September 15, 2014
You know those nights where your kids are sick and miserable and have disgusting fluids coming out of every orafice and they will ONLY settle if in YOUR bed, disrupting your precious treasured sleep? Those long nights with feet in your back and little snores and coughs and you wake up feeling more tired then you went to bed? I just realized that I would do ANYTHING for one of those nights.
There is another side of kids in the bed. The other side is when your kid won’t ever sleep in your bed.
Keller is an INCREDIBLE sleeper and always has been (PRAISE THE LORD HALLELUJAH). Many kids with autism really struggle with sleep and so we are super blessed in this regard. I remember Keller at about four months old when he suddenly WOULDN’T LET ME rock him to sleep. He literally pushed me away and arched his back leaning towards his crib. He WANTED to be alone. He WANTED to fall asleep alone. He still does. I think his crib is like his happy alone-time-space. He loves it. This all sounds super great I know and what could possibly be the problem?? I found out last night.
I am in bed reading before I fall asleep and suddenly I hear Keller’s bloodcurdling screams from across the house. I ran to Keller’s door but Casey was already in his room so I RESTRAINED myself and sat outside the door. Casey was doing everything right. He was cuddling Keller, rocking him, singing to him, and NOTHING WAS WORKING. Keller eventually pointed to his bed and Casey put him back in his bed and closed the door as the screams continued. We sat outside the door as Keller eventually quieted after a minute or so. PAINFUL for a parent. More painful that in about another hour Keller woke me up screaming again but this time I went in to rescue him in his bed only to have him again point back to his crib after I took him out. I put Keller back into his bed, un-cuddled and un-loved and walked out the door. Again Keller settled in a minute and awoke in the morning happy as a jaybird as if nothing had happened. My heart was still sore from the events (and even feels sore just writing about it now).
It is excruciating as a parent when your child is sick or in pain. Let me tell you, it is FAR MORE EXCRUCIATING when your child is hurting and WON’T LET YOU COMFORT THEM. This is a major part of the life of a parent with autism. “Many children with autism have a reduced sensitivity to pain, but are abnormally sensitive to sound, touch, or other sensory stimulation. These unusual reactions may contribute to behavioral symptoms such as a resistance to being cuddled or hugged.” Keller will hug and cuddle sometimes but evidently HATES to be held when in distress during the middle of the night. We have had him react this way MANY times in the middle of the night as he seemingly only wants to be alone in bed. So hard.
I was thinking about the many parents who discuss ‘co-sleeping’ and kids in the bed and the endless debate about how to get your kids to SLEEP in their own bed. We had some fights with Kieren for sure, but now having a child who hates to be cuddled at all is the most difficult by far. I would welcome many sleepless nights over a child with autism who cringes at touch. Through therapy and lots of time with Keller he now likes to cuddle and snuggle at times, but we find out his real heart in the middle of the night and I can only pray that one day he will let us rock him to sleep after a bad dream.
I want some of your mommas out there to consider the other side of co-sleeping – what it would feel like if your child completely resisted your touch in the middle of the night. We should always consider the other side of any situation. Sometimes our present difficulties and hardships are someone else’s most cherished dream. Maybe smile the next time you feel a foot in your stomach during the night and think of those who would give anything for that kick. I know I would.
There is always an other side.