We were preparing for bed when the house jumped at the deafening crack that seemed to have torn a hole through the sky, releasing a downpour so fierce I could barely hear myself think. That’s when we heard our Little Miss, who was asleep in her room at the time, scream. We ran to her room and found her clutching her ears, her knuckles white. We’ve never heard her scream that way before, nor have we seen such fear in her eyes.
The thunderstorm got to her, and it was the first time she has reacted so violently to one. Since then, our evenings were never the same again. That was almost a week ago.
That night, we took turns going in and out of her room, trying to calm her and lull her back to sleep. It took her awhile to settle down; there was no rest for the weary.
The next day, it happened again. She went to sleep with little fuss because we assured her there would be no rain or thunder. Oh how wrong we were. We should have checked the forecast before making such promises. Thunder. Scream. Repeat. This time, we kept her in the room with us until the rain subsided but she didn’t sleep until her dad lay down beside her in her own bed at 2 o’clock in the morning.
That was the last night she went to bed quietly. Now she delays bedtime as long as she can and pleads with us to stay with her every night. Then she cries a million tears before finally succumbing to sleep. The first couple of nights, I went in to quell her fears only to realize she didn’t mean to see me go. She wanted me beside her all night. And I just couldn’t. There was another baby who needed me. And there were other things that needed to be done. Besides, we just didn’t want to perpetuate this habit, especially since she was fully capable of falling asleep on her own before this.
It’s Day Five and she has not shown much of an improvement. She has awakened in the middle of the night more than once and cried for us every night. Even though we’ve left lights on and stayed way past her bedtime to assure her, reassure her and triple assure her, she has sobbed furiously, sometimes pulling at my clothes, arms, legs, anything she could get her hands on to make me stay.
This fragile mother’s heart can only endure so much mama please don’t go... mama please sleep with me... mama please mama mama mama... I yearn to be with her yet I know I’m not doing her any favors by staying. To fix this issue in the short term by giving in to her every whim is to ensure a long term disaster where we create a cycle that we as parents resent and one that she depends on as a crutch to fall asleep. We know. We’ve been here before.
When she was almost 11 months, we bit the bullet, let her cry it out and we got our evenings back and she had the best sleep. It looks like we may need to revisit it again. I don’t mean to be flippant - it’s hard. So very hard. When she was an infant, she could only cry then, and it was easier to harden my heart and stay resolute with our conviction. Not easy. Just easier.
Now she calls out for me and begs me to stay, and with each desperate plea that I force myself to ignore I feel I’m failing her as her mother. I want to go into her room; I want to take her in my arms and let her know everything will be OK. But I also know that very act would render all of the parenting decisions we’ve made in the past that led us to a happy little girl at bedtime moot, and we’d have to start over.
Until we give in to her, she will not stop crying. Unless I’m ready to give up our evenings and I relinquish my role as mom to my new baby at that time of the evening, I know I can’t run to Little Miss each time she cries for me. And so I suffer her tears for now, hoping it would get back to where we used to be and she’ll be that same girl again at bedtime, kissing and hugging us goodnight, turning off the lights and going to sleep on her own.
But that’s our plan for the quiet nights. What of these ridiculous thunderstorms that seem to only come after she goes to bed? I used to look forward to it. Born in tropical Malaysia, I relished the relief of a thunderstorm. When the thunder and lightning find me here, it takes me back to a faraway place, a childhood I cherish.
Now, when I look at the forecast, I cringe at the sight of stormy weather. So that’s how the Starks of Winterfell feel when they utter the ominous saying, “winter is coming”*. As I am writing this, I hear thunder rolling in from a distance.
A storm is coming.
I don’t know what’s in store for us tonight. Or the nights hereafter.
I only know that my pulse is racing, and on the other side of this wall is a little girl who cried herself to sleep.
* Game of Thrones, by George R. R. Martin.
image source: Lightning by Greg Boege