It is an era of being “woke.” And I am exhausted.
The baby’s almost two. I thought we were past the sleepless stage, but the lil tyke now has night terrors. That’s our theory, anyway.
Every night, 3 a.m., he wakes, scream-crying. Scrying, if you will.
In an attempt to thwart these midnight spells, I’ve turned to essential oils. It was merely a one-time, casual suggestion by an acquaintance. But, with the stickiest of maternal desperation, I clung to the hope she gave me.
Now, it is important to note that I am, in general, a huge pussy. I cannot watch a horror movie. I cannot even watch a light thriller or the movie trailer thereof without making my husband accompany me to the bathroom each night, lest a poltergeist dive-bomb me from the ceiling.
So, before you judge me on the essential oil tidbit, let me tell you about the evening before I turned to the earthly medicines.
My mother-in-law was staying with us. I love her positivity and easy laughter and penchant for wildly overestimating my mental stability. Case in point: after telling her about my deep-seated fear of Baby J’s potential night-terrors, she recounted a delightful tale of yore.
“When I was J’s age, I had night terrors. I would cry out wildly and my mother would come soothe me. One night, I was trembling and pointing frantically at the corner of my room. Mum hushed and assured me nothing was there. I began to doze in her arms and then, suddenly, my eyes became as big as saucers (sidenote: my mother-in-law is English, so she says fancy things like “saucers”) and when my mother followed my gaze with hers, she saw a woman standing there, in the corner, watching us.”
Now, my mother-in-law went on to describe the “serene” look on the woman’s face and how her own mother described it as a “peaceful presence,” but at that point, I had gone deaf amidst the internalized terror now consuming me.
I watched her lips move, casually, as if she were recounting the sales at Sobeys. She had no idea she had just, indeed, ruined my life and, by association, the life of her dear son, my beloved husband. He would now be forced to endure three years (minimum) of lying next to a pale, sweaty, wild-eyed wife each night, playing “What The F--k Was That Sound?” every God-forsaken moonlit hour.
So that night, right on cue, the scrying began. As was now our routine, I went into the nursery to cuddle and soothe him while hubby ran downstairs to fetch a bottle of milk. I curled myself into the nursery chair but Baby J was rigid and insisted on being upright.
“Shhhhhh”, I whispered. “You’re OK. Mommy’s here.” I smiled despite images of my mother-in-law’s story trying to infiltrate my thoughts.
That’s when Baby J slowly raised his arm and pointed that wee finger to the corner of the room.
I stopped breathing for 83 seconds.
There was momentary facial paralysis. Bladder and bowel threatened evacuation, which I resisted (more or less). I partially swallowed my tongue.
Summoning every ounce of strength in my lifeless body, I lowered his arm.
Ping! Back up it went. I pushed it down again. Ping! It was like trying to style a cowlick, whilst dying inside. I refused to follow Baby J’s gaze, to which he let out grunts of insistence and extra-vigorous finger thrusts. That’s when hubby returned with the milk, a distraction for the baby who, finally, lowered his tree-limb and lay back in my arms. I fed him with as much peace and tranquility as a young doe knowingly sitting three feet from a grizzly.
What do I do? Is there is a “serene woman” watching us right now? Does she think the baby’s hers? Why am I assuming she looks like Cate Blanchett in a bonnet? Say something, Heather!
“Um…” I choked out in a parched whisper, “It’s OK, I- I- I’m his mommy. I- I’m here with him now. We’re good.”
We’re good? I said, “we’re good” to a lady-ghost as if she was telemarketer.
Anyway, I flicked on the night lights, threw some books in the crib, and battered da-jaysus out of there.
Baby J slept soundly for the rest of the night. I did the opposite.
So yeah, damn skippy I’m on the essential oils bandwagon. Juniper berry oil, “serenity” oil, lavender oil — I’m like a hippie ghostbuster. Walking into the nursery now smells like walking into a 1902 apothecary shop.
All in the name of sleep. Sweet, unadulterated sleep.
Sometimes my five-year-old reminds me, in public, “Mommy, you’re growing a tiny moustache.” Cool!
Sometimes he tells strangers just how much my moles look like bug stains. Accurate!
The social humiliation, the goldfish crackers in my bra, the unceasing barrage of questions, the explosive diapers — bring it on!
But sleep deprivation? That’s an aspect of parenting I haven’t been able to let roll-off-my shoulders, which, by the way, are now rounded and achy from endless hours of late night soothings/exorcisms.
“I’ll sleep when I’m dead." Isn’t that what they say?
To which my mother-in-law might cheekily reply, “Tell that to the gal in the corner."
Heather Huybregts is a mother, physiotherapist, blogger (www.heatheronarock.com), wine advocate and puffin whisperer from Corner Brook. Her column appears monthly.