It’s 9:25 and I’m desperate to go downstairs. A programme I wanted to watch on TV started at 9 and I think if I can get down before half-past I’ll be able to catch up. Any later and I’ll have to wait until tomorrow.
My son lifts his head from the pillow beside me and tells me he doesn’t think he’s still alive. You are babe, I tell him as I ruffle his hair. His wide blue eyes meet mine and he gives me a weary smile. Somewhat satisfied, at least for now, he turns around and tries to go back to sleep.
I glance at the time on my phone. 9:27. I’m going to have to watch the programme another night.
I stand up off the bed and flatten the pillows before climbing back in. I may as well get comfortable. My son moves closer so his body is pressed against mine and I reach for his hand. It’s such a familiar routine I don’t think either of us ever consciously thinks about doing it.
We’ve been in bed since 8 and actively trying to sleep since 8:30. He’s alternated between a koala hug with me sitting up, lying next to me, laying on me and at frequent intervals sitting bolt upright. We’ve exhausted his favourite topics—how do you make cheese? What is my favourite cheese? How many types of cheese are there? It’s sometimes enough to keep his worries at bay but not tonight. Tonight each time he feels a wave of panic he shifts position. I stroke his back or his hair, sometimes both and gently tell him, time and time again, that it’ll pass. That he is real. That I’m real and that no, he is not going to die. Not tonight, not like this.
He’s quiet now and horizontal which is always a good sign. I hear him take a sharp intake of breath. I feel his whole body tense as he lifts his head high off the bed for a few long seconds and then down it goes again. He relaxes back into the soft pillow and I gently squeeze his hand.
I can probably make it down for 10, I tell myself. Time for a decaf coffee and a bit of news before I go to bed properly.
21:54 and he is quiet and still. I gently prise myself from the bed and stand beside him to see if he moves. He doesn’t. I wrap my dressing gown around me and look again. Still no movement. I am safe.
So I head downstairs, take a cup from the cupboard and flick the switch on the kettle.