“Mommy, I Can’t Sleep”
It jolts me awake at 1 a.m. and I turn to see my nine year old, holding his blanket, sweat plastering his hair to his forehead. This is an almost nightly occurrence. It has waxed and waned since the concussion in April, but he is suffering from such horrible insomnia, I feel like my heart is breaking.
I’ve learned a lot about concussions over the last six months. Insomnia and headaches are common. They typically go away after the injury has healed. His have not. Well, the headaches are mostly gone, small victory (OK, big victory). But his sleep is inconsistent and it’s, I think I can use this word here appropriately, literally, a nightmare.
At first, because he was having severe headaches too, we tried medication. One worked really well for about three weeks. And then it stopped working. Another one caused such severe side effects, he awoke dizzy and vomited the next morning. He had to miss school. I felt like the worst mother ever; I’d drugged my child. The neurologist actually apologized, said “It works so much of the time. I was the one who told you to give it to him. Forgive yourself.” He reassured me that his kidneys would process it quickly, and sure enough by noon he was fine.
We had already devised a routine with his doctor: Bed is only for sleeping, have a set bedtime, take a bath, read, do something calm and soothing before bed, no TV or other screen time. Then, try to fall asleep for 20-30 minutes, if he can’t, he’s back in his beanbag chair reading until he’s drowsy and tries again. No getting Mom, no coming out of his room, just keep trying the routine until it works. Sometimes, it works. Sometimes, he falls asleep the first try. A lot of the time, nothing works. Lately, nothing has been working. This last week has been awful. Finally, because he’d had a few very tough days in a row, I’ve climbed in with him, usually at anywhere from 10:30 (already two hours past his bedtime) to 1 a.m.(And it’s an actual climb, he has a loft bed. Loft beds are not for the over 40 set). I’ll rub his back, soothe him, and soon, his body will jerk, his breathing will deepen, and he’ll fall asleep.
The doctor said this could take a long time, but to be consistent. And we’ve been solid. Until now. I know my son, and this last week has pushed his limits of being a “big kid,” of just being in the world. This morning, my husband left for a ten day trip to Scotland. I will be exhausted while he’s gone, holding down the logistical, emotional and homework fort. He’s Daddy. We need him. So, I made a decision last night at 1 a.m., and this morning, more sane and rational, still knew it was the right one.
While Daddy is gone, we need to sleep. By whatever means necessary. Both of us. We can be in “survivor” mode with a modified routine. Flexibility. If he’s drifting off while brushing his teeth, I’ll celebrate, but otherwise, I’ll give my son what he needs in the short term, a bit of a Mom cuddling, and we’ll figure out the long term. We always do. If five minutes of me at bedtime saves five hours of insomnia, I’m on it.
I remember potty training and everyone said “Well, he’s not going to go to kindergarten in a diaper.” And sure enough, neither of my kids did, despite training “late” (whatever that means). Every kid is different. I know guidelines can help determine developmental milestones, but why must we create benchmarks that then make us feel like failures if we miss them? “Oh no, he’s wearing a diaper at three, but little Jimmy poops on the potty.” So f*&ing what. I’m not Jimmy’s mom. I am his mom. I know what’s best, if I just stop, listen, and bend as needed. And, if that doesn’t work, we’ll try something else.