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April 16, 2011 / paperkids

Wide awake

Friday morning I woke up startled.  Something was wrong – or actually something was very right.  Emma had stayed in her room all night long and slept through the whole entire night!

This past week has been one of the hardest times that Emma has ever gone through.  Over the years, she’s had a few weeks of no sleep,  but this was something different.  I never really figured out why for sure, that she began waking up in the middle of the night engaging in a slew of odd, compulsive behaviors. She might fall asleep, but was up an hour later roaming from room to room pulling sheets and blankets off beds and taking clothes out of her closet and  pulling drawers out.  She spent a few nights screaming so loudly I’m surprised the cops didn’t come calling.  All night we would have to take turns containing her in her room.  We would hold her until she was very still, but inevitably she would pop up and fly out of bed again.  We couldn’t send her to school because she was screaming and scratching herself.  Exhausted in the daytime, her body was covered in bruises and cuts from meltdowns.

We had an idea that it could have been a few different things – a withdrawal from  a medication that we’d stopped recently, the drama surrounding our upcoming move, or maybe even something as simple as hormones.  I don’t know that we’ll ever know for sure.   During this week, I had moments of terror where I thought, “What if this doesn’t end?”.   I tried to stay calm by reminding myself that we’ve gone through phases before, but like I said, this was so different.

Me:  “Emma, what do you think this could be?”

Emma:  I don’t know

Me:  “Do you want to get up and do all of those things”

Emma:  no

Emma: I will continue to rest in God

Yes, we had been through tough times before.  But I was just beside myself.  And exhausted!  What was happening to my girl!?

I put a message out there and asked everyone to pray.  What else could be done, really?  And you all prayed.  Some nights I would hold her and do nothing but pray as I lay in bed with her.  We had even taken her to the ER at UCLA.  Even the strong sedative they gave her didn’t stop the compulsive night-time behaviors.  I got really scared when we bombarded her one night with sleep aids and she still woke – tired albeit – but very much awake and in a frenzy!!

Emma:  I will be okay

Me:  “I’m glad you are so hopeful and positive, Emma.”

We sat on the couch the day after another sleepless night.   How could she stay so positive?  It was just mind-blowing to me, but not surprising really.  She always seems so calm inside despite chaos on the outside.

I felt so helpless to do anything about it.  It felt like no one could help her and  I was quickly discovering that many doctors, psychiatrist and even developmental pediatricians don’t feel comfortable taking on or treating children with severe autism.  They keep telling me that we need to see someone who specializes more in kids like Emma.  Where are those people??  It’s all been very frustrating.  What if something was very wrong with her?  Who can help her?!  Where were the answers that we desperately needed!?

After about the fifth night or so, we sat on the couch Skyping with mom.

Mom: “Emma, I am praying so earnestly for you.  I have been pleading with God to bring you rest.”

Emma reached out to the ipad.

Emma: I feel rested

I couldn’t see how she could possibly feel “rested”.  I could barely keep my eyes open!  I looked at the deep circles under her eyes and her bruised up legs.  I guess she did seem pretty calm.  She should, I thought, with all the prescribed medication and stuff I’d been giving her at night to try to knock her out.  How it didn’t is a complete mystery!

Mom:  “That’s so wonderful, honey. I am so happy to hear that.  I pray everyday and will continue to pray.”

Emma:  prayer is the reason for life

I could feel my tired eyes burn with a fresh tear at this.   Mom and I shook our heads and beamed with delight at her words.

Me:  “Oh, Emma.  That’s so beautiful.  Very powerful.  Where do you come up with this stuff?”  I had to laugh.

Emma:  we are so lucky to have everything we need in prayer

Emma has taught me so many things about patience and trust.  I feel like her life is the perfect picture of  reliance on God to bring us through anything.  When I look at her, it’s easy to see His love and to see the inner peace and strength that trust can bring. It really was all she seemed to need.

That night Emma laid down to bed and never came out of her room.  She slept through the whole night, it would seem, without a stir.  The morning had come and we had all slept through the night!  I was flooded with relief and joy.  Of course, we had slept with one eye open, half asleep – half awake.  She slid into our bed in the morning with a beautiful smile on her face and eyes that were not tired, but wide awake.


Leave a Comment
  1. MSOTS / Apr 16 2011 9:48 pm

    Emma continues to testify of God’s grace, His goodness, His Love, and His answer to prayer.

  2. Michael Henshaw / Apr 17 2011 1:01 pm

    We’ve been praying for you all. Emma is an inspiration. Actually you all are.

  3. grandma / Apr 18 2011 1:52 am

    Shakespeare said
    “sleep soon mends the ragged sleeve of care.”

    We can’t appreciate that until we experience our own bouts with sleeplessness.
    Every concern in the world is magnified in those small hours of fatigue.
    Our thoughts become distorted, our imaginations turn dark.
    It is as if we leave the shelter of our bodies, our selves seeking out ourselves.
    Prayer, that smooth balm, that simple tonic, goes straight to the heart of the trouble.
    Whatever anxiety was there can be given over. Prayer helps us to get out of God’s way.
    Emma, you are safe, always, in the eye of the Beloved.
    Love always,

    • Emma Apple / Apr 26 2011 12:27 am

      I see where Emma and Sabra get their literary gifts, your comments are so full of love. What a beautiful family 🙂

    • paperkids / Apr 26 2011 4:38 am

      Love that saying: Prayer helps us to get out of God’s way

  4. Emma Apple / Apr 26 2011 12:25 am

    Emma always inspires me and renews my faith. I’m Muslim, but God is God no matter what you believe about Him.

    The Qur’an says “I created … humankind only that they might worship Me”
    This came to mind when Emma said “prayer is the reason for life” 🙂

    Thank you Emma and Sabra for sharing these special moments with us.

    • paperkids / Apr 26 2011 4:36 am

      Thank you so much for your beautiful words, Emma! Emma inspires me so much in my faith, too. There really is something so liberating about relying on God. It feels like something we were truly created to do. Beautiful passage from the Qur’an!

      • Emma Apple / Apr 26 2011 4:25 pm

        I agree, it is hugely liberating to put it all in Gods hands. It really does feel like our true nature doesn’t it? There is nothing complicated about it, it just is. I love being able to share that feeling across faith lines as well, that too, is liberating.
        Much love.

  5. Alexandra Mead / Apr 27 2011 12:55 pm

    Sabra, God loves you and Emma so much. Even though Emma was outwardly silent for so long, inwardly through her faith she was having these amazing conversations with God! Now that Emma can communicate with you, God is letting you know that although she cannot control her body, her heart and soul are safe and nourished by his abounding love, which in turn can calm your heart and soul. What a treasure that you can talk to her now. Imagine going through your sleepless week without knowing Emma is so safe in Gods love. I realize I don’t know either of you, but my heart is still so full of love and compassion for you both. What a truly special relationship you share with eachother and God. You both inspire me and renew my faith with your incredible spirit and faith. Thank you, xoxo

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