As soon as you become a mom life is no longer lived before bedtime. Pregnancy is the preparation for sleepless nights. That growing baby and belly keeps you from getting comfortable so sleep is elusive, it’s practice for the nights ahead. Waking up with your infant for months waiting for the first night in their own crib and room. The tears of both mom and baby, through the adjustment of separating and growing out of the 3am feeding. Finally, sleep will return except during times of childhood illness.
Then there is life as a special needs mom……I never even truly slept anymore. Years later hope fades that you will ever sleep a complete 8 hours at a time again! You have the same focus as any mom, the daily care of raising a family including all household chores, work and school, and other family members who need your time, love and attention.
Bedtime just simply didn’t exist. I would lay in the dimly lit bedroom watching, thinking, worrying and listening for sounds on the baby monitor, knowing seizures happen at 3am. Sleep would have to wait since I needed to be ready. Not having a diagnosis, many nights were spent searching for answers to my questions, hoping I would find someone who understood and could offer a hand of help. I researched online, it’s open at 3am! Google was always awake when I was.
Looking back, I had found a better solution. My son now slept in my bed, right next to me, my hand touching him and my ears open listening to him breathe. I rested easier knowing I could feel my boy and respond immediately to those seizures that were unrelenting on my beautiful boy. Around 15 years in to my perfect routine, I had to admit I needed help. Nurses would cover nights allowing me a few hours of sleep which I was unaccustomed to. With this help in place, I gave in to my body needing to sleep. It wasn’t long before my pattern of being awake set back in. It was not just about sleep. This was about being able to trust another person to respond the same way I would to the next emergency that was guaranteed to come. I took those nights when I could sleep and let my body rest, knowing the nurse would call for me when a seizure happened. Some nights when I just didn’t want to fight with myself, my son would be by my side, my hand on him and once again me listening to his breathing. Now the nurse stood guard over both of us.
It’s been three years since my son left this world around 4 am and I am still awake each night at 3 am. Now this special needs mom has different reasons for being awake. I’m awake thinking, ”how I can make a difference for others living this life”. I still talk with Google when I look for answers for a child I’ve heard about whose parents are tired and need sleep. As I visit the support pages where I vented so often in Facebook groups, undoubtedly, I will find a mom posting, desperately seeking answers, reaching out in the dark, hoping that someone has a new idea or a better solution. Just like me. Now, I respond listening mostly, share my experiences and hopefully am able to offer some encouragement. I remember many conversations that ended with no better answers and I found myself in the exact place I started on this 3 am search, but I knew I wasn’t alone, another had been there before me and completely understood. Sometimes all we need is to be there for each other.
Special needs mom’s live a life different than what you would expect. Super human, we effectively function on little sleep and are pros at self-sacrifice. Is 3am where questions are asked or answers found? For as active as my nights are, my hope is that researchers are finding cures at 3am. Maybe the reason we seek answers at 3am is to touch the life of someone else seeking answers as well, learn that we are survivors together and realize the we are not alone.