Until I met Heather I had always assumed that people who talked in their sleep did little more than mumble a few indecipherable noises. I never imagined that they could speak long monologues or hold conversations, but, to my shock, I found Heather doing just that once we began to share the same bed. Heather was so conversant, in fact, that I was initially convinced that she was awake and putting me on.
“We forgot to pick up Jackie from the party,” a sleeping Heather cried out urgently one night.
I cocked my head at this – not only had there been no party that night, but her then roommate Jackie! had spent the evening at home with us.
“We forgot to pick up Jackie from the party,” Heather repeated.
“Heather, are you awake? You’re messing with me, right?”
“We forgot to pick up Jackie from the party!”
“There was no party. Now sleep.”
Heather suddenly became incredibly distressed.
“There was a party!!! And we forgot to pick her up!!! We need to pick her up!!!”
“Oh, that party,” I quickly said, improvising in hope of calming her down. “I called Bella to pick her up. She got Jackie and took her home.”
Heather, upon hearing this, slept quietly the rest of the night.
As you can imagine, these sleep talking moments were a bit unnerving, but after a while I grew used to them. They were even pretty darn funny at times. Before we got Rigby, for example, Heather had puppy fever. All she could talk about morning, noon, and night was getting a puppy, and believe it or not she even kept talking about it once she fell asleep.
“Can we get a puppy, Mike?”
“Yes, sweetie,” I replied just as I had all day long. “We’ll get one in good time.”
“We got one?!” Heather gasped with a huge smile spreading on her face. “You got me a puppy?”
“No, Heather, I said -”
Heather grabbed my arm.
“Oh, puppy,” she cried as she stroked my arm. “I love you soooo much!”
In the morning I told Heather what happened, and to this day we still joke about the “arm puppy.”
Unfortunately, Heather’s sleep talking hasn’t lead to many funny times these last couple years. Ever since Maddie passed away Heather will often talk in her sleep, and when she does I know exactly where her dreams have taken her.
“She’s dying, Mike. She’s dying!”
Tears flow from Heather’s eyes when she says this, just as tormented as she was in that hospital nearly two years ago. In these moments I want to make it better for Heather, but whereas I could tell a harmless fib years earlier about Jackie being picked up from a party, I could never say anything but the truth about what happened to our beautiful baby.
“I know she is, sweetie,” I say quietly as I rub her back. “I know she is.”
It’s so hard to know how to handle these situations when they happen.
The first couple times I woke Heather up immediately, desperate to get her out of that hospital. But doing this only woke Heather in a desperate, anguished state that she couldn’t shake for hours.
The third time I decided not to wake Heather. It was torture lying there, listening to Heather scream and cry, but after ten interminable minutes she quieted and slept. In the morning she had no idea what had happened. But the fourth time this happened not waking Heather didn’t go so well. After ten heartbreaking minutes of watching her scream and cry she woke with a gasp, and ended up spending the next few hours in an even more anguished state than she had the times I woke her.
Last weekend Heather once again went to that place in her sleep. This time I had no idea what to do. There was no making it better. So I woke her. The result was just as before. I held her and stroked her hair for the next few hours, but the whole time all I could think about was how I hated that there was no way for me to help in these situations; that I was no help at all.
It’s so hard watching Heather go through this. On that awful day almost two years ago I was at least in the room with her. Now I can only watch Heather go through it all over again, alone.