Endless Nights

There are 24 hours in a day.  Every hour is 60 minutes.  But I am quite sure the hours between 1:00 and 6:00 AM are at LEAST 6000 minutes each.

Lonely hours spent alone with my thoughts.

I have been awake during these hours because I am feeding an infant. I have been up because I have insomnia and can’t sleep. 

I have been awake because I suffer from chronic pain or a cold and so I just can’t get comfortable.

A sick and hospitalized child or other loved one has kept me up. The beautiful little angel I gave birth to has caused sleepless nights because he just. Won’t. Sleep. 

And if the stars align and I feel like I can sleep, my handsome husband is snoring away.

Whatever the reason, few things are as frustrating as not sleeping at night.  Especially if your loving husband is blissfully off in dream land sounding oddly like a freight train in the bed next to you.

If you’re like me you sit in the dark with only the soft glow of the TV in the background, and begin to count hours:

“If I fall asleep now, I can still get 6 hours of sleep, 6 is not so bad.”

“4 hours.  4 hours is OK, I can function on 4 hours”

“Two hours is better than nothing. 2 hours will work.”

After this, there’s no trying to justify it to myself.  Another sleepless night. Another day spent in an exhausted haze.

There is a loneliness that happens in the wee hours of the morning that can’t be found at any other time of day. 

Sitting in the dark, it seems like you are the only person on the planet not asleep.

I won’t text a friend because, this may be the night they are actually sleeping.  Nothing really on the TV other than infomercials, and old sitcoms I have seen a million times.

These are the times it’s easiest to start to spiral down the rabbit hole that most special needs parents know well, and avoid at all costs during the light of day – what if. 

What if my daughter hadn’t gotten sick as a child? Where would she be at 20? College? Work? The well known Gap year? Would I be complaining like many parents of kids this age that my child is unmotivated, and shows no sign of ever leaving the nest?

Did I do everything I could for her? Should I have fought for more services? Pushed her harder? Did I push too hard? Make unreasonable requests?

This can go on and on for hours.  And this is only one child. 

There is also a whole other child to worry about.  I can only go through the spiral for so long before I drive myself crazy.  It’s way easier to crawl out of the hole when you can aim for the sunshine.

There are benefits to being awake in the wee hours of the morning too.  The biggest of which is that is quiet.  I can actually hear myself think. 

I can take a deep breath and just be, knowing that nothing is expected of me at that time of day. No chores, or cooking, or cleaning need to be done at just that moment.

During the night, when I was lucky enough to be awake with a newborn, I finally had time to slow down, relax, and soak in that new baby smell. 

I can rock in the dim light and stroke their little face, in pure amazement at the miracle I have created.

Mom’s taxi doesn’t run that late either.  There are no errands or activities that must be organized or managed.  The car sits in the driveway cold and alone.

If I can prevent myself from going down the rabbit hole, I reflect on how far we have come. All of those milestones the doctors didn’t think would ever happen. 

Yes, they were late, and fought for with way more strength and determination than other kids, but they were successfully achieved.  I know there are many people who have been changed by her happiness and sunny disposition.

I can send my thoughts to how my aggressive, overactive boy who didn’t sleep through the night until he was 10, is now a tall, smart, kind young man who will give a hand to anyone who asks.

This was not something that just happened, or that came with maturity.  My boy fought tooth and nail, little by little, to get where he is.  It was no coincidence.  He worked his butt off for every ounce of improvement and I couldn’t be more proud.

Sleepless nights are a fact of life.  They are going to happen from time to time.  More often for some people than others.  But we have a choice on where we send our brains on those endless nights.

Rabbit hole moments happen.  Moments where we are full of sadness for losing the future we imagined for our child.  Moments where we are exhausted because our present situation is so hard.  And moments where we are anxious for the future.  And all these thoughts and moments are fine, and normal even. 

We can live in them for a bit.  But then we need to stop, climb out of the rabbit hole and remember.

Remember how lucky we are to have our children.  Remember all the things our kids have overcome. Remember the strength and love they will carry into the future. 

Even on those endless nights, there is light.  Allow yourself to sit in the dark, and then look in the sky and find the stars and moon to give you light until the sun rises again.

Written by, Kathleen Rolloff

Kathleen is the mother of two children with special needs, and adult with severe special needs and a teen with ADHD.  She also has a physical disability of her own.  You can read about her family on her blog at River Valley Mom or her Facebook page here.

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Finding Cooper's Voice is a safe, humorous, caring and honest place where you can celebrate the unique challenges of parenting a special needs child. Because you're never alone in the struggles you face. And once you find your people, your allies, your village....all the challenges and struggles will seem just a little bit easier. Welcome to my page!


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