Sometimes it seems like my lovely daughter – the clever girl, the confident dancer, the girl who shines in everything she does – leads a double life. There’s the daytime daughter, the one everyone knows, and there’s the night time daughter. The one only her family sees and, to be honest, only I really take much notice of. This is the daughter who worries about keeping things tidy and who can’t get to sleep at night.
For about a year now, my daughter has suffered tummy aches at bedtime – usually one or two a week. These started around the time she started to struggle to get to sleep and I always assumed they were anxiety-related. She can’t get to sleep, she worries about it, she gives herself tummy ache.
I’ve never doubted that the tummy aches were real, never thought they were a delaying tactic, but I wasn’t sure what to make of them. Three times over the last year she was actually sick at bedtime, then slept all night and woke up 100% in the morning. So although I tried to play the tummy aches down as much as possible, the first question is usually ‘you don’t feel sick, do you?’. The sick bowl comes out quite regularly. Just in case. It doesn’t make for a relaxing bedtime for any of us.
The boys just tut and sigh. ‘Does she feel sick AGAIN?’. I try to be understanding, but not OTT. I don’t want it to be something she does just for attention. For my husband, it’s pretty much water off a duck’s back. He just leaves her (and me) to deal with it and hopefully get her back to bed as quickly as possible.
The other thing I wondered was whether it was something like IBS. I have IBS and have some form of stomach discomfort every day of my life. It’s not much fun, but I recognise that’s ‘all’ it is and I just carry on. I wanted my daughter to be able to recognise a ‘normal’ stomach ache and something that isn’t normal. But what is a normal stomach ache for an 8 year old?
I worried that she would cry wolf. That the stomach aches would become so normal that I would just ignore them and one day she really would be ill. I warned her about this. I said ‘we’ll have to take you to the doctor’s if this carries on’. She doesn’t like going to the doctor’s. If it wasn’t ‘real’, maybe that would help it stop?
My daughter’s bedtime drink of choice is orange juice, after we cut out milk following a toddler dairy intolerance. I’d wondered if that was a factor – it’s not exactly settling on the stomach just before bed and I think it had been a culprit a few times when she’d been sick, including when she got seasick.
After an unprecedented three consecutive nights of tummy ache, with the last one including musical beds and me sat outside her room until 11.30pm, it was time for something to change. She needed to see a doctor and she needed to switch her bedtime drink for something more gentle on the stomach.
If this post sounds a bit familiar, I wrote it before my daughter was diagnosed with chronic constipation and had to overcome her fear of the chocolate medicine. Obviously I should have posted it before those posts, but I failed with the school holidays taking over my brain! If you don’t know the end of the story, check out the other two posts!