Friday, July 8, 2011

Scared Sleepless

Today C went swimming for the first time in almost a year. She wore floaties for the first time and greatly enjoyed brief stints of independence kicking and floating within arms' reach of one or both parents.

Then we had dinner poolside. C wanted to go back in the water, but we redirected her away from the edge. After everyone finished their dinner, we were getting ready to go and stood with C a few feet from the edge of the pool. She had her floaties off. She got past us and ran into the pool and straight off the edge of the step. She began to sink.

It was just like they say in all the "Signs of Drowning: Not What You Think"  articles and videos that have been shared on Facebook and elsewhere lately. She didn't splash or cry out. She was just sinking.

Thankfully DH reacted quickly and got her out seconds after she fell in. Terrified, she clung to me for reassurance. She kept saying, "I didn't like falling in."

At bedtime she was restless, still clinging to me. She would fall asleep but then awake with a startle response or a moan. Once she repeated, "I didn't like falling in," and then it struck me that she might be having flashbacks and bad dreams about the moment she went under.

C has never really been what most would call a "good sleeper", but waking that frequently was out of character for her. Tonight God blessed me with an extra measure of patience and understanding and I didn't lose my temper even though she disturbed my sleep. It probably helped that I knew exactly what was going on.

But there have been times when she sleeps just as poorly that I haven't been so patient, mostly because I couldn't identify a cause at that time.  If I tell myself that because I can't see a cause, she must just be "fighting sleep," I get more and more frustrated that she just won't cooperate and go to sleep already! 

On those days, I might assume she is "doing it on purpose," because the times she has fallen asleep easily shows that "she knows better."   That line of thinking leads me to respond with anger, impatience or even punishment.

But eventually an underlying cause always comes out. She gets sick the next day, or I notice swollen gums indicative of teething, etc.

I was reminded in some reading at Gentle Christian Mothers today to treat misbehavior (especially misbehavior that is a bit "out of character") as a symptom that prompts me to investigate potential underlying cause and then remedy it. The acronymn HALT is a good place to start:


For C, I've found that "Needs to Go Potty" and "Scared" are two others I could add to that list.

So, back to tonight. When I realized how scared she still was, I asked her if she had been having bad dreams. She said yes, and repeated that she didn't like falling in the pool. I got her up and took her potty (just in case that was contributing to the restlessness), and then when we got back in bed, I prayed with her, thanking Jesus for sending Daddy to her rescue and keeping her safe at the pool and asking him to protect her mind from any more bad dreams.

She snuggled up to me and I felt her relax and begin to breathe deeply in a way she hadn't since the incident at the pool. She quickly fell into a deep sleep.

Me, not so much.  I'm writing this post at 3 in the morning because I was having trouble sleeping too (some digestive problems, and also I was wound up with adrenaline from the close call and caffeine from all the ice tea I drank poolside).

I'm bound to be tired tomorrow.  I can use HALT on myself if I start getting impatient or cranky, and use some self-talk to coach myself through the rough parts of the day and make sure I grab a nap with C to stave off the late afternoon grumpy grouchies.


  1. Excellent! I very much agree with the concepts in this post.

  2. fantastic insight!!!

  3. When my son has trouble falling asleep I talk to him about unconditional love, how beautiful he is, how happy he makes all of us, and how he is safe. I'll talk a little bit about what we will be doing the next day when he wakes up. This little talk gets us through most bedtime issues. I've found that he tends to resist sleep because he feels insecure about something, is worried about the next day (he has visitation and his schedule is treated with less than respect by involved parties).


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