Thursday, April 10, 2008

Reality--Life is not always cutesy smiles

I debated posting this but since Mya experienced this just this week, I have decided that folks who haven't adopted could benefit from the information. Keith and I were actually discussing this topic on the way to church last night. We had never even heard of it prior to adopting. None of our bio kids had them and we don't know of anyone whose bio kids had them. What is it? Night terrors.

What is a night terror? Usually, night terrors happen about 2 hours after you put your child to bed for the night but they can happen throughout the night and they can happen during naps. Basically, you child starts to scream and thrash and arch their back as if their world were about to end. It is not a nightmare because, even though your child may look you in the eye, he/she is not awake and CANNOT be comforted. It is not advised to try to wake your child.

When Mya first had these, I did not know what they were. I would hold her tight, rock her, walk with her, whatever I could think of to do to calm her but nothing I tried worked. We just had to wait it out. Typically they don't last more than 10 minutes but those 10 minutes can feel much longer when your child is behaving this way.

Why do they happen? There are many theories, ranging from a reaction to change to reliving a horrid experience. No one really knows. My personal thought is basically the latter one. Somewhere in Mya's mind, I think she is reliving her abandonment. I think that when life is tough because mom and dad argue, or mommy is irritable or when we were preparing to go to China, or after all the hustle and bustle of an event, Mya responds with the most primal fear from deep within her psychy--the fear that she will be alone.

When Mya has a night terror, she is holding her arms out as if she wants me to hold her and she will often be screaming and say mommy and acts as though I am not there at all. Even if I tell her it's OK, she cannot hear me. If I hold her, she cannot feel me. She is not awake and I can't get through to her. When she wakes in the morning, she does not remember it.

Night terrors are just that, terrifying. Over the years, I have learned to just stay close and let them pass, keeping Mya safe. I guess, I react similar to how you are instructed to for a seizure. Then, I spend some time evaluating what has happened recently that could have triggered the behavior and try not to repeat it.

If you are adopting a child, especially internationally and especially if they have spent time in an orphanage, please take some time to become aware of night terrors and other behaviors that are common in this situation. Will you child have night terrors? You won't know until they get home and that is not the time to try to learn.

Here is a website that I found recently that could be helpful to some. It includes a list of recommended reading and other info. They also do seminars. http://www.adoptionparenting.net/page2.html

Another good resource is: http://www.familyattachment.com/ They have many great products and also offer counseling here in Minnesota.

If anyone has good resources about this topic, please feel free to post them in the comment.

8 viewers thoughts.:

shelley said...

Thanks for the information.

holly m. said...

I'll be praying for little Mya. I remember having Nightmares as a child (which I know are different) but they were horrid! My heart goes out to Mya and you, too, Verna.

Nancy said...

I have lived through these with my oldest son. He is a biological child. He started them I would say when he was around 2, and had his last one the night I went into labor with his youngest brother. He was 7 1/2 at the time.

It is a complete feeling of helplessness. He NEVER remembered ANYTHING the next day, which was the only reprieve.

Kelley said...

This is probably the most informative post I've ever read about night terrors...Chloe doesn't have them, but when we are able to finally bring Holly home, she might. I really appreciate your opening up and sharing.

Waiting for Mia Hope! said...

Verna, thank you for sharing this information. Lauren was going thru this a few months ago and I had no idea what it was or what to do about it. It was exhausting for the entire household. Fortunately it has passed but I feel it will only be the next "change" in her routine to bring on another one. I hope one day night terrors will be behind sweet Mya.

GWEN OATSVALL said...

i am right there w/ ya sister ... maggie had them for 2 1/2 months and they lasted much longer than 10 minutes ... even her eyes rolled back in her head ... she would rub her legs together as if trying to get free from something ... i can't imagine what my angel went through in China and at the hospital there, but I can say she hasn't had one in over 2 months ...

Sometimes if i turn on the TV really loud she would wake and focus on that in a foggy looking daze ... not sure if that is a good thing to do, but it worked and it helped the other kids in the house because it drowned out her screaming ...

thanks for always sharing and trying to help others ... love ya! what about a story for my book ??? haven't heard if you are in or not ... you have so much to share i really hope you will ...

amy said...

thanks for posting..I learn so much on your blog

Kristi said...

My son Will had night terrors after we hit a deer that was being chased by dogs, on the highway going 45 miles an hour. Scary thing for a preschooler to witness. When he woke with terrors, we thought he couldn't breath as he cried so hard and inconsolably with a look of terror in his eyes. It was if he could not see us or was afraid of us as he would push at us to get away from him. They lasted off and on for a couple months and reoccurred two years later after he had surgery. Not sure why other than hospitals can be very scary to little ones.