Sleep and other Nightmares

Our honeymoon period is officially over. Up until recently, Wade has been dream baby, day and night. Sleeping was his forte. It was always fun to freak out visitors when I went to put Wade down for a sleep. I would return after a couple of minutes and he was already asleep. No screaming, no yelling, no tears. It was a pretty cool party trick.
During the day, his naps would last for about an hour and he woke up smiling.
At night he was out by 7pm and the evenings were our own. Usually he would wake up a couple of times overnight but we could usually settle him easily.
Yep, I was that annoying mother with the bewildered look on her face during conversations about what to do with screaming, inconsolable children.

“I don’t know, we just don’t have that problem!”

Then it all changed…. Slowly and gradually, it crept up on us. I can’t really remember the moment when my little piece of paradise began to crack and drift free. Maybe he had a cold and was a bit restless or maybe one of us just didn’t have the patience to go back in there during the night. Somehow though, Wade got wise to us. He worked out that if he cried during the night, we would bolt in there convinced that something diabolical must be wrong. He worked out that if he didn’t take the dummy or wouldn’t settle, we would pick him up and cuddle him. He cottoned on to the fact that if, (after laughing in our faces at the idiots we were for falling for this trick), we decided to put him him back in the cot, he would up the ante using real tears. (I’m not making this up, he actually laughs)

Once or twice, we would bring him into bed with us and it worked a treat. He would lie down and fall asleep until morning. This of course became the norm pretty quickly. Middle of the night choices between crying baby/no-sleeping parents or peaceful sleeping family all cuddled up together waking joyfully to happy smiles and giggling games became a no-brainer.

Then he got sick. Just a cold but we were overseas and out of our comfort zones. Kids with Down Syndrome sometimes have smaller ear, nose and throat passages. This can cause difficulty with breathing and coughing up stuff when they are sick. It also means a monumental snot-fest that feels like it will last forever. Being so congested also has the horrendous side effect of the snot backing up all the way to the eyes and coming out of the tear ducts. Disgusting.

So my perfect angel chose the exact time of our overseas trip get a cold and the night before our flight, kept us awake all night tossing and turning, coughing and wheezing and covering everything around him in goo. In fact we had all been sick that week. I had a cold and Mick had a Man-cold. It was the first trip overseas with him and I had been in a flurry about ensuring I had everything we would possibly need. 10 changes of every type of clothing and all the accoutrements that come with having a baby. One would have thought we were traveling to deepest Africa with all the crap I packed. New Zealand does, actually, have shops that sell perfectly good baby items but this little fact escaped my mind while packing.

So, in the midst of making sure we’ve got everything Wade needs, plus getting to the airport plus getting to the flight on time plus checking in, checking on, checking this and that, all on no sleep……. I forgot to change his nappy before we got on the plane.

We had just sat down on the flight, preparing for take off, with this poor guy in the aisle seat blocking my exit, when I realised. Wade has already started coughing and seeping snot from his eyes and I can see this bloke’s spirit sag as he strapped himself in. It’s only a 3 hour flight but when you realise you have just become the stereotypical worst people to be stuck next to on a plane, it can feel like an eternity. Luckily Wade fell asleep during the take off but woke up not long after. I apologised profusely to the poor chump next to me and extricated myself, all the nappy changing requirements and Wade from our little claustrophobic, economy class piece of real estate and made my way to the “baby change area”. I use the term loosely because it was a fold down piece of Laminex above the toilet that was barely big enough for a puppy let alone a squirming, sick, uncomfortable child. Sure enough, the screaming began as I tried to do the equivalent of putting stockings on an octopus on a chopping board over a toilet, 30,000ft in the air as the tiny capsule shuddered and shook. Finally I got it done and headed back to our seats. A short round of dosey-doe with my new best friend who was trying to watch a film and we were back. After what felt like 5 minutes but was probably more like half an hour, Wade starts pulling a familiar but dreaded face. You know the one…. The thousand mile stare, the twisted grimace, the red face and the bulging eyeballs.


Now, I pride myself on giving Wade good, wholesome food. But whatever it is I feed him is anything but wholesome when it comes out the other end. It could peel paint. I turn to Mick, he turns to me and I try to comb through my options.

Wait till we get to Auckland? Nup.
Get Mick to do it? He’s in the window seat so its even harder for him to get out.
Hand him over to the cabin crew and demand that they look up the meaning of the term “customer service”??


Off I go again…. More apologies to my long suffering travel companion….dosey-doe in the aisle….Wrestle Mania Scream Fest in the “baby change area”….with the added delight of the biohazard I have just loaded the bin with. (No spray is going to temper this horror for the next unsuspecting visitor).
As I attempt to skulk back to my seat unnoticed, I realise I have timed this excursion perfectly with the serving of lunch. So, now I am waiting while everyone is served lunch before I can get to the seat….which of course is now crowded out with…well…lunch.

Apologies to poor man….dosey-doe in the aisles while holding said lunch and watch as Mick turns his fold down tray into some kind of Rubik’s cube puzzle of eating his lunch, minding mine, holding drinks, opening packets, rearranging and stacking all the little courses while I hold the baby….and swap!

