My eyes spring open and take a few seconds to adjust to the darkness around me. I don’t need to look at my phone to check the time, I can guarantee it will be around 4am, but I look regardless- it’s 4.26am. I wait for the inevitable to happen, the way my mind begins to race, the fact that all sort of different thoughts start flowing and that I just can’t switch off.
For the last few weeks I have been having real trouble sleeping. I am quite a light sleeper at the best of times, but I have been waking in the early hours of the morning and not getting back to sleep for a good couple of hours. Usually in fact I fall back asleep just in time to get into a deep sleep and then have to wake up to start the day. Some of the time I head back off to the land of nod relatively quickly, but most of the time my mind is so awake, so active, and I just can’t escape my thoughts. Sometimes my thoughts aren’t necessarily bad, I just think of things going on, things I have to do in the week, or even just happy things. But a lot of the time it is when my anxiety is at it’s worst. I find myself thinking of the most far fetched things, and I lie in the dark and my heart races and my mind goes into over drive.
I have suffered from mild anxiety for most of my life. In fact I wouldn’t even say during the best times that it is even anxiety, more that I am just a worrier and I worry about the slightest little things. In periods throughout my life it has got a lot worse, when Mads was born and was a week old we went to get her up from a sleep, and found that she was floppy and not breathing. That’s another long story entirely, but that was when it was at it’s worst, I spent the next few months of her life setting an alarm every hour in the night to check on her and my Mum even took me to the doctors as she was so worried about me.
I am not stressed at the moment, in fact I couldn’t be happier, but for some reason my night time waking and overactive mind have been getting the better of me. We have lots going on here at the moment, we are really busy and have lots of things happening, but I think more than anything I have just got myself into a bit of a pattern. Worries and fears seem exaggerated and large at 4 in the morning, yet when you wake up in the cold light of day they are just pushed to the back of your mind, there but hardly present. Hopefully it will stop soon. Anyway back to my story…
So it’s 4.26am in the morning and usually I would have my husband in the bed with me. Inevitably I usually tap him (poor man) and ask him to swap sides with me, as for some reason a change of scenery sometimes helps me get back to sleep. But he isn’t there this evening, instead I look to my left and can hardly see the visitor sleeping beside me. She is bundled up in the duvet, almost half way down the bed, the two pillows tossed aside unused. I can hear her breathing, slowly and in a perfect rhythm, and for some reason it’s mildly comforting. I lift up her blue and white stripy pyjama t-shirt and feel the warmth of her back on my hand.
My biggest girl. The one who when she knew that Daddy was away for the evening was absolutely desperate to sleep in with Mummy and have a sleepover. The one whose absolute favourite treat is to sneak into our bed and cuddle us close, sandwiched in between us with her limbs draped over whoever happens to be in her target. For a long time our children rarely came in our bed, they have both slept through the night from a young age, and as I was strict about their night time routine there was never really a chance for them to sleep with us. The only exceptions were if they were sick and we therefore had to clean up their beds in the middle of the night, and in fact LL has never slept with us as she isn’t as cuddly as her big sister. But after a bout of illness a few months ago Mads realised that sleeping in with us was rather nice and so once every couple of weeks as a treat we let her come in our bed for the night, usually on a weekend. She goes to sleep in her own bed as otherwise LL would be hysterical that her sister wasn’t there, but we get her when we come to bed and pop her sleepily into ours. She absolutely loves it and her little face is a picture of happiness when we let her.
But this particular night it is just myself and her. In my awake state at 4.26am I just stare at her for a few minutes. I can’t see her face, she is lying on her tummy, with her unruly curls splayed out all around her. She is perfection. At least she is what I perceive as perfection. Especially when she is asleep, she has this innocence about her, and I could watch her all night long. She stirs and rolls over so I can now make out the outline of her features, her beautiful long eyelashes frame her face, they flutter as she stirs under my touch. I go to move my hand which was still on her back but is now on her tummy, and she grabs it and strokes it gently with her own, almost as if to say ‘leave it there Mummy.’ Even though she is asleep, she is still incredibly affectionate and she needs me.
She is a complex character this big girl of mine. At nearly 5 she is still completely innocent, yet she is on the cusp of becoming a little wiser about the world around her. School will make her grow up, in fact almost a month in, I would say it already has a little. If I am completely honest, I am finding her little sister a lot easier than her at the moment. Mads is a good girl for the most part, but she is harder work at this age. She can be really hyper at times, as well as having her moments of not listening and testing the boundaries. But the thing about her that makes her just wonderful is her warmth and affection- she is so cuddly and sweet, and almost a little needy- whereas her sister is happy to play on her own Mads constantly wants to be near you and seeking your reassurance.
I cuddle in close to her. She has this smell. They both do. Mads always smells fresh like soap, mixed with adventures, mischief and fun. LL has always smelt of honey, we call her our little honey head. She whispers to me in her sleepy state ‘Mummy you are more beautiful than all the princesses’, she has said this to me a few times recently, it is her latest thing to say, but it doesn’t make hearing it often any less sweeter. She sees me, my big girl. I look at her at times, and I can see the pride and love in her eyes. To her, I am enough. She doesn’t see my failings, she doesn’t see my worries, she just sees me. Her Mummy.
These girls of mine exaggerate my worries. That’s inevitable. A mother’s worry begins from the second you realise you have a tiny heart beating inside you. That tiny heartbeat instantly becomes more important than your own. And then they are born and they grow and grow and the worries become different, but stronger. We will never not worry about their happiness and of course their health. It’s as if our own relies on theirs.
Lying with my big girl, cuddling close together, it is almost as if she helps me see more clearly. We can’t stop life’s worries, or stresses, or fears. We can’t predict the future, nor change it, but we can change the present. I can try not to lose my patience over small things, I can play one more game of Peppa Pig Snakes and Ladders instead of washing up the dirty dishes, I can stop looking down at my phone instead of at my girls playing kitchens and serving up endless rounds of wooden cake. I can be better than I am now, even if to them I am everything they need.
My biggest girl pulls me in even closer to her, and lets out a deep, contented sigh. I can feel her little heart beating next to mine. And it is as if my overactive thoughts just disappear, if only for this one night. We snuggle close, myself and her, and at that precise moment it’s the only thing we need.
It’s the only thing that matters.
Some unrelated photos but I just love them.