I’m an anxious person; ever since the doctor yanked me out of the womb with the umbilical cord still wrapped around my neck I’ve always been worried that each breath is my last.

As a rule, I like to keep my “anxiety roster” in a box during daylight hours but when the lights go out, the gloves come off and the whole gamut of fears unrolls itself like a long, mouldy red carpet.  The roster ranges from planning how to get to the supermarket to stock up on loo roll and mineral water in case we get snowed in – make that getting to the supermarket like, IMMEDIATELY, because if I’ve had that idea then so will everyone else and what will we do without loo roll and mineral water in deep snow?* – to existential questions of life, death and taxes.

Last night the anxiety roster comprised 1) rodents 2) interlopers 3) my family and 4) babies.  It announced itself at 3am, the coldest, loneliest part of the night when everyone who isn’t 19 and raving in Kings Cross should be asleep.  3am is way too late to call a friend without them thinking you’ve got yourself into a major situation and it’s way too early to get up and start the day with a swim or something.

So my mind, armed with its roster, takes over the night’s entertainment. I start off by decoding the noises I hear in the house; scrattle, shuffle, squeak, scrattle again – the mice are back, I’ll have to hide my face with a duvet in case they eat my eye balls.  Scrattle, rattle, shuffle again – that’s no mouse, that’s a crim jimmying the lock to the front door and I’ve aided his cause by not doing the Banham bit of the lock!  The insurance will never pay up now.  Did I lock the Banham bit? Come on, think woman.  Should I wake Beloved Husband and get him to go and check? Maybe I should do it myself.   Hold it right there, that would be a fool’s game.  There’s nothing between me and the door to use as a weapon, not unless you count the mop I propped up behind the bedroom door when I got halfway through cleaning the floor.  Its soft and yielding cleany head won’t cause much damage… unless I stand by the door frame and use the plastic handle to trip him up, then use my feet to clamp his hands to the floor until Beloved Husband comes to bash him on the head.

I listen again, the scratching has stopped.  Maybe the intruder heard my loud and violent thoughts and decided not to risk his life.

When more than five minutes silence pass I move on to the mental well being of my family and how worrying it is that my Dad gets up at 4am to check the temperature of the boiler so it doesn’t explode while he sleeps.  I fantasise about the conversations I could have with him to make him see the light, “Look”, I’d say, “being happy and calm takes time and work.  I used to be really anxious and now look at me, I’m fine.  But that wasn’t without hard work, Dad”.

Then I start to think about how a baby would solve all this familial anxiety; a baby would give my worried family something to focus on other than themselves; a baby would make everyone happy because it would always be smiling; a babywould give my parents the joy of parenthood without the responsibility they still shoulder with their own children.  The other obvious bonus to a baby is that I’d be up in the middle of the night feeding it so I’d never have to spend these awful, anxiety inducing nights alone again.  PLUS, who’s going to be stupid enough to rob a house with the lights on and a woman breastfeeding in the window?

But if I can’t have children then I can’t bring this ray of sunshine to my family.  I imagine how my parents will react if I tell them I can’t give them a grandchild.  I see the tears in my mother’s eyes, the disappointment in my father’s face, the pity of our friends as they wave us off to America, childless but set on our dreams of becoming musical stars.  I imagine the robbers robbing our house when we’re not there.

Soon I am tossing and turning and spiralling in anxiety until the size of my fears compels me to wake up my Beloved Husband.

“I’m worried,” I say in hushed tones. “I’m worried we’ll never have children.”

He comes out of sleep immediately and speaks to me directly like we are in the middle of a conversation at lunch. “Don’t worry,” he says, “it’s all going to be alright.  Your parents can come and visit us in America.  Once they see Florida, with all its orange juice and palm trees, they’ll forget about having grandchildren.  Now go back to sleep.”

And I do.

*the answer is to melt the snow so that you can both drink and wash with it once you’ve made like an  Eskimo and pissed outside.

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