Monday, January 28, 2008

Terror in the Night

Last night was pretty scary. Around 9:30 p.m., just as Ryan and I were about to see the house reveal on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, we heard screaming upstairs. We looked at each other. Was that coming from the TV? It couldn't be Lily - she doesn't scream like that. We muted the TV. Sure enough, it was Lily.

Ryan jumped off the couch and ran upstairs. Had she hurt herself in her crib? Fallen out? By the time he got to her room, I decided I wanted to see what was going on, too, so I followed him up. She was scooped up in his arms, still screaming. It was a scream unlike anything I've ever heard from her. Her eyes were still closed, her body limp, her scream not subsiding as he held her.

We were a little panicky. Lily never, ever stays asleep while being held. You can not rock her to sleep, you can not transfer her from one sleeping place to another, you can not even begin to take her out of her car seat without waking her up. And more than that, her overall lack of muscle control was extremely disconcerting.

We realized her skin was very hot to the touch, so we laid her on the twin bed in her room and took off her blanket sleeper. Ryan was cautious to do this slowly so as not to cool her off too quickly. We unzipped her thin sleeper beneath it and checked her diaper. Just wet. While we were in there, I took her temperature: 102 degrees. Not unheard of, but nothing to be ignored, either. At one point, she stopped screaming and turned her head to the side, making snoring noises, but that did not last long and after a moment, she began screaming again. This almost seemed better than dozing off, because we were scared to have her go back to sleep without finding out whether or not something was very wrong with her.

We had some lights on by now - which should have also woken her up right away - and brought her into the red room and laid her on the floor. She continued to scream, eyes closed. We were talking to her softly, rubbing her tummy, wiggling her arms and legs...


We brought her back into her bedroom and held her some more before she finally opened her eyes. It had been about 15 minutes by now. She continued to cry until she finally took her pacifier. It almost seemed difficult for her to get it in her mouth and to suck on it, but she finally gained the control. We laid her in her crib and she stared up at us, quiet, head to the side, sucking away, otherwise not moving.

We tried to bribe her with her favorite non-toys...I put my cell phone in her hand, but she did not grasp it. We lifted her legs and arms and they just flopped back down. It seemed the only thing she had control of was her head, and minimally at that. Finally, we knew it was time to call the doctor.

After speaking with the answering service, Dr. Schluper called us back a few minutes later, just before 10:00 p.m. Ryan explained the situation and she told us to give her a little Motrin and if that didn't perk her up, to take her to the ER. I was a little hesitant to drug Lily without knowing what was really wrong, so I gave her a smaller dose than recommended (though not by much) and we held her on the floor and continued our efforts.

She was unable to sit up by herself. Every time Ryan would let go of the back of her sleeper, she would flop forward, folded in half, and start to whimper in protest. We put my cell phone on her lap, knowing if anything was going to motivate her, that would be it. Ryan took my hand and we prayed for our little Lily.

Mid-prayer, she tentatively reached out and grabbed my cell phone with one hand. My grip on Ryan's hand tightened and he stopped and we both held our breaths to see what would happen. Her back straightened up a bit and she put the other hand on the cell phone. She made a familiar, inquisitive noise from behind her pacifier, still sucking away, and I felt tears sting my eyes.

It was as if God was just waiting for us to pray. Ryan quickly said, "Thank you, Jesus. Amen!" and we congratulated Lily on her effort. Slowly, she turned the phone over in her hands, dropping it, still not fully functioning, still unable to sit by herself. Ryan cradled her in his lap and ever so slowly, her muscular control started coming back. We stretched her out and took another temperature: 101 degrees. So her fever was going down. I don't know if it was from the Motrin (could it really have worked so fast?) or from the missing blanket sleeper or just from waking up.

I walked to the bathroom to wash the thermometer again, and Ryan announced, "She's coming after you!" I poked my head out and saw my little baby slowly crawling down the hall after me. I cheered her on while closing the gate, noticing that her movements were still awkward...and smiling to see her light sleeper dangling around her bare legs. Apparently, she was so excited to come after me, Ryan didn't have a chance to get her feet back in before she took off - now THAT sounds like our Lily!

