Monday night Emma was up at midnight screaming. Her ears were bothering her. This has been an ongoing problem for many months now. She is highly sensitive to the changing air pressure. As a result of Emma’s sensitivity, I too have become increasingly aware of it and am surprised that I have lived this long without noticing how often it changes, causing my ears to “pop”, as Emma describes the sensation, too. Still, just to be safe we have taken her to her pediatrician who assured us her ears were fine and referred us to an ear specialist. To date Emma has gone to the ear specialist three times. Her ears are fine, we’ve been repeatedly told. She’s just extremely sensitive to the air pressure which is constantly fluctuating.
“I need help!” she screamed. “Ears popping, have to unpop! Mommy! Mommy I need help?”
This can go on – as it did Monday night for hours. That night she was up until past 4:00AM, I don’t know when she finally fell asleep as I eventually lapsed into a kind of restless state of unconsciousness. When I woke it was just past 7:00AM and Emma was fast asleep, arms spread out like Christ on the cross, blonde hair fanned out on the pillow beside me. Richard had long since relinquished his place in our bed and gone to her bed. Merlin, preferring the rocking chair in the living room, was happily curled up away from all of us when I came into the kitchen to begin preparing the children’s breakfast.
I reminded myself that Emma used to regularly wake up at around 2:00AM only to finally fall back asleep somewhere between 4:00 or 5:00AM. How we managed to get through those middle of the night awakenings month after month is something I cannot fathom given how exhausted I was yesterday. The combination of crying in pain and screaming for help, help I am unable to give, is what breaks my heart. I try to remind myself that being there, just sitting with her, even though I cannot change the air pressure, is a kind of help too. Still it’s difficult not to feel the rising panic and accompanying helplessness that come with witnessing ones child in such obvious pain.
“Please Mommy. You have to unplug. Ears! Ears!” she continued to cry while twisting her blanket up and trying to push it down her ear canal.
“Em, try to yawn,” I told her opening my mouth in an exaggerated yawn.
“NOOOOOOOO!” Emma screamed, pounding the side of her head with her hand. “Nooooo! Mommy! Mommy! I need help!”
It is during moments like these that I want to scream. I want to hit the wall with my fist. I want someone or something to help my daughter. So I go wake up my blissfully sleeping husband, Richard and get him to help me.
“I got this,” he told me after I woke him, waving me away. “Go back to sleep.”
Only I couldn’t go back to sleep so I followed him into her bedroom where he had ingeniously pulled out a balloon and told her to blow into it for a few seconds. He also had the foresight to bring some nasal spray which the ear specialist had given us for her.
And while none of these things were “magical” cures for her popping ears, his calm demeanor helped settle her and me down.
“I’m going to lie down with her, you go back to bed,” I told him. As he got up to leave, I said, “And thank you.” To say I feel gratitude that I have a husband who is so completely in the trenches with me, who is more than willing to do his share and often does much more than that, who isn’t afraid to submerge himself in all things that make up our crazy family, would be a vast understatement.
An hour later, Emma, still in pain, but at least not screaming like an air raid siren, whimpered, “Ears still popping. Go to Mommy’s bed?”
“Okay Em. Come on.” I led her through the hallway into our bedroom and climbed into bed with her.
Last night, exhausted and concerned that we might have a repeat episode, I went to sleep early. Miraculously Emma slept until almost 7:00AM.
For more on Emma’s journey through a childhood of autism, go to: www.EmmasHopeBook.com