Late Nights

by Shelley White

When was that baby ever going to shut up and let me have some sleep? His crying night after night had turned me into a zombie. I’d change his nappy, suckle him on each breast and lay him in the cot with a butterfly kiss.

No sooner had I edged backwards two steps than he’d be crying again.

Oh, please, let me have some sleep. Ten minutes’ll do. Honest.

‘Babies need to feel secure, like they’re still in the safety of their mother’s womb,’ the midwife had said, ‘so wrap him snugly before he goes to sleep.’

Sleep, sleep – chance’d be a fine thing! I’ll wrap him snug all right.

I swaddled his arms by his sides in the filigree shawl Grandma had knitted. A rosy glow came to the little mite’s cheeks.

I woke up the next morning having had the best night’s sleep in months. I hauled my legs out of bed catching a rattle with my foot. The baby! My baby! I ran to the cot. He was in exactly the same position as I’d left him. He threw me a gummy, sunshiny smile.

Years later, I’m reminded of that episode. It’s 2.15 am. A croaky voice breaks my sleep:

‘Alison, I’ve wet myself.’

‘Coming, Mum.’

I change her nightie and bedclothes. The smell of urine clings to my hair. I want to retch.

‘Who are you? Do you live here?’ Her eyes are wide, like a child’s.

‘I’m Alison, your daughter. Come on, back to bed, that’s enough questions for one night. You need to sleep now.’

‘Tuck her in nice and tight,’ the nurse had advised, ‘we don’t want the poor dear to fall out.’ No, we don’t.

‘Goodnight, Mum.’

The next morning, I found I’d overslept. I rushed into Mum’s bedroom. Her teeth were still in the glass and her lips were blue.

Shelley White recently gained a Certificate in Creative Writing from Lancaster University.

  1. #1 by chris on January 7, 2010 - 9:56 pm

    Love this story, very well wrote and food for thought

  2. #2 by Rachel on January 8, 2010 - 7:22 pm

    I really do like this story. It has real tension, I feel like I’ve had a work out! Brill.

  3. #3 by Fiona Glass on January 19, 2010 - 10:42 am

    Powerful stuff, beautifully written. Love the ‘endless cycle of life’ theme – skillfully done.

  4. #4 by Max Henry on January 26, 2010 - 1:32 am

    Beautiful writing and an emotionally charged story. Lancaster Univ continues to produce writers that enrich the national writing scene.

  5. #5 by fiona campbell on January 31, 2010 - 7:11 pm

    chilling, well written.

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