Finally we settle into some peace. Wade is pretty lethargic and won’t eat or drink anything though. It’s freaking me out but I pour a little water into his mouth when I can and convince myself he won’t starve to death during the flight. The rest of the flight is relatively uneventful until we start our descent….

I am not a natural flier. I know this because I don’t have wings but I also know that flying is safer than driving and I can keep a lid on the irrational fears. (The irony of the fact that it is irrational to be frightened of hurtling at 1000s of kms/hr, 30,000 ft in the air in a steel box over oceans is not lost on me but I can hack it). During turbulence or any other unexpected event in the air, however, all bets are off.

Luckily Wade falls asleep just before the descent but as we start to go down, I feel this stabbing pain just behind my eyeball. I’ve never had this before so of course it’s only logical to assume I’m going to die. Then it feels like someone has struck me on the top of the head with screwdriver. I reach up and check my head but the pain starts moving down the front of my forehead towards my eye. It feels like I’m being stabbed up and down my head and I am panicking. Convinced I am having a brain aneurysm I look around desperately and see that the guy behind me is having the same problem with the same look of horror on his face. I look over to Mick who has his fingers in his ears because he is in pain too. I turn to the guy next to me who already thinks I’m a neurotic-royal- pain-in-the-arse and ask him if he can feel it too. He fixes me with this withering look and I can see this bloke and I will never be firm friends. I give up and try to breathe through the pain while blocking out the hundreds of episodes of Air Crash Investigations I now regret enjoying.

Finally we land. Glory Be.

I am a wreck. My eye feels like I’ve been punched in the face, my head hurts and Wade is pretty out of it. We still have to get through passport control, customs, baggage collection and a two hour drive to where we are staying. When we get there, we put Wade down to sleep and head to bed a couple of hours later. Minutes after falling asleep, Wade wakes up coughing and crying. We put him into bed with us and we wake up around 400 times during the night as the coughing and crying continues. At one point I woke up and realised I had a blood nose so now I’m sure I am having a brain aneurysm and convinced that Wade has pneumonia. In the morning we find that his eyes are glued shut and it takes 20 minutes with a damp cloth to get them open. Yay for holidays!!!

Turns out this decompression pain thing is pretty common and I’m not going to die. Also turns out that Wade is as right as rain once the sun comes up. So now we are up to two nights without sleep and this pattern of happy all day, cry all night continues on for six nights all up.

Back home in Melbourne we now have a new routine where Wade wakes up around 11pm and cries until we bring him in to bed with us with many interruptions until morning. Grrrr. Somehow I just got used to life with no sleep but everyone has a breaking point, so, when Wade got another cold recently and coughed and cried all though the night I decided I had to get a solid 8 hours sleep. Once he was feeling better we bundled him off for his first overnight stay at my parent’s house. I was pretty excited…probably a little too excited. I bought an expensive bottle of red and cooked a lovely meal. Mick went to bed early and I headed in a little while later. He had already turned out the light and fallen asleep so the room was dark. I rummaged around and got into bed only to realise that Mick was asleep on my pillow and he had tangled all the blankets up. Two of my most hated sleep-spoilers. I like a flat pillow and the blankets tidy. I’m not OCD… I can live without it…but NOT when I’m expecting a solid 8 hours. A sane person would have woken Mick up and fixed it but instead I lay there…. uncomfortable… thinking about how uncomfortable I was….. thinking about thinking about how uncomfortable I was. This took about an hour or so then I fell asleep. Then I woke up at some stage, then I fell asleep. At 3.30am, one of Wade’s favourite waking times, my eyes flew open and I was AWAKE. Not just eyes open awake but completely awake….and angry. So angry that I lay there and thought about the myriad of ways I was angry. Heading up the list was the rhythmic half snore breathing thing that Mick does that ordinarily wouldn’t bother me but that night sounded like cockroaches in my ears. Mick’s alarm went off at 5am then I must have got so angry at some stage that I fell asleep and woke up at 9am.

So much for a solid 8 hours, more like a bitter, resentful 4.

While I have never subscribed to the “types” of parenting styles that are out there, it would appear I have accidentally, slowly but surely ended up as baby-wearing, co-sleeping sucker to the point that this has now invaded his day sleep too. Most afternoons you will find me being held hostage under a sleeping baby on the couch trying to drag the iPad closer with a pencil.

Maybe one day when I have more zzzzzs in the tank I will have the energy to regain control of my nights but until then….


9 thoughts on “Sleep and other Nightmares

  1. Laughed my way all the way through that………thank you. And can relate to it all. Things sometimes get better. Our 39 year old in care, came home last weekend. First night into our bed at 4.40 a.m., thought was awake the rest of the “morning”, but we all must have dozed for a while until the demand(!!!) of breakfast time at 7.00 a.m. (daylight came). The next night though went through to the 7.00 a.m. (breakfast now!!)

      • It isn’t every night but still cycles. However, when allowed to go to sleep at 7.00 p.m. cos the house is sooooo boring they can’t expect him to sleep till 7.00 a.m. At 39 yrs, lucky to need 8 hours sleep and definitely not 12!

  2. Pingback: In the blink of an eye | Embracing Wade

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