Sunday, February 10, 2008

This is just a stage, right? Interested in your advice, anecdotes, perspective, ....

This is a longer post than normal but I sure would welcome your feedback, insight, comments, shared anecdotes....heck, anything as long as it's offered in a positive way.

Here's the deal: Many of you already know that Ed and I have had a charmed life these first 14 months following our return from China regarding all things relating to sleep. I'm talking charmed. We spent the first week back from China adapting to the western time zone, and then over the next few days we used a few different techniques (mostly via Richard Ferber's model) and...voila....the twins would fall asleep every night between 7:30 - 8pm with no trouble at all. None. Zip. Nada. And, they both slept through the night for 11 solid hours and woke up happy at 6-6:30....We were golden. (ah, the "golden glory" days).

Then,then, then.......I went to Europe last month (3 weeks ago) on a business trip for 9 days/8 nights. It was certainly not my first trip away from them as I travelled internationally fairly extensively a number of times before the holidays but this last trip to Europe was my longest trip thus far. Ed said that by the 4th night of my departure, both girls started to get increasingly fretful and call and cry for me a lot throughout the night and by the time I came home (poor little girls), they were extremely anxious. no longer will go to sleep on their own. I have to lie on a pallet in their room for about 45 mins until they fall asleep. If I attempt to leave the nursery before they are asleep, they become hysterical. I'm not talking uphappy and whiny; I'm talking body completely soaked in sweat and just inconsolable. They have toddler beds so the minute they see I'm not in their room, they jump out of their beds (and they wake each other up so both girls then get hysterical) and come out of their room and stand screaming at the top of the landing (where the baby gate secures entrance to the stairs). Once I do manage to get them to sleep, I can creep out of their room for a bit, but when they wake up and see I'm not there in their room on the pallet where they last saw me, then it is mass hysteria..not normal crying but screaming like their room is on fire. Crazy upset. And, even when I do sleep on the floor in their room, at least 2-3times a night (each girl) will wake up, come over to my pallet/mattress on the floor and then will fall asleep on the floor as long as their little leg or arm is touching me.....Yep, now that's a heartbreaker thing to experience. And they'll both say (over and over again) in their very anxious little trembling wispy voices, "Mama sleeping here?"

I'm exhausted as I'm not sleeping well at all AND I'm not getting any downtime from them in the evenings after they go to sleep...much less not getting any chores down. In fact, I'm sitting here writing this blog on the mattress on the floor in their nursery. Mostly I'm exhausted b/c I truly feel bad for them. It's weighing heavy on me and I feel guilty for complaining about it. I'm the one doing the whining... and it's stressful for Ed and me to simply not have any downtime together anymore.

So, we have called our Peds physician (who specializes in chinese adoption and also has twins herself) and we called in a child development specialist (psychologist). Both are telling us that the girls' anxiety about sleeping probably did get triggered by my 8-day trip and that they are most likely remembering the feelings of anxiety and being "left-out" from their orphanage days. They also both said that maybe we never saw this behavior before because now the girls realize the stakes are "higher" for them now more than ever and that's why they are so fiercely anxious at night.

Me? I don't know what to think or what to do or what to encourage/discourage etc...I am "out-of-my-league" with no experience and no context into this at all. I just know that when I wake-up in the middle of the night on a pallet in their room and see them crouched down next me and see them staring right at me with their little hands just rubbing my arm up and down, it heart. Poor little creatures.

But what do I do and when do I stop doing it and how long will that be? Am I doing the right thing by sleeping on a bed on the floor in their room? We actually tried moving them down to mattresses on the floor on our bedroom...(so at least Ed and I could be in the same bedroom together) but they seem much better in their own little beds. Have any of you experienced something like this before? And, I really want to know if I am creating an even "tougher-to-go-back" situation by conceding to sleeping in their room and staying with them....

I'd really appreciate any feeback, thoughts, anecdotes, perspective....

