My mummy shadowlands

It’s late evening and my 18 month old daughter is starting to scream.  I run upstairs and creep into her room.  She is thrashing around in her bed and staring wildly around the room.  Her eyes fix on me and she screams louder – I sit down several feet from the cot, tears rolling down my face.

I watch my daughter staring at unknown demons, shrieking with terror.  She shouts, but I can’t make out the words.  I long to gather her into my arms, hug her and whisper words of love.  I cannot touch her yet, I have to wait.  While she pants, screams, moans and shouts I examine her bedroom from where I sit.  The walls are in pastel shades, warmly lit by nightlights.  There are no big shadows, no pictures, no dolls, no clowns – nothing to scare her.  I know my husband will be listening anxiously from downstairs, unable to help.  My 5 month old baby stays asleep in a nearby bedroom, already used to the noise.

Finally the screams ease a fraction, and my daughter stops flailing so violently.  I creep closer to the cot.

“Mummy’s here, safe with Mummy.”  I murmur near her head.  She is still staring at demons, but she turns towards me.  “Come to Mummy?” I invite.  She turns her body ever so slightly towards me and I ever so gently pick her up, still crying, still screaming.

I do not hug her, I scarcely touch her.  I lay her rigid body across my legs and support her head.  “Mummy’s here, safe with Mummy” I softly chant.  My arms, legs and back start to scream for relief but I cannot move yet.  I stroke and chant for as long as it takes for the screaming to subside.  I ever so slowly ease my aching limbs and cradle my daughter a little closer.

I can start talking now.  I softly talk of grassy meadows and twinkly streams full of happy fish.  Soft sunshine lighting up the flowers and bunny rabbits.  Always, Mummy close by, always, safe with Mummy.  My daughter starts to relax and the screaming fades away as I replace the unseen horrors with peaceful, safe scenes.

Very gently I contort myself into a standing position, still cradling my precious, sleeping daughter, and just as gently lower her back into her cot.  She is sleeping peacefully now.

This is a ritual that can take minutes or hours.  It can happen once a week or 3 times a night.  It is the most exquisite form of torture for my husband and me, but my daughter is unaware of the anguish she causes.

Night terrors are aptly named.  My daughter suffered them for nearly 2 years, in an extreme form.  She could only tolerate me with her when they happened, my poor husband could only listen from another room.  So far, watching my young daughter scream in terror is the hardest act of love I’ve had to perform.

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Firewood and paranoia

One of my jobs for the summer was to find free firewood for the winter.  So when I saw a massive oak tree being felled in a garden down the road, it seemed like a good idea to ask if they had any spare wood.  The head man sucked on his teeth, shook his head and said that a lot of it was spoken for.  I sucked on my teeth, nodded my head and pointed out that I was only a couple of houses up the road.  After a bit more sucking, he agreed I could have some wood.

About three hours later I heard a truck backing up in my driveway so I went out to see how much tree I was getting.  To my utter amazement, when they tipped the back of the truck most of the tree fell out.  HUGE great pieces of trunk – about 5ft long and over 3ft in diameter – and lots of them.

My husband started to chainsaw and split the wood pretty rapidly as it was blocking his parking spot.  Despite the heat, sawdust, sweat and distressed carpenter ants running up and down his legs he seemed to be enjoying himself.

Ah, the ants – I hate them.  I never used to.  Those little black ants in England were so sweet (except the mutant crazed ones in our old garden that would chomp on any exposed skin).  I hadn’t really thought about American ants until I discovered some monster ants marching around my kitchen units when we first moved into our new house.  The quickly summoned exterminator laughed and told me they were baby carpenter ants!

It could be so much worse.  Last year, my husband was splitting some logs in the garage as it was raining.  After he had finished, he casually mentioned to me that there were a lot of white ants in the wood.  “Oh really honey.  And what did you do with the termite infested wood?” I asked while smiling sweetly.  “Er, stacked it.  In the garage,” he replied, instinctively knowing he had some more work to do.  The poor man had to restack that wood about three times before I was happy it was far away enough.

For weeks I kept a strong vigil of the garage and basement for signs of any intruders, all the time contemplating the practicalities of getting an aardvark.

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