It’s 3am. The house is still, quiet, sleeping. The clock in the hallway downstairs ticks softly: one two, one two, one… two. Outside, a cat mewls softly and a bottle falls onto hard ground, tinkling faintly in the distance. Between us is a door. Solid, yet thin enough to hear his breathing. Rasping and uneven. Faltering. Fragile. Underneath me the carpet starts to sag and I shift my legs slightly, trying to conserve warmth but failing miserably. It’s hours until the heating will kick in and anyway, nobody else is up so why heat the house?
And I wait.
He’ll wake soon. And it will all begin again. And I’ll sob quietly into the darkness because I know that this night will be exactly like every other night. Except that this night might be the night that breaks me. Finally I will fall, shattered. A million tiny pieces of useless motherhood splintering onto the ground. Swept away with the rubbish. Gone. Forgotten? Probably. Hopefully.
It isn’t this night that breaks me. But it is the night I decide that life cannot go on this way. There is something wrong with me. There is a loose connection in our relationship. There is a faulty wire that needs to be looked at, repaired quickly before it’s too late. I am losing my grip on normality, and fast. I am sitting, I realise, outside my sons bedroom door at 3 am, waiting.
Waiting for him to wake. Waiting for him to need me. Always waiting.
And the nagging doubt that he is not supposed to even be here clings to my bones, keeps me where I am. Everything that happened dictates that he should not be here. The silence in that room tells me he should not be here. The panic, the fear, the urgency of it all. He should not be here. So I have to stay. I have to make sure he is here.
And I am here too. Waiting.
He wakes, as I knew he would. And we start again. An awkward dance in the dead of night; a fearsome union of two left feet and painful turns. I don’t even know if we’ll be OK, my son and me. But I take him into my arms anyway and I hold him close to breathe in his smell. His hair tickles the top of my lip and the wait is over. And though the weight of him is solid and reassuring, my heart is pounding because suddenly, again, I’m not sure that I can even do this anymore. Its almost as if my arms have become useless lumps of meat swinging at my sides, holding him but letting him go at the same time. It’s almost as if he knows I’m useless and incapable as the cries begin to build in his little body. It’s almost as if we are just beginning, night after night.
Nothing to do, but to wait.