The facts are that night terrors strike all kids. Also a fact? They suuuuuck. They are awful. They make you feel powerless and rip your heart out and crush it. Because there is nothing you can do. We aren't talking about a nightmare. We aren't talking about a bad dream. Night Terrors are in a league of their very own. They are debilitating and well, terrifying.
From Ask Dr. Sears
So as Daddy and I stood in the hallway trying not to cry and listening to our baby scream and try to force his body into the walls with a force that rattled them, we felt so helpless. We had been in there. We turned on the light like they say to do. We kept calm voices and repeated the same things like they say to do. "Mama's here. Daddy's here. You are safe. You are at home." We made the space safe and cleared the toys from around him, like they say to do. I tried to touch him. He flew in the opposite direction and screamed "Nooo! Nooo!!! NOOOOOOOO!". He was terrified of me.
We were making it worse.
Let me tell you about how hard it is to leave the room and leave your terrified baby alone. How hard it is that you cannot hold him and kiss him and rock him so that he feels better. How hard it is knowing that if you try again to do those things, you actually make things scarier for him. He will believe I am attacking him. Because he does not realize that you are actually you. Instead, you are in his dream somewhere. You are the scary monster. You are the bad guy. And to help him, you have to go away.
It's the fucking worst.
He comes out little by little. Sunday night about 40 minutes in, he took his first quiet break in the screaming. Daddy and I maybe let a tear fall for that. There's a mountain of relief that comes knowing he is starting to come back. This is when I start to ask more direct questions instead of choice questions. "Do you want your wubby, baby? "Can mama come in and sit with you, baby?" He tells me no on both fronts but he tells me no. He doesn't scream no, despite his tears still falling.
Progress. We are getting there. "Mama and Daddy are right here in the hallway. You can tell us when you want us to help you, ok?"
Eventually...."Mama. I thirsty". And he's back. I bring him a juice. Daddy and I sit on the bed. He is shaking. His little face is swollen from nearly an hour of screaming and crying hard. "Wanna be in the shirt, baby?" and he crawls over and slides into the Mama Squish Box. Daddy and I resist the urge to go overboard like we want to. We want to kiss him all over his face and squeeze him and hug him and never let him go. But we are careful to go slow. Let him lead.
And eventually he comes all the way back to us. And I begin reminding myself that most experts agree that he doesn't remember it. I put my hopes in that and when he is ready I hug him tighter and Daddy sets up camp in the recliner waiting for his boy to join him for a bit of Curious George and a snack.
It's finally over. Exhale.
The next morning, I do the only thing I know to do. I pull out the super-secret lollipop stash and remind myself that he's ok.
Just breathe, Mama. Just breathe.