Have I ever told you that Elian is an awesome sleeper? I know it's like winning the kid lottery. The kid sleeps like a champion.
Or he did...
...until a few weeks ago when he woke up wailing hysterically around 10 pm. Not the fussy "I woke up and can't get back to sleep cry", the "I am going to have a panic attack if you don't come get me now" cry. These are technical terms of course. I would know, I've read a crapload of parenting books.
This is also why I know what had arrived: The dreaded night terrors. Apparently nightmares start around age 2.
It really broke my heart. He was so upset he scratched up his face before he was able to wake up. And although we never do this I picked him up out of his crib to comfort him.
Why do we never pick him up?
Because it had never helped.
When we first became a family he would scream and kick violently every time we tried to rock him to sleep. In the middle of the night he would whimper his foster mother's name softly, his tiny voice piercing the night. It was heart-wrenching to love him so much and not be able to make things better. So we decided to give him space. We would lie down next to him and say "It's okay, we're right here. You're not alone" until he could calm down and go to sleep. It worked a lot better but it was hard to not try to hug away the tears.
Last week though I couldn't resist. My resolve was nothing compared to those screams that shatter your heart. I picked him up and held him tight. I sat down on the bed and said "It's okay, Mama's here. Siempre estoy aqui para amarte y protegerte" I kissed his forehead and mentally prepared myself for the possibility of a hysterical fit.
I felt a tiny body relax against me. I heard gulpy sobs give way to contented sighs. I felt a racing heart slow to a sleepy thump. I felt the weight of my little one falling asleep peacefully in my arms for the very first time.
I think one of the hardest parts of life is the constant shedding of your dreams and expectations. Over the past few years I've had to let go of many expectations: that I would be able to have biological children, that I would get to carry on my family bloodline, that I would see my child's first steps, that I would hear his first word, that when I picked him up in the middle of the night my presence would bring him peace. One by one I've struggled to let them go as fate ripped them from my fingers and then I do my best to forget they existed. I don't want them returning to break my heart again.
Expectations are cruel little beasts. You don't even realize they are there until they betray you.
Once you let them go though, you begin to escape their tyranny. You're able to see everything you have when they are no longer taunting you with what you've lost. And when a dream indefinitely deferred comes true in the middle of a scary night, long after you've lost hope, you can hold it tight. You can release silent tears on its tiny head while you cradle its impossible sweetness. And then when you are ready, in your own time, you'll see that everything you lost was the reason that you appreciate everything you found.