Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The Bathtub Blues

The patter of little feet roused me again last night at 12:30. I had been sleeping deeply enough that I guessed we were much closer to morning than we were. So I was a bit startled to see the time after lurching down the hall the bathroom where I collected a benedryl tablet and a glass of water to help with Oliver's stuffy nose. He was asleep moments later and I carefully repositioned myself between my two boys only to have Sam make himself even more comfy by propping his feet on my chin. No matter, I was tired and fell back into a deep sleep.

4:30 am, I was awakened again by the sound of Oliver's voice crying out: "I want in the bathtub!" over and over again. I did my best to calm him by holding my hands over his ears and singing softly to him but as soon as his sobs subsided it was as if he remembered again what had upset him and he began crying anew. Sammy slept through the whole thing until Oliver's cries built to loud, startling shrieks, at which point I had two crying babes, one on each side of me. Eventually, Nik got up with Sam and I stayed in bed with Oliver where he finally managed to drift off into sleep, and where he happily remained when I left home at 7:45.

There are three phrases that Oliver uses to tell us that something is just not right with him; that something is causing him enough anxiety that he wakes up sobbing in the middle of the night, unable to be calmed. "I want in the bathtub," "I want T.V.," and "I want in the car." The first two are activities that have, in the past, been difficult for Oliver to transition from. The end of bathtime, in particular, used to be the cause of almost nightly tantrums. The last activity: car rides, have lately served to soothe Oliver when he has trouble focusing. When I absolutely can't think of another thing to do I load the kids in the car and drive somewhere. But when Oliver wakes up in the middle of the night sobbing that he wants in the bathtub I have to wonder if it isn't a symptom of some larger frustration; of him wanting something but feeling utterly unable to obtain it.

I took one last look at Oliver's handsome face resting on my pillow before I left for work this morning. I wondered how he would be when his father woke him and got him dressed for the day. I wondered how he would greet Martha, his in-home ABA therapist, when she arrived at 8:30. I wondered how he would respond to the demands I knew she would put on him throughout the morning. Since I left my full-time job in January my work day lasts just three and a half hours, but wondering how Oliver is doing after such a hard night makes those hours seem a lot longer. I anxiously look at the clock about a dozen times and find an excuse to leave fifteen minutes early.

On the drive home I tried to pinpoint anything that might have triggered the upset and came up short. Was it because I had been ill-tempered the day before? Was it because Martha showed up at the house instead of Lindsey that morning? Or was it nothing in particular?

The rest of the day went fine. Oliver's morning ABA session went well, although he was unusually sedate. He happily visited with his "Gram" when she came to watch him for an hour. He showered her with hugs and kisses and did not melt-down when she left. He requested riding on the swing and climbing the ladder in the back yard, rode his bike around the block and ate a dinner of salmon cakes, green beans and pineapple without prompting or help.

Little by little I see that Oliver is growing and maturing in ways that remind me of all his potential. There are set-backs along the way, nights that harken back to the bad ole days of no sleep at all -- when almost EVERY night was punctuated by Oliver screaming for the bathtub -- but two bad nights in a month isn't much to complain about. And maybe it even means that he is mostly getting what he needs; that we are all learning and growing together in the right direction. And maybe nights like that are even helpful, somewhat, because it reminds me to refocus on the big picture (which is suprisingly easy to lose sight of): Who cares if he picks his nose? Who cares if he runs around the perimeter of the room a million times before bed? Who cares if he doesn't play appropriately with his toys? The most important thing is that we find a way to give him the tools he needs so that he won't have to feel so frustrated all the time. And that little lesson, I suppose, is worth losing a night of sleep over every now and then.

1 comment:

  1. It is easy to lose sight of isn't it? I find that sometimes, in dealing with India's autism, I need as much re-direction as she does!