Monday, June 8, 2009

Just Breathe

Lately, things have been going so well. Elijah is interacting more and more often. He's happy, he's cute, and he's fun. He's starting to sleep through the night a few nights a week (Yay!). Last night, however, I freaked out.

Elijah woke up around two a.m. I went and got him and rocked him back to sleep while lying in the chair in his room. As often happens in these scenarios, I fell asleep with Elijah lying on top of me. It was storming last night and one of the thunder cracks must've woken me around 5 am. In my half asleep stupor, I thought that Elijah wasn't breathing. "Elijah, Elijah," I said softly, panicky. Nothing. I felt his back for the rise and fall of his breathing. He felt so still. And then, the comforting motions of breath, obviously filling his lungs with beautiful air.

I sit in the chair listening to the rain on our roof, holding my precious boy on my chest, with my eyes wide open with fear. Did he really stop breathing or was it just my imagination? Maybe his breaths were just so shallow that I couldn't feel them.

And then…stillness again. I place my finger under his nose to feel the reassuring warmth and then cooling of his rising and waning breaths. Nothing. I'm not imaging this. One…two…three…four…five… And a deep breath. He's okay. Please God, let me be wrong, I plead. Please let this be my imagination. God, I don't think I can handle this. Please let him be okay.

For one of the first times since Elijah was born, I let myself ask the question, "What if I were to lose him?" Even in his early days I didn't usually allow myself to go there. Why should I ask it now?


I pick up Elijah and head to our room to include Andy in my scary discovery. He wakes up when I enter the room and lovingly pulls back the covers for Elijah and me to join him in bed.

"I think Elijah has sleep apnea," I whisper.


"I think he stops breathing for short amounts of time when he's sleeping."

Andy places his hand on Elijah. We lie quiet and still, observing our boy's breaths.

"Did he stop breathing right then?" I ask.

"No, he was breathing that whole time." Okay, so maybe I am imagining this. Maybe it's just shallow breaths. Andy takes his hand off of Elijah.

"Keep your hand on him," I plead and a few moments later Andy discovers the same thing. "Five seconds," he says.

We whisper back and forth as Elijah stirs between us and soon the little man is awake and smiling at us. I try to get Elijah back to sleep, but he just wants to sit in-between the two of us and bounce. It's about time for Andy to get up to get ready for work, so he disappears as I make a more serious attempt to get Elijah back to sleep in his chair.

A few minutes later, Andy remerges to tell me he emailed Eli's pediatrician (it would've been too early to call and we both realize that Elijah's life isn't in danger). Andy and our pediatrician talk via email, in which the doc asks some questions. Is he gasping for breath or snoring? No. Is he turning blue or white? No. How long do the episodes last? Ten seconds at the most. These are all reassuring answers, but the doc refers us to a sleep specialist to check things out. The earliest appointment we could get is in August… Seriously?

Andy calls the sleep office again and tries to explain Elijah's complicated history. They bump us up to an appointment in July. Andy explains what happened last night to the lady on the phone and she told us similar things as our pediatrician…Apparently it's "normal" for some kids to hold their breath when they're sleeping, even for as long as 20 seconds. As long as they're not snoring, gasping for breath or turning blue, it's probably not a problem. So, we'll keep an eye on him, but apparently some kids just sleep this way. This is probably just Elijah's normal sleeping pattern and either way, last night probably wasn't the first time this happened, it was just the first time we noticed it.

I'm trying not to freak out. Their explanation makes sense and we know if Elijah held his breath for longer than 20 seconds, we'd obviously need to call 911. There's really nothing new here. Elijah is healthy and happy. Even if he were diagnosed with sleep apnea, it wouldn't be the end of the world. There are things that we could do to monitor him. Right now it sounds like it's just the way he sleeps and we shouldn't be worried about it. But, I can't help but be a little scared. What if…? What if…? We can't watch him all the time. I can't stay awake 24 hours a day.

Elijah is sound asleep upstairs as I write this. I know he's okay, but why then does it feel like I'm the one who can't breathe?

Please keep us in your prayers.


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