April 11, 2017
The moment my head hit my pillow, I heard it. It wasn’t the neighbor’s yowling cat reacting to another feline it had seen outside, though the untrained ear might make that mistake.
I knew I should stay up. I’d heard the call, after all. But my eyelids felt like a resting place for anvils, and the more I fought it, the heavier they got. Just as I was about to drift into the strange place in between sleep and consciousness, I heard it again.
“Yowwww-eeehhhhhhhh,” the next call came, this time it lingered on and got louder with each passing second.
My muscles felt full of lead. But I knew if I didn’t get out of my cozy, neglected bed immediately, the sound would only escalate. I inhaled sharply, and padded my way to my daughter’s bedroom.
When she heard the turn of the doorknob, her groan-whining stopped. Phew. It’s going to be okay. I opened the door a little wider, allowing the light from the hallway to seep into her bedroom. As her eyes met mine, she let out a deep wail, full of frustration, defeat and utter exhaustion. I wanted nothing more than to join her and cry in tandem all night long.
I sat down on her bed and pulled her onto my lap. The smell of the sticky sweet children’s ibuprofen hung in the night air in her bedroom. She had been refusing pain medication since her surgery five days before, and sometimes refusing meant spitting it all over her sheets. The smell of it made me queasy while I sat cuddling my daughter. Silent tears streamed down my cheeks.
The surgery had been our “fix” for years of her living with sleep apnea and chronic ear infections. The doctor assured me this was a routine surgery (and it was), but he glossed over the parts about recovery being a living nightmare for small children and their caregivers. What we didn’t know – but I would soon find out – was that the worst was yet to come. They left the day my daughter started refusing all food and drink, including her beloved popsicles and apple juice. It also happened to be the day she began to refuse all pain medications.
“If you take your medicine, you’ll feel so much better and we can sleep, sweetie,” I whispered. After days full of begging my daughter to take her medication or eat or drink or do anything that would be good for her, my patience was razor thin.
“No, mommy, I can’t. It hurts,” she whimpered.
I gave up on any hope of sleeping and carried my daughter into the living room. I turned on the television. No cable, so Netflix it was. She chose a movie: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.
“Are we having a sleepover in the living room?” she asked sweetly.
“It’s only called a sleepover if you sleep,” I responded, only half-sarcastically.
As my daughter lay on the couch, I turned my head to look at her. I watched as her eyelids fluttered over her soulful brown eyes and snapped open again. Born with a steel will, she wasn’t going to let sleep intrude on the movie.
“Come on, Steve. We’ve got diem to carpe!” said one of the characters on screen. Something shifted in me.
“Hey, Evelyn?” I whispered into her ear.
“Yeah, mama?” she croaked, teetering on the edge of sleep.
“You’re beautiful. And you have a booger hanging out of your nose.”
She didn’t, but I knew it would get a laugh out of her. And it did. She giggled, and I fell in love with her all over again.
I grinned at her while her whole body shook as she laughed at my juvenile joke. We’re going to get through this, I told myself. And within moments, we both drifted off on the couch.