Monday, November 26, 2012

PTSD and nightmares

My beautiful wife and son
I learned early on in our relationship that my wife had a habit of talking in her sleep. At first I didn't know how to react to it, but after the first few times it happened, it became something that we laughed about. In fact I had, on occasion, egged her on a couple of times. Almost all of the conversations we had, regardless of their nature, were mostly lighthearted material.

Then things changed.

When we became parents to a beautiful 3 lb. 6oz. baby, the stress of the circumstances and uncertainty we faced manifested itself it a number of ways, most notably through frequent nightmares my wife would have.

What once was a few laughs over random things like what I did with the pencil shavings, quickly became anything but funny a few nights after my wife came home from the hospital. She shot straight up in bed one night and said "Is Jayden okay?!?" I remember my heart being in my throat as I was just teetering between being awake and sleeping.  I calmly explained to her that he was in the NICU, was doing fine, and that we could call up to the hospital to check in on him. After confirming that Jayden was doing well, she went back to sleep. I decided at that moment that I would never egg her on while she was talking in her sleep. The context and matter of her dreams had suddenly become a lot scarier.

While our son was in the NICU for 25 days, my wife had a handful of nightmares. My hope was once we had our son home, these nightmares would start to fade. Much to my dismay, they only worsened. The first few months were the worst. Around three to four nights a week she would start talking out of the blue, asking about Jayden, if he was okay. She would go on to explain that she was dreaming any number of bad things were happening with our son, most notably:

He's smothered under the sheets and she can't get to him
He's not breathing
He fell out of the crib

In the back of my mind I knew she was dealing with symptoms of PTSD. While she never felt detached from our son, or was wrestling with other common symptoms of a typical PTSD diagnosis, I knew in my heart that she was struggling. I begged my wife to speak with a doctor about it. Pleaded with her. But she insisted that she would be okay. Slowly but surely the frequency of these dreams began to wain. She still has the occasional nightmare, but fortunately as of late they have been few and far between.

It is my hope that no matter how strong or tough you think you are, take the affects of PTSD very seriously. It is a very real issue, for BOTH moms and dads. Being in the NICU and managing your emotions during and after the experience are so very important to your health. Talk to doctor, it may prove to be most beneficial.


  1. Wish I didn't have to suffer in silence! Everyone always expects me to have it all together and in my position.....not allowed to show weakness.

  2. I know my poor husband has NICU PTSD every time there's a beep he snaps his head up & jumps to make sure Lilly is ok. He wakes up in the middle of the night & freaks out thinking she's not breathing when she's ok. & the worst was the night she was sick & we took her to the ER he said he got the helpless feeling again & was afraid she would be admitted to the hospital & she'd be taken from him again, and having her hooked up to the monitors & the alarms going off all of it took us back to the NICU

  3. NICU PTSD is very real. I dealt with the nightmares while in the NICU and then flashbacks when our son came home. In time they were less and less. My husband and I just tried to talk about what the dream or flashback was and support each other. I know for him PTSD hit later on after our son was home, probably because he was so focused on being my rock while we were in the NICU. Thankfully it does get better.