sleeping, but screaming (and sometimes swinging) in her sleep. This, to me, is a true Night Terror. Your child is completely oblivious to her actions and has no recollection of such actions the next day. You, on the other hand, spend your day sporting bags under your eyes that are so big, they wouldn’t be regulated to fit in an overhead compartment on a 747 aircraft.
Unfortunately, for this type of Night Terror, I have found there is not a whole helluva lot you can do but hold your child tight, think about new purses and boots, and pray that the episode ends quickly.
The other Night Terror scenario goes something like this:
Your child is sitting up in bed, crying VERY loudly, as you arrive heart-pounding and breathless.
Me: Mommy’s here. What is it, honey? What’s wrong? Are you sick? What can mommy do?“
Sweet Pea: (Catching her breath) Mommy?
Me: Yes, honey? What is it? Did you have a bad dream?
Sweet Pea: (Sniffle, sniffle) Mommy?
Me: Yes? What can I do? What’s wrong?
Sweet Pea: Mommy…(sniffle, sniffle) Mommy…um…that…drawer…is…open.
The first time this happened, the reaction was genuine disbelief because this was a new twist on Night Terrors we didn’t see coming. We were at a point where if Sweet Pea woke up in the middle of the night, we left her to her own devices to put herself back to sleep. But this was something different. THIS WAS CRAZY. And we couldn’t ignore it. The crying was scary, it was loud and it was re-lent-less.
We had no idea that this was only the beginning. Once a week, sometimes twice, we could be found rushing to our daughter’s room, unsteady and frazzled, expecting to see blood all over the walls but instead finding a completely unharmed, yet inconsolable, child crying hysterically over potentially life threatening issues ranging anywhere from “I need a tissue” to “Something is in my nose,” or my personal favorite: “My sock fell off.”
Of course, after several of these middle-of-the-night trips, the genuine concern we originally felt upon arriving at Sweet Pea’s bedroom somehow, somewhere subsided into annoyance and anger.
In other words: The next time you haul my ass out of bed in the middle of the night, there had better be something REALLY F&$#ING WRONG WITH YOU because even though YOU have no trouble going back to sleep, it’s not so easy for me. My nerves are shot and I think my heart jumped out of my chest somewhere between the kitchen and the playroom. No, there will be no more sleeping for me. I’ll be up tossing and turning, thinking about all the things I have to do the tomorrow. But wait, if I fall asleep RIGHT NOW, I’ll still get 3-½ more hours. I’ll look at the clock and silently curse you for how much you have aged me and I’ll debate whether or not I really need to go to the bathroom, or if I can just hold it until daylight. I’ll make list upon list in my head, I‘ll stress myself out, I’ll even try to count to 100, but I’ll get sidetracked because I really SHOULD just get up and go to the bathroom, but before I do, I’ll remember that I forgot to return a phone call from one of my friends last week and I wish I could call her now but SHE IS PROBABLY SLEEPING!
There is no doubt in my mind that as parents, my husband and I aced the “attachment” process with Sweet Pea, but it seems that no amount of love or security can save certain children (and parents) from various types of Night Terrors.
They don’t happen nearly as much as they used to, and she actually remembers them now. Just last night at 2:18 AM, Sweet Pea was yelling across the house for “Daddy! Daddy!” (I was so happy it wasn’t me) and he found her in her bathroom, on the potty, completely beside herself because a ball from the playroom happened to roll in while she was peeing.
Much like the original Night Terrors we went through, it seems we have no choice but to wait these out as well. In fact, I have a feeling we’ll be waiting awhile since our 2-½ year old recently hauled me, blinded by sleep, in her room only to find her standing up in her crib, pointing at some stray toy and yelling “BACK! BACK!” because apparently she thought 3:30 AM was an appropriate time to be bossing me around and cleaning her room.
As I stubbed my toe on the way back to my bedroom, I felt defeated knowing that the chances of me getting back to sleep were slim to none…but even at my most sleep deprived, I prevailed.
This time I went to the bathroom before I got back into bed.
Thanks for being here!
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