It took about an hour from when she first started screaming to when she fully regained control of her body - to where she seemed "normal." We set up the pack and play in our room (no way we were going to leave her unsupervised in her room right after this) and put her in. Ryan went down to get her a little more to drink, and I transfered her blankets, pacifiers, and noise machine to our room. She stood up and watched my every move, pointing excitedly when she saw the noise machine come in. I pulled out her pacifer and let her play with the noise machine. She happily turned up the volume and changed the sounds, talking to herself and smiling cheerfully to me, like "See what I just did?" That's what I had been waiting for: the chatter and the smiles. Only NOW did I know everything was OK.

After she finished her little drink, we gave her back her pacifier, turned out the lights, and crawled into bed. We silently listened to all her little noises, and watched to see if that blonde head would pop up over the side of the pack and play. At one point, Ryan couldn't take it and crept over to it and peeked inside. Apparently, she saw him, so he cooed at her and kissed her goodnight again. Within a few minutes, we heard her breathing regulate and she was fast asleep again.

We laid there, whispering about everything that had just happened. About what a powerful God we have and how times like this make us realize just how fully we're in love with this litle person He gave us. And it's amazing how many thoughts - both rational and silly - can fly through your head at once, while your child is unconsciously screaming and seemingly unable to move. I should call 911. What will the neighbors think when they see an ambulance? I can't go to the ER dressed like this. Maybe she had a seizure. What if she's never able to regain muscle control ever again? She'd be so upset!

She woke up at 2:30 a.m. in a way I fully recognized: haltering cry, head peering over the side, refusal to be placated with a pacifier. I must say, I've never been so happy to hear her wake up in the night. I moved her from the pack and play back to her crib in her room. Ryan did have to go to work in the morning. I cleared off her twin bed and tucked myself in. She cried for just a minute more, then finally decided if a pacifier was all she was going to get, she'd better go find it, because it was better than nothing. I heard her pop it in, lay down, and make sleepy noises to herself until she - and I - fell asleep.

Ryan came in quietly before leaving for work at 7:00 a.m. to kiss me goodbye and take a peek at his little stinker. Lily woke up at 8:15 a.m., a little confused to see Mama across the room in bed, and eager to be rescued.

I was more than happy to oblige.

Dr. Schluper called around 11:30 a.m. to check on Lily, who was napping at the time. I told her everything was back to normal and that - except for the fever - all signs from the night before pointed to a night terror, which I had been reading about online that morning. She agreed that perhaps that's what it could have been, and maybe the fever was unrelated - from teething, possibly. She told me to keep an eye on her and let her know if she started acting strange or losing her appetite. Thankfully, Lily has been her normal physical, active self all day. I never thought I'd be so happy repeatedly stopping her from climbing on the chairs to the table, or going up the stairs.

Here's a picture of Lily napping this morning. I just had to go in and sneak a peek.

Here are some articles about night terrors:

Some similar symptoms:

- Often triggered in children who are overtired (Lily only had one nap all day - VERY rare for her)
- Very difficult to awaken
- 'Blood curdling scream'
- Sweating
- Large muscles paralyzed
- Typically occur about 2 or 3 hours after a child falls asleep (Lily had been asleep 2 hours)
- Will not be consoled
- Last about 5 to 30 minutes and afterwards, children usually return to a regular sleep

The last similarity I thought I'd mention: They are often very scary and distressing to parents who often overreact, especially during a child's first night terror. Check! At least now we know that next time, we just need to sit next to her and wait it out until she falls back to a calm sleep, and not try to wake her up the whole time. Although hopefully, there won't be a next time...


Maggie said...

What a scary night! I hope all is well now and your little one sleeps better. Adrien has those same pj's :)

Amanda said...

That must have been SO scary. I'm really glad you posted about this so now I'll know if it ever happens.

Anonymous said...

Wow, very scary! I've never heard of that before.