This is my baby girl, E. I had three sons, whom I love to the moon and back several times, before I had my daughter. I had 14 years of raising my boys before our lives were all upended in the best way possibly by E being brought into the world. After so many years of all-boys-all-the-time, there’s just something amazing about braiding her hair and picking out dresses and having an excuse to always play with dolls.
She’s six years old, and she’s brilliant and sassy and the perfect mix of glitter and dirt.
For the past few years, she’s suffered from night terrors. They don’t happen often, but they happen often enough that I have figured out how to help her through them.
They always start the same. She goes to bed in the same way as usual. Her bedroom is upstairs, down the hall from her big brother. My husband and I have our bedroom on the main floor of the house. E will walk quickly down the stairs and look for her father in the mud room, where he often smokes a cigar after the kids go to bed. I’m honestly not sure if she knows she’s looking for him…she’s asleep. Then she dashes around the kitchen in frantic circles until her father or I pick her up. She’s sweating and smells almost like her clothes are smoldering from how warm she is.
I bring her to my bedroom and speak quietly and incessantly to her. I ask her questions, which at first go unanswered. She clings to me in a death grip and shudders so hard that I used to worry it was a seizure, but it’s not. I stroke her hair, gently moving the sweat-soaked tendrils from off her neck, constantly whispering reassurances that Mommy is here and would never let anything bad happen to her.
Every minute or so, I quietly ask her if she wants a drink of water. That has become key to getting her back from the terror. I keep repeating the whispers of love and safety, keep stroking her hair, keep holding her tightly on my lap. Eventually, I break through the bubble and she becomes alert enough to take a drink of water.
Immediately, her temperature drops to normal and the shuddering stops. She drinks as though she’s dying of thirst, and I hold her until she’s fully alert. Then, she will crawl over to Daddy’s pillow and we fall asleep next to each other, my arm around her, my other hand caressing her forehead.
I hope that even though she never remembers how she gets to my bed, I hope that a part of her is listening to me still, knowing that I’ll always do whatever is in my power to keep her safe. To always be her drink of cool water when things get too warm.
I love you, Baby Girl.