Pitching a Fit

When Aitch was around six months old – maybe nine – she woke in the middle in the night crying inconsolably. I remember going to her room and picking her up out of the crib and sitting down to rock with her until she calmed down. Except she didn’t. She seemed to cry harder. She arched away from me. The crying was so loud, I worried she’d wake her brother who slept down the hall. So I took her to the front room where I had been sleeping on the sleeper sofa (snoring if a motherfucker – that’s all I need to say).

By that time, Sparring Partner had heard her crying over the monitor and came to investigate. I was still holding her in my arms and trying to sooth, but was grateful when SP showed up so he could prepare a bottle. Surely once she had a bottle (I had finished breastfeeding the month prior), she’d calm. When the bottle did show up, she screamed in fury. We took turns trying to quiet her to no avail. Finally, we laid her on the bed between us and eventually she calmed.

Since then, she’s had more of these late-night fits. They are not night-terrors as those pass shortly after we talk to her and rub her back. She hasn’t had one in quite some time, so I was completely unnerved when after an hour into her nap (she usually naps at least 90 minutes, and many times for two hours), I could hear her whimpering, which quickly escalated into full-on tears. I gathered her to me and sat down in the rocking chair assuming she’d settle down as became more conscious. But she didn’t. Again she pushed away from me, but when I held her away from me, she’d reach for me.

I talked to her, hoping the sound of my voice would reassure her that I was there. She still wasn’t calming down so I laid her down on the floor on a blanket, covered her, and then laid down beside her, still talking. I asked if she was hurting (maybe her arm or leg fell asleep and the pins and needles were hurting); I asked if she was scared (daymare?); I asked if she wanted me to go away; I asked if she wanted me to stay. She would only sob, tears streaming down her face, but never opening her eyes.

After several minutes of this, she seemed to calm and settle back into a fitful nap. All the crying had caused her diaphragm to seize up and her breathing was really just gulps of air. As SP describes it, she had vapor-locked. But after only a couple of minutes of the calm, I could see her brows pull together and the tears squeeze from under her lashes again. It was nerve-wracking.

Up to this point she had said nothing. She’d pull away and cry harder if I tried to stroke her hair. I told her I would stay with her until she calmed down and waited. A few minutes later she whimpered, “I want you…”, but as soon as I’d touch her she’d say, “I don’t want you!”

Did I mention nerve-wracking??

This fit lasted for almost 45 minutes. We eventually moved into the living room once her eyes opened and stayed open and I rocked with her there where the change of scenery was somewhat of a distraction. Once she had completely settled down, she was up running around and playing with her brother and generally being silly. I asked her again why she was so sad and crying, but she would just smile at me and run off to play.

Yo-yo Mama, on the other hand, was totally stressed out and wondered if a good cry might do her some good as well.

8 thoughts on “Pitching a Fit”

  1. Sounds to me that what you say are night terrors are actually just ordinary nightmares and that the fits are the true night terrors. Definitely fits the Ferber description of terrors. L had then occasionally. I found them very scary as she was clearly oblivious to what she was doing. She seems to have grown out of them. Hope Aitch’s resolve soon.

  2. I know this is totally specific to my daughter, but I mention it anyway, because who knows? For her, it’s always gas. She gets terrible gas pains from certain foods eaten too close to bed time. She wakes up crying, won’t tell you what’s wrong, squirms around if you try to hold her, can’t be comforted, and then it’s over. Invariably after a good bout of flatulence. Once in a while, she’ll have a nightmare, but a hug and some back patting and she goes right back to sleep. So, I guess, consider a physical issue – growing pains, possibly? Poor Aitch, and poor you…

  3. TK does something like this if he wakes up a nap too soon. Not sure what wakes him up (no loud noises, etc) but it usually takes him an hour before he calms down. Until then, it’s as you described. Nothing makes him happy and there doesn’t seem to be anything I can do about it.

  4. L does this. Not often but when she does it lasts about a half hour.
    It just happened the other night. I walked in and tried to soothe, but to no avail. I realized it was freezing in their room. P had opened their window a crack (another “plus” to living in an apartment with people who crank the heat: our apt is always around 75. To hot for us). So I went to shut it, with her in her crib screaming bloody murder, and my hand slipped off the window. I hit a toy off the shelf by accident and it made a super loud crashing noise. I thought it would amp her up more but it brought her out of it. She stopped crying, and I put her blanket on her, said goodnight, and she was back asleep.
    So we got a break there.

    Interestingly K NEVER wakes up when all this goes on. Should we make a noise by opening a package of cookies in the kitchen? That will wake K up, “Mommy, can I have a cookie?”. What? No! 🙂

  5. S does this on occasion. I think it is a variant of night terrors, because I’m not sure he knows it happened. He does the same thing, pushes me or hubby away, but screams if we try to leave. It is very nervewracking, and luckily I don’t think we’ve had 45 minutes. Have you talked to your pediatrician about it? HOpe it goes away soon.

  6. O does this a lot. From about 18 months through 2 and a half, it happened once, twice a week. He’d wake up from naps or in the middle of the night in a full-fledged fit. Did exactly what Aitch did – pushed me away but then screamed if I left the room. It was nerve-wracking for us too.

    Eventually we knew he’d come out of it, so what we ended up doing was sitting in the room with him, letting him figure out how to calm himself down. For whatever reason, too, TV helped him calm down. We figured this out towards the end, and there would be an inevitable OTHER tantrum when we turned the TV off at the end, but whatever, it helped distract him from whatever it was causing the fit.

    Hugs. Hope this isn’t a regular occurrence, for sure.


  7. Hmm, first I thought night terrors too but not if she is conscious and knows what is going on. I haven’t heard of anything like this before (said as if I am knowledgeable in these things).

    Thinking of you. This would make me cry and want to drink.

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