At nine months

Back in July I wrote about sleep (or lack thereof) in our house with our new addition. It seemed pretty dismal back then. For those in the midst of sleepless nights, I thought that a look at the light at the end of the tunnel may offer some encouragement.

Sleep.  Such a precious commodity.

I never realized how much I appreciated it until it became an uncertainty…

Our little man couldn’t propel himself into my arms fast enough on the morning we met.  After meeting two of my other children at age two, I was prepared for him to be timid, scared, shy, crying, bawling even.  What I was not expecting was for this little toddler to wrap his chubby arms around my legs and refuse to let go until I picked him up.

It was love at first sight.

Or so it seemed.

But that first night was an entirely different story.  When it became apparent to him that we were more than “fun, field trip escorts,” and that Mama Anna and Baba Joseph were nowhere to be found, his countenance totally changed.

This was when those tears I had anticipated began.  What I had not quite predicted would be just how long they would last and the intensity at which they would come.  Knowing that the next day’s official adoption filing process would begin early and last for quite some time, we began the bedtime ritual around 8:45 pm.

Daniel though was having no part of that.  He was so distraught by my presence at bedtime that kicking, hitting and pushing away were his defenses, anything he could think of to get away from me.

Nearly three emotionally exhausting hours later ~ after trying everything we could think of ~ he finally wore out and collapsed in Ian’s arms.

When it was clear he was sound asleep, we took a deep breath and thought it was over for the night.

We were wrong.  Two more times that night his mournful cries would rouse us from sleep.  The awakenings lasted somewhere between 1 1/2 to 2 hours each.  Both times he was calling over and over for Mama, but it was painfully obvious that I was not the Mama he sought.

Thankfully the next morning all seemed to be forgiven with the first streaks of sunlight and he was in love with me again.

This cycle of love by day/rejection by night would repeat itself for the remainder of the trip and well into the beginning of our time at home.

By the end of the first month, going to sleep at nap time and bed time started to get easier.  But the wee hour of the morning awakenings would continue.  (which I documented )

Around that time we were at our pediatrician’s office for Daniel’s “catch up vaccinations.”  (Turns out that he was up to date because he had been living at New Day, but we got the first dose of flu mist). When the doctor asked how everything was going I broke down and asked for suggestions on sleep issues.

He asked where Daniel was sleeping and I truthfully answered that he was still in our room.  Then he asked if I comforted Daniel every time he stirred and again I truthfully answered that I did.  Next he said that since it had been a little over a month that it was time for us to move Daniel to his own room and to let him work it out himself through the night when he awakened.

I think my eyes must have been getting a little glossy at that moment, because he asked me if I thought that I could do that.

**time out**
What?  Take a child that had moved from birth family to orphanage to foster home critical care room to hospital room (he was at the hospital for a month surrounding his surgery) to foster home to a foster family’s home to two different hotels to our house in a new country (with new language, faces, foods, and customs) and then move him across the house to an unfamiliar room and let him cry out through the night?

Um.  I think not.  While I wasn’t positive exactly how to move toward peaceful sleep, I was pretty sure this was not that was going to move us in the right direction.  I wanted to build trust with my child, not make him feel isolated and afraid.
**time back in**

So I nodded my head and said that I thought I could, knowing full well that there was no way I would.

In our room he stayed.  Weeks went by with me comforting my little man each time he called out through the night.  Ever so slowly the level of intensity scaled back. While I initially had to cradle him in my arms and pace the upstairs of the house to get the wailing to subside, gradually a quick hug, then just my hand on his chest and finally simply my voice could lull him back into sleep.  He started to trust that I’d be there when he called.

With that trust built, the frequency of his awakenings began to reduce.  Little by little he began to lower his guard and allow himself to relax and sleep more peacefully By the beginning of the year he indicated that he was ready to move to his room ~ with his big brother of course.

In the time that we’ve known Daniel, his sleep patterns have changed monumentally, but seemingly at a glacier’s pace.  Tonight, just over nine months since that first night, he still fought sleep, but instead of fear and grief, I saw a little boy holding out, afraid he’d miss out on some of the action in the house.  

Of course I also strongly suspect that I’ll be headed over to soothe him at least once.  After all, since January I’ve nearly worn grooves in the hallway floor between my room and his.  In his new territory he still seems to need to know occasionally that I’m near.

But that’s okay.  At this point I head to his room with as much of a smile that I can muster at “o dark thirty.”

Because now when he calls Mama through the night, I know it’s me that he’s looking for.



Comments

  1. BTDT. Right down to your time out at the doctor’s office. Yeah. Not going to do that.

    And our little bit is as I type lying beside me b/c she woke up terrified. That is fine. I know in time she’ll get that I am forever and that I will always come when she calls. She was in the hospital in Shanghai for a month too, thankfully with her foster momma at her side, but still.

    Thanks for this very informative post. I can relate on so many levels.

  2. Thank you for posting this! We are going through our very first adoption (currently waiting on LOA) and this whole sleeping thing is what I am worried about most. We want to co-sleep, and hope she can and will. This is a good reminder to stick it out, even if it seems it’s not working. Bless you!

  3. lauren sanders says:

    Love this.! Being a family who has struggled with sleep problems/deprivation, I fully understand how very hard this can be. Thank you for your honesty. I too couldn’t/wouldn’t let me little one cry not just once by herself. I do think that my constant reassurance helped her to know that I would ‘always’ come to her. She still asks me if mommy will ‘come back’ after being home for over 2 years.

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