Hugs and thanks,


Isabella's Mommy & Daddy(Kim & John) said...

I wish I had answers for you girly...
But I have not been there..
But my thoughts and prayers go out to you..
Hugs to you ..

Rony said...

Oh, Cindy. This is so tough. You know the trouble we had the first 18 months with Abbey waking up in the night screaming. Every. Single. Night. I thought I was going to kill myself and what's worse I didn't know if I would ever bond with her. We never ever brought her to our bed and I did not sleep in their room either. In the beginning I would check in on her and tell her that momma was here and everything was ok. I would pat her little butt and drag my sorry butt back to bed. Eventually I stopped getting up in the night. I was dog ass tired and I was not functioning. I tried a number of different things but it was the blanket. Yes, we discovered that when her covers fell off of her she would also scream for me to come cover her up. I found a giant quilt that covered her entire bed. We never had another problem again. She finally started sleeping through the night and hence so did I!!! Sweets what worked for me may not work for you and Ed. That's the key. Don't beat yourself up. I know how you feel. I really do. I'm going to call in some of my other friends to pop over and lend their suggestions. They may have a different twist on this....

I love you sweetie.
p.s. you and Ed do need "alone" time...just remember that...

Diana said...

Oh gosh, what a crusher! So sorry your glory days of sleep are (temporarily) over.
I have not left my girls for any extended length of time, although hubby has. But they are okay with that as long as their "Daddy come back?" questions are reassured.
However, they went through a difficult time transitioning to "school"--aka daycare, and I noticed then that night time became more stressful for them and they would ask that I sit in the chair in their room. And that pitiful cry of desperation that you described in your post is what my girls would do, so how can you not abide? So I would sit in the chair and after a period of time I would tell them that I had to go potty but I would be right back and I DID return to establish that trust link with them again. I would do this on purpose and extend the time a little longer, so that they would see that I meant what I said. I think that all of this was connected to the fear that Mommy wasn't going to return to pick them up after "school".
My girls needed alot of "talk" to help them. They needed to hear that if they woke up Mommy might not be in the room with them but I would be in my own room and that if they wanted they could call for me or come to my room.
I know Cindy that this situation isn't exactly the same as yours but there are some similarities. It just pullls my heart to think of your little ones in such a state.
I do hope you can take something from my experience and apply it to your situation.
Try to get some strength from knowing that this is just a "temporary" phase and that you are not creating monsters or setting yourself up for future suffering by doing what you are doing, which is giving them the love and reassuring they need.

Sam said...

Hi Cindy!

I'm a friend of Rony's. I have a bio 11-year-old son and an almost 3-year-old Empress from China. We brought Kieren home at 9 months old. She is also from Guangdong (JiangCheng SWI, Yangjiang City).

Cullen was The Colic Kid as a baby (not to mention projectile vomitor - and still is). I can safely say I understand how "shaken baby syndrome" happens as Cullen screamed non-stop from 6-8pm and again from 11pm-4am EVERY NIGHT FOR THREE MONTHS! I remember I once looked out Cullen's 3rd floor nursery window and wondered if he would bounce and if so, how high. Yeah...

Kieren has had huge sleep issues from our first week home. She was very ill in China so I think she probably always had sleep problems, but she was too sick for us to notice!

Kieren has night terrors and nightmares. I know your girls don't have night terrors from reading your post, but I just want to let you know that I understand how hard it is to deal with sleep issues. You feel so bad for them, but you also feel angry that you don't have a life (ie: sex, sleep, time to pee alone...), then you feel guilty because they are just sweet little babies who aren't doing this to make your life hell! Honey, you aren't alone!!! It's okay to feel this way. If you didn't, you wouldn't be normal or you would be on some heavy-duty drugs and I would be mad you weren't sharing!!!

