I was awoken this morning by little feet and the hall light being turned on. I looked at my clock and it read 4:36 a.m.. My first thought was "ugh, it's before 5" my second thought was "Yay, he slept 16 minutes longer than yesterday!!"
I've always heard about sleep problems that other kids with autism have. Erick and I had always said that we were blessed in that area because Jacob had always been a fantastic sleeper. However, people that over hear the conversations I've had lately with my parents and my friends about Jacob's sleeping habits probably think that I'm talking about an infant, and rightfully so. In all honesty though, I'd rather be dealing with infant sleep issues right now. I feel like I'd be more adequately prepared for a sleepless baby.
Jacob woke up at 4:58 the other morning. Erick and I were excited because we actually got to sleep "late" that morning. As we lay in bed Erick excitedly said "Is it sad that I'm excited that I got to sleep as late as 5 a.m.?" I began to laugh as I answered him, "Yes, but I'm excited too!"
For the past three in a half months Jacob has been getting up before 5 a.m. It started off him getting up at 4:30 and has gotten earlier and earlier. The night that surpassed all other nights is the night that he woke up at 1:45 and never went back to sleep, even after I gave him benadryl. I made another appointment with his doctor after that one! The weirdest thing about all of it, is that he doesn't seem sleepy during the day either. His behavior has slowly gotten worse and he's rocking more and more and is getting irritable very easily.
We've exhausted every possibility of why he's getting up. We've adjusted his meds, gotten him a memory foam mattress topper, given him a night light, made sure he was pottied up before bed, given him melatonin and benedryl. We just started giving him a stronger sleep aid at night and he's back to getting up at 4:30, which is a huge difference than the two and three o'clock awakenings. However, his sleep meds are hanging with him throughout the day and he can hardly keep his eyes open. He's been extremely irritable in the mornings and it's been a big struggle just to get him dressed to go to school.
I'm starting to feel like I'm failing him. I'm running ragged trying to figure out what's going on in his little mind and body but I continue to watch him struggle and, in my negative mind, possibly deteriorating. This whole ordeal is consuming my mind. I have forgotten many important things lately. Possibly from lack of sleep or possibly from only being concerned with this one matter...maybe it's a little of both. I've never known sleep deprivation more than I know it now. My heart tells me I love Jacob immensely but my mind tells me to be annoyed with him and just distance myself from him. It's an emotional struggle for me. I feel love, guilt, shame, joy, hope, hate. It's all wrapped up in one little package and it's hard to have one without the other. It's the one of many times that Jacob needs positive attention and that's the one thing that is so hard to give.
A concerned friend asked me the other day how Erick and I were doing through all of this. It was a nice question to ask because with any type of sleep deprivation, being selfless and loving is not at the forefront of your mind and your relationships start to suffer. I laughed and replied, "It's been great, we're too exhausted to argue." Although that may be true, it reminded me of how well Erick and I work together in the face of disaster. Maybe you think disaster is a strong word, but if you'd lived in my shoes the past three in a half months you would see that I was being gracious with my choice of words.
In the midst of what could have turned into a top story on the news entitled "Mom and dad lock their two boys in their closets then slept for 3 days straight," I can think of a few positive things that have come out of the chaos...
Like I said previously, I was reminded that Erick and I work well together. We've traded off sleep times and frustrating tasks. We've laughed when we've wanted to scream and we've started doing something together that Erick always wanted...we drink coffee together now.
We have spent more time around the breakfast table as a family lately. If you're going to get up that early, you might as well enjoy it. You can't enjoy an early morning better than with a southern breakfast of bacon, eggs, biscuits and grits.
I can fully understand other autism moms when they tell me about their kids sleeping issues. You can always minister to others better when you've been through it yourself.
This has been the busiest time ever for our family. Not only has Jacob not been sleeping good but I'm trying to be the super mom while getting my real estate license and then on top of that plan for Near His Heart (the dinner for families of special needs kids). I've never been more driven to plan for Near His Heart. I know it's always been needed but now, in the midst of lack of sleep, I realize what other special needs families face on a consistent basis. I realize even more, now, how much these families need a night of rest, encouragement and revitalization.
Ok, now I need to go finish my coffee, then take a nap!!