Parenting After Midnight

Nothing good happens after midnight, my mom always used to say. By all comparisons, we've been extremely blessed with a really good baby (and toddler). We've only experienced a few scary moments in the nearly two years of Rooney's life (a terrible nighttime cough attack last winter and the time she slammed her finger in a heavy door).

Daddy home with a sick girl

But, it seems like every time we get a scare or face a really challenging situation, I'm ill prepared to handle it. I'm going to venture a guess that most parents feel this way.

And when I've been asleep for a few hours and am awoken, I find it hard to make sound decisions.

If you need some context for our journey as parents, you can go back and read Kelsey's monthly updates. But, I'll summarize by saying this: Rooney has slept an average of 12 hours or more per night since she was about 10 weeks old. And I can count on one hand the number of "middle of the night, get out of bed" moments we've had since that time.


Rooney had been fighting a cold/cough for about a week. Nothing major. We've been treating it by diffusing oils and running a humidifier in her room. But, early Sunday morning (at 12:09 am) she started coughing.

This is where having a monitor helps, as her room is on the other side of the house. Her cough started as it had the past few nights, but became more and more frequent and violent as time when on. It actually woke Kelsey, which it hadn't in the past.

Fifteen minutes (of straight coughing) went by, and we started to think of what we could do. Prayer came to mind first. So we did that. My heart was breaking for my little girl. She just kept laying there coughing, not standing up or rolling over, just laying there coughing.

Fifteen more minutes passed, and I became more and more concerned, but also disillusioned by the lack of sleep and fogginess of my own to make good decisions. The absolute hardest part was not knowing what to do or how to help her.

We don't keep cough syrup on hand, as we would rather treat a cough with a more natural remedy, and coughing is the body's way of getting rid of something that shouldn't be in there. Cough syrup only suppresses that natural process. (Plus, she wasn't crying so we didn't think she was in pain.)

I know that when I am coughing, a drink of water certainly helps my throat, especially when it's a dry cough. From past experience, I knew it probably wasn't going to be a good idea to wander into Rooney's room and offer her a drink (I thought I might scare her). But, I couldn't just lay there and listen. I had to see if I could help her. I also thought if I held her upright for a little while it would help as well.

So, I entered her room and rubbed her back (she was still asleep somehow), and then she rustled about in a very confused state clearly wondering why I was there and what I was doing. She sat up, looked at me and then plopped back down in her crib. I picked her up and offered some water, which she batted at, and then she started crying. She just wanted to go to sleep (still coughing the whole time).

I refilled her diffuser with Peppermint and went back to bed. Completely defeated.

I prayed some more. Pleading with God to help our baby girl. But, the coughing got worse. It turned into a barking-type cough. Kelsey's googling things on her phone and tells me she thinks it's croup and that taking her outside into cold air can help open up the lungs and help her breathe easier.

Up we go, confusing Rooney once again, but she welcomes the sight of her mommy. We get her bundled up and Rooney and I step outside for a few minutes. I try to encourage her to breathe deeply, but she doesn't really understand.

Back inside, she's still coughing, so we try some other oils for relief: Thieves on her feet and Lemon on her chest. And there we were, trying to help calm her cough down. We started the bedtime routine all over again, and there we sat as a family watching Curious George at 1:00 am.

We laid her back down and she coughed for about 10 more minutes before finally falling asleep for the next six hours.

We were completely exhausted. Neither of us operates very well when our sleep is disrupted. But, the following day I just kept thinking about what I would have done differently.

Here are some random thoughts going through our heads as the above situation unfolded:

  • This is our fault for keeping Rooney up past her bedtime an hour away from home watching her cousins play basketball.
  • Or it was the all the sugar snacks she had while we were watching her cousins play basketball and missing out on her normal supper time.
  • All I want to do is sleep. I'm so tired. God, why is this happening?
  • She's done coughing, right?
  • It's getting better, right?
  • That cough wasn't as bad as it was five minutes ago, right?
  • I've got to do something. I have no idea what to do, but I have to do something.

It's fairly easy to beat yourself up as a parent...

But, you know what? I can't change the past. And the whole situation I'm sure was God's way of helping us trust him more. We certainly have responsibility as parents to care for our children, but sometimes things are out of our control. We did what we thought was best in the moment and covered it with the faith that God is good and he must be trying to teach us something through the trial.

This is not an easy lesson to learn. And even though it worked out (sort of), it was still really difficult to work through in the moment. Looking back didn't make the midnight coughing scare any easier, but our trust in our creator grew. Our hope is that next time, our faith will be greater to trust him more with the next difficult situation.