For the type of sleep/anxiety issues your sweeties are going thru you really need a specialist. There isn't going to be a quick fix. You are going to have to do some major re-bonding. You are going to have to earn their trust again. Honey, I will be blunt. It is going to be hard and painful, and being a parent can really suck some days! BUT, it is so worth it. ;o)

There is a light at the end of that dark tunnel. Kieren is finally out-growing a lot of her sleep problems (Now if we could just get her to eat and speak!!!). She still doesn't sleep well away from home, but that's just something we have to accept. I have developed insomnia thanks to Kieren's sleep problems (God is such a comedian!), but we are hanging in there.

I'm always here to lean on, so just drop me a note! I won't judge. I am fluent in Sleep-Deprived-Mommy-Babble. My email is . My blog address is .

Hang in there!
Sam @ Just Keep Swimming...

Sophie's Mom said...

I'm so sorry you're not getting sleep, and they're stressing out at bedtime.

My Sophia had the night terrors and woke many times a night needing reassurance EVERY NIGHT for the first year or year 1/2 home. Talk about tired! Turned out she had attachment issues, and after seeing an attachment therapist (different than a regular therapist) and doing holding time, she's a different girl. She had so much anxiety, the holdings were nothing short of a miracle for us.

My guess would be your trip triggered something in them, something possibly attachment related.

I'm no expert, but I'm thinking that the sneaking out after they are sleeping may be causing them more stress (when they find you are gone). They maybe waking to see if you're there, and when you aren't... chaos, stress and turmoil within them. My thoughts are that they need you now, to heal through this. If it were me, I would bring them into my room, somehow. It might not seem the ideal situation, but it will help everyone get some much needed sleep, and will give them the comfort they are needing right now.

Are you creating problems for later? Maybe, but when they're settled back in and all is well with the world, you can deal with that pretty easily I would guess. Bribery works wonders... ;)

Right now they need the comfort and security at bedtime. Some people think it's terrible to bring a child into your bed or room, but deep down if you feel that's what they need, then you know best. Worried about your marital 'relations?' kids are darned sound sleepers, not to mention there are other times/places to have some intimate time with hubby.

I'm also wondering if there are activities or such you could be doing with them even during the day that might help you at bedtime. When my daughter was anxiously attached, I would tell her where I was going when I left the room, during the day. Little things like that reinforced that I would be right back, just like I said, and just because she couldn't see me, didn't mean she was alone or not being cared for.

One last thing. I would suggest you check out (click on RAD symptoms on the left hand side). Maybe there are other little 'symptoms' of attachment that might help shed some light on the situation. Regretfully, I missed Sophia's issues for a year after she was home. They were just little things, but once I put the pieces together, it all made sense, and I could give her the help she needed. I regret so much that I missed those little signs for a year. There's a great list of symptoms, and it only takes a minute to look through to see if there's more investigating to do, or you can be confident that this isn't a bigger issue that might need looking into.

Sorry I've rambled so long. I hope this lengthy rant is helpful to you in someway, and you can get back to 'normal' at your house.

Feel free to email me if you wish to discuss anything further.


Senja said...

Hi Cindy,
I can relate somewhat to the story.
Our first six months we did not Ferberize because our adoption agency had drilled it into our heads that it is something one NEVER EVER does with adopted kids. Well that was six months of h*ll and the sheer terror cries you describe. We had them together, then separate, renovated another bedroom to separate the cribs bacause one's crying would wake the other, unlike what other twin families kept telling me. At the worst point the hysterics were so bad that hubby and I were up every 30 minutes with one of them on alternating schedules. I was psychotic. I lived off less than 3 hours (NON continuous) sleep for over 6 months. Then we finally decided if our kids were going to be in therapy, it was because Mommy was going to kill them because of Post Adoption Depression PADS. It tainted the whole first year at home with them and kept me emotionally distant... and filled with resentment and regret. Finally we decided to Ferberize. Within three nights they slept 12 hours. And then slept two , 2 hour naps during the day. As if they were making up for lost time. I was so pissed off that it was that quick and easy.
And so it went for a year. The Golden Year. Until they crib climbed at 19 months and we transitioned to toddler beds,... unsuccessful. Finally just put one big futon on the floor where they could spoon each other and not harm themselves.
THEN the figured out the safety lock on the door to their room. And they walked the halls awake for a month and explored the house while we slept. DANGER. That was a bad month.
THEN we put them into school in Sept. And they freaked out in abandonment issues. And so I'd lie in their beds until they fell asleep, gradually decreasing the amount of time I stayed.
THEN they sucked up every bug in the universe in school and were ridden with croup and pneumonia for months it seemed. I slept in their room on the floor with them, if only to reassure myself they were breathing.

