A Monitored Life

The biggest challenge a new parent faces typically involves dealing with the lack of sleep that comes with having a newborn. “If they will just sleep through the night,” is the cry of countless young parents.

New mommies check and recheck the baby monitor fearing that it might malfunction and cause their precious baby’s cries to go unheard during the night. As the months pass by the moms begin to become more comfortable and life starts to level out as that sweet baby begins to need them less and less in the middle of the night.

Around age two most parents transition their child into a big boy/girl bed and once again the obsession with the baby monitor rears its ugly head. Fearful that the child might become afraid in their new bed the mom and dad once again begin their ritual of holding the monitor to their ear to try to determine if it is functioning properly.

After a couple of non-eventful months the parents settle into a comfortable confidence that everything is going to be okay. Around this time the child masters the use of the doorknob and many times the parents wake to find a toddler face pressed against theirs saying, “You sleep Mommy?” Maybe they can’t sleep, need to go potty, or want to cuddle up in bed with their parents but I think it’s pretty safe to say that most parents can relate to the scenario of being wakened by the pitter patter of little feet running across the floor in the middle of the night. Once again the parents’ plea is “If they would just sleep through the night!”

The three scenarios I described are pretty much universal to all parents except for a few. The ones that don’t fit into that category have a special category all their own. It is called Special Needs Parenting. I have been blessed to live both scenarios.

My oldest son went through all the stages I described until there was finally no need for the coveted, sometimes hated baby monitor. My youngest son’s experience has been totally different. Instead of ditching the baby bed between 18 months and two years, he stayed in his baby bed around four or five years. I was terrified he would roll off a big boy bed so he stayed in a crib until it just wasn’t possible anymore. Ditching the crib was a big deal and we actually switched him from the crib to a mattress in the floor so that his fall was much shorter when he DID roll off.

Another big difference in the experiences was the obsession with the baby monitor. I really don’t remember using a monitor for long with my oldest son. As soon as he learned to get out of bed and run into my room I suppose the monitor was ditched. My experience with Sweet G’s monitor is totally different. I have been obsessed with G’s monitor from birth until the present. We are on our second or third set of monitors. I still hold the monitor close to my ear almost every night listening for the slight sound of a sigh or grunt as Sweet G moves around in his bed.

My child is ten and a half years old and I still live in terror of a malfunctioning monitor. I have good cause to worry because we have had several mishaps after the monitor failed to alert me to my child’s calls in the night. Sweet G is totally dependent on others to see to his midnight runs to the bathroom. He is unable to get out of his bed and make it to the bathroom and back independently. I have been awakened by his screams from the other end of the house on more than one occasion and several times I’ve woken in the morning to find him lying cold and wet after spending the night in the floor soaked in his own urine because I was unable to hear his requests for help during the night. He calls to us in fear of falling off the bed or sometimes because the covers have become tangled around his legs.

I’m not telling this story to get sympathy or admiration. I don’t write it out of the regret of being a special needs parent. I would not trade my experience as G’s mom for anything in this world. His disability is a part of who he is and if I hate it then I basically hate him and that could never be possible. He has the sweetest spirit, the quickest wit, and the determination of an Olympian. He loves deep, he is faithful to the end, and he is my inspiration. I simply want others to understand that each persons path is different. You never know what its like to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. But maybe if you stop and think about it you might understand a little more about the people around you.

So, for the tenth year, fourth month, and 19th day I will lay in my bed listening to the hum of a baby monitor. I strain to listen, hoping that it will be reliable and provide me with that connection to my child as he sleeps.

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