Think of those nights when you get into bed and as soon as your head hits the pillow, there’s a veritable list of vitally important tasks that should have been done weeks ago streaming through your head.
Think of those nights when you wake with a start, having heard ‘a noise’ in the middle of the night. Your heart is pounding. Your mouth is dry. You are on high alert as you listen for other unusual noises. It takes what feels like lifetime for your heart rate to slow and for your brain to switch off enough for you to drop back to sleep.
Think of those nights when you wake at 2.37am, immediately worried about that ‘thing’ that you didn’t do yesterday. Or that bill that you’ve forgotten about. Or that everyday occurrence that is due to happen that suddenly becomes the scariest thing, simply because it is 2.37am.
Now imagine that for whatever reason, your brain gets stuck in fight or flight mode. Adoption books call it a back brain response. A primitive response to threat or fear that is generalised across everyday situations and occurrences.
Imagine that happens every time you lie down in bed. It may be because bed represents a risky place from a previous experience. It may be that going to bed is what has previously signalled the start of scary noises and violence in another part of your life. It may be that you have learned that staying awake gives you the greatest chance of keeping yourself safe. It may simply be that your trauma experienced brain just doesn’t know how or when to slow down and let you rest.
Imagine being five and not being able to express your fear, or understand your fear, or even articulate what on earth is going on in your head.
Last night Little Legs took three and a quarter hours to go to sleep.
I did really well, until about 9.30pm, when my patience had run out and my whole being was craving sleep after an early start for the girls’ swimming.
Little Legs wasn’t being deliberately difficult or obstructive.
She simply couldn’t settle.
She chunnered. She made noises. She played with her teddy/bedcover/pyjama trouser leg/wall. She called out. She whistled. She cried. She needed her sixth wee of the night.
This was the fifth consecutive night that it has been past 9pm when she has finally dropped off.
That’s not helpful when you’re already a very tired five year old.
We often simply can’t figure out what the trigger is.
Is it her early experiences? Is it her little head subconsciously worrying about something that we mentioned five days ago?
Yesterday, was it because Mummy had been away for the day on her own on Wednesday?
Or was it the parcel that arrived with a gift from her foster Mummy?
Or was it her new Tagalong bike that Daddy set up, with a promise of a ride out today?
Or was it because we had a handful of people round after she went to bed (a regular occurrence in our house, with people she knows)?
Or because is was Daddy’s birthday last week and it’s Mummy’s next week?
We will most likely never know. We are doing our best to work with the advice we receive from our wonderful Post Adoption Social Worker. We stretch our patience as far as possible. We follow advice from books and other adopters. We seek out support from those who ‘get it’.
It’s one of those things that reminds you where Little Legs has been and what she is carrying every single day.