So my answer to you is, you just have to do what feels right and what they need. You probably should see an attachment specialist. Our kids were fostered, and this spared a huge amount of attachment issues.

We have learned to go with the ebbs of the tide. Some nights I am up several times a night telling (if not yelling) at them to go back to their room to sleep. Some nights I sense they had a bad dream or are in pain/anxious and I hold them/lie with them.
NOTHING can prepare you for the sleep deprivation with twins. I work part time too. I just suck it up. My husband does nothing in the home domestic so it all falls on my shoulders. It's a hard job. And a reason why I don't always speak with rose coloured glasses on.
Feel free to contact me anytime at

I shut down my blog.
with Meg and Jazz

Senja said...

sorry, forgot the 's'

Rony said...

Cindy, I think the artilery has arrived. You're in good hands with this bunch. They've BTD and have the T-Shirt to prove it. It breaks my heart to hear you going through this.


Anonymous said...

I think Rony and her brigade gave incredibly thoughtful and sensitive suggestions. Good luck!

Truly Blessed said...


So sorry to hear you're going through such a rough time.

It may not help much, but I've found that as I'm rocking Katie right before bed, but after reading books, I turn out the lights and just talk quietly about what she did that day. Then, as she quiets down, I talk about what I'm going to do when she goes to sleep (down to do the dishes, or laundry, or clean up, sit down and work on bills, etc.) but that I'll be in the house and if she needs me I'll come back right away. (BTW, she wants NOTHING to do with Daddy at bedtime, she does not like it when Daddy is involved in the bedtime routine.)

She hasn't had too many issues like the one you've described, but I think the consistency of her bedtime routine is a comfort to her.

So, it's not much, I'm sure you've gotten better information from people who've endured the same things you're going through, but please know that you're in my thoughts as you're going through this.

I do hope, for the girls' sake, that you don't have any more big trips scheduled. Well, for your sake, too!

Let us know how things are improving-- because they WILL improve!

Heather said...

Hey Cindy. Man, oh man can we relate to this over here. Been there. We had sleeping HELL for the first 1.5+ years the boys were home. We tried everything (literally, EVERYTHING), read every book we could get our hands on, and called in the sleep experts and twin experts and adoption experts, etc. Finally, for about the past year now, we've been in a good place with sleeping -- KNOCK ON WOOD. So it seems like our "golden glory days" are flip-flopped with yours... we had hell first then glory & you seem to have had glory first and then hell. I have three thoughts:
1) Like "Truly Blessed" wrote above, we have found that if we talk over every detail of the day's events and talk through what is going to happen after they fall asleep and what will happen the next day, it REALLY helps. That (in addition to separating them to give them completely separate bedrooms) seems to have been one of the keys to us turning it around.
2) I think you should consider the possibility that this is related to their age/development perhaps more than attachment/your trip... it is possible that simply their age/development might be contributing to this phase you're going through. It was right around the time the K & O were EXACTLY the same age as your girls that things got extremely extremely unbearably bad and we had to focus our entire lives on trying to fix the sleep situation in our house. We were miserable 24x7 and needed to turn it around to save our sanity and well-being. But I just find it interesting that it was at this same AGE. Maybe there is something to that??? I don't know. Just something to think about.
3) I totally relate to your agony and confusion and frustration and desperation. All I can say is to hang in there. You are not alone. Know that you are not alone.