I can hear my son crying and whimpering through the wall. ‘Mummy, mummy, mummy.’ But I can’t move. So instead I try to focus on my daughter as she lies next to me, curled up, with her soft, fair curls hugging her neck. But I feel very little.
I will myself to move but my limbs feel thick and heavy, crying out for more rest after only six hours of broken sleep.
Eventually I make it down to breakfast and the persistent, wailing, voices force me to rush around the kitchen grabbing bowls and plastic spoons. I alternate feeding myself with spoon-feeding my littlest one, then start tidying up. But she starts screaming to get down, so I leave it a mess and take her into the living room. My son is already reading on the sofa, so I finally sit down whilst they occupy themselves.
I cope quite well in the morning as the kids pull out all the toys and bring me piles of books. But after lunch I begin to fade and then it starts again. The emptiness.
I ring my mum to talk and she wonders why I called. I call my mother-in-law, the doctor, the dentist, but nothing seems to fill this hole.
My neighbour pops over for a cup of tea and I grasp on to this brief company, asking her ‘how is your husband?’ and ‘are you planning any holidays?’.
But all too soon she gets up, so I offer her more – a water, squash, milk? But she says, ‘No thank you,’ and gets up to go.
We wave goodbye with my daughter waggling her hand through the bay window. I feel instantly hollow like I’ve been cored out. I look at my beauties and wonder why I can’t appreciate them more. I love them, would do anything for them. But I find myself craving something more.
I make it to five o’clock, with my kids crawling all over me, counting the minutes until my husband will return to me. 5.30pm … 6pm …
I panic and make dinner with the little-uns crashing baking trays, drawing on the tablecloth, fiddling with the cooker dials. I ring my husband, but he says he has to work late again and can’t talk. My chest tightens and I want to scream and run. But I don’t.
I bang all the cupboard doors and my kids go on and on, ‘Mu-m, I want more. I want more. I WANT MORE!’ And the smallest one won’t stop screaming because her dinner is in front of her, but it’s too hot to eat yet.
Until I snap and yell, ‘I can’t take this anymore!’ I break down on my knees and scream through gritted teeth, as the tears try to squeeze out from my scrunched-up eyes.
And my son comes over to me and kneels on my lap to hug me. ‘It will be OK, mummy,’ he says. And I snap out of this funk, amazed; and I smile and hold him tight.
We calmly finish dinner with disco music playing on the stereo. And get up and dance and jump and spin around.
And then the loneliness calms down to a low hum, as I sit and watch TV with a little one clutched under each arm, until my husband comes home.
For information on coping with loneliness contact Mind.