Tonight I caught the whole thing, from beginning to terrifying end. I walked by your room just as your confused babbling started. Peeking my head through the door, I watched as it escalated. As soon as the first shrills started, I sent your sister into my room. These episodes are hard on her too.
Then, your panicked cries out for “mom” started. My instinct told me to respond. “It’s okay baby, I’m right here sweetheart,” but I’ve tried that before and the cries only got worse. I know better now. Against all impulse, I remained quiet.
Instead, I hunkered down in the fetal position, on the floor next to your bed. I locked my arms around my own legs to keep them from automatically reaching out to you. That was a lesson learned the hard way too. Though you are calling out for me, you don’t want me. A disconnect not easy for me to process.
“MOM! MOM! MOM! MOM! MOM! MOM!” The terror, the angst, the high-pitched shrieking of your voice; they’re stabbing me.
I play out the day in my mind. Was it something I did? Are you overtired? What did you eat tonight? Was it something I said?
I’ve been over tired lately myself. Stressed, short-tempered. Your dad’s been gone and I’ve been barely keeping it together. Is this how my short-comings as a mom manifest themselves in you? Or is it because we took your binky away before you were ready? Whatever the reason, I am so sorry, love.
You continue, yelling and thrashing now. “MOM! MOM! MOM! MOM! MOM! MOM!”
I begin to count the number of times you say, “mom,” as a way to pass the time, like we do with red cars on the road.
Twenty-nine, thirty, thirty-one . . . Oh god, I can’t take it, enough of that.
I look around the room for a clock to time the terror. From what I’ve heard and read, they typically last about five to ten minutes. This? Has been an eternity. Way beyond five minutes in my mind, but accurately, just about five minutes.
Your arms are reaching out now, each time you say, “mom.” As if you’re trying to grab a hold of me, for safety and comfort. I’m crumbling inside. And now, your eyes are open and you’re looking directly at me. How can I not grab you, hold you and make this okay? The flailing increases. I place pillows around you so you don’t impale yourself on the bed frame. It’s The Exorcist re-incarnate. It’s my baby, hurting, struggling.
Not what any mother wants to see.
I think about an unknown time in the future, when you might really be hurt, in trouble, in pain. And you might call out for me. Not from underneath the cloud of sleep or the shadows of your pink room, but when you’re older and something in life is actually hurting you. There is a chance I won’t be there to help you, to place pillows around you, and that thought is too hard to grasp.
So I go back to counting. I count the number of times you laughed today. Thirty-two, thirty-three. I can sense within my body’s clock that it is nearing ten minutes. And sure enough, you begin to yawn and you set your head on the pillow.
I kiss your button nose and candy lips. I see your sweet soul though your quarter-Asian eyes. You return to peaceful slumber and I can breath again. Until the next time.