Last night, about an hour or so after Brady went to bed, I heard him talking in his room. I peeked in to see him walking around. I opened the door and asked him if he was okay. He just sort of looked at me blankly, like he was out of it from sleep. He was also holding his privates, so I said, “you need to go pee pee?” and I picked him up. He immediately started screaming at me, kicking and thrashing his arms and legs, yelling “no” and “I don’t want to” over and over and over again.
So I put him down, and he continued to scream and cry, hysterically.
About 2 minutes into the “episode” he peed all over himself, so Matt picked him up and brought him into the bathroom so we could change him. At this point, we still weren’t quite sure what was going on. Was he having a nightmare? Sleepwalking? Having his usual “I’m a bear of a 3 year old” tantrum?
The screaming and thrashing in the bathroom got even more terrible, and in the light it was much more apparently that he was not… all there. His eyes were completely glassed over. This was definitely sleepwalking gone bad. Although the symptoms were very much in line with those of night terrors, I don’t think it was that exactly. I think we just caught him in a delusional state and (unintentionally) set him off into a state of anger and panic.
I tried to “wake him”. Matt tried to wake him. We tried to hug him. Kiss him. Hold him. Sing to him. Offer him his blankie and stuffed animals. Milk. Cookies. Anything! But everything we did just seemed to make him more upset. He was now destroying the bathroom. Kicking the garbage can, banging the wall, knocking stuff over. He wouldn’t let us anywhere near him and Matt and I started worrying that he was going to hurt himself (ie., throw his head back and crack it on the toilet). Now, 5 minutes into the episode, I started to panic.
I googled “night terrors/sleepwalking” and found this page from Dr. Sears. Unfortunately, as we discovered, there is nothing you can do to stop the episode, it just has to run its course. This doesn’t sit well with me at all. Here is your child… scared, angry, disconnected, panicking, crying… and you can’t do a damn thing to make them feel better?? Now, 10 minutes into the episode, I am crying hysterically (*please note three things– 1) this was the first time we’ve ever encountered a situation like this, 2) I am 39 weeks pregnant and 3) I am a natural over-reactor).
I calm myself the best I can and Matt and I are now taking turns sitting in the hallway next to the bathroom door telling Brady that we’re there for him, that we love him, that he’s okay/safe and that everything will be alright. We are trying to honor his wishes of “stay away” and “don’t look at me”, but at the same time, we cannot let him feel like we abandoned him. We are trying to find balance. I can see that Matt is about to break. It is so hard to feel helpless.
15 minutes into the episode, Brady hurts himself in the bathroom by dropping a stool on his foot. Matt picks him up in a bear hug and just holds him on the couch. Brady will not stop fighting him, and now he’s calling for me. I go to him, but he won’t let me hold him. This goes on for a few more minutes.
20 minutes goes by, but it feels like an eternity. Brady is on the floor of the family room, kicking the rugs with his pants off. He calls for me again, but when I come, he tells me not to look at him. So I sit down next to him, with my back turned to him and he just starts screaming at me to go away. I can’t help myself anymore; I break down and start crying right there.
All of a sudden, he just stops and says, “Mommy?” Like he literally just returned to his body. I don’t know if it was me crying (he’s a very sensitive boy) or if it had just run its course, but it that moment, it was all over. He came over to me and hugged me, then let me hold and rock him. No more screaming. No more crying.
He asked for some milk, let us clean him up and put on new pjs, all without making a peep. Then he crawled into his bed with Matt and was back to sleep in 5 minutes… like nothing had ever happened.
After he was back in bed I literally just collapsed. I was physically and emotionally exhausted. I cannot imagine what life must be like for parents who have children with night terrors/issues. I know in the grand scheme of things that parents have to deal with, this wasn’t that big of an “issue”, but it was the scariest parenting moment I have ever had. I just PRAY that that was a one time incident, because as he gets bigger, it will be much harder to keep him safe when he is acting that way. I’m sure could have been much worse.
Matt and I weren’t sure if we should bring it up to him this morning or not, but I did end up asking him if he remembered anything that happened last night. Different from what the article said about night terrors, he did remember parts of it. Though he doesn’t know what started everything, he recalled screaming in the bathroom and kicking the garbage can. He also remembered me holding him and telling him I was there for him and that he was okay. I was *happy* that he at least had a warm memory mixed in there and I am so glad Matt and I tried as hard as we did to let him know we were there throughout it all. Other than being a little tired today, he (thankfully) doesn’t seem to really be affected by the whole event.
I’m sorry if this is unnecessarily overly descriptive, but the entire night keeps replaying over and over again in my head and I keep thinking what I could have done differently to prevent it/stop it. I don’t think it’s something I’m going to be able to shake for a very long time.