This picture breaks my heart. But I took it for that purpose. To re-break my heart, over and over. So that if ever in the future I wavered in my courage; or began to buckle under the fierce public denigration and hatred my ex husband has subjected me to, I would remember what I was fighting for.
Who I was fighting for.
This picture was taken at approximately 12pm. This was the standard night terror kick off. Typically three or so hours after I had put E to sleep in her cot. This was prior to E’s official diagnosis of early childhood trauma syndrome, but shortly after her diagnosis of chronic night terrors.
Chronic meaning, more than once a night. Typical night terrors most commonly occur once per night. Usually 2-3 hours after the child has gone to sleep. The child will not remember the night terror, this is where they differ from a nightmare.
Rather, the child will appear to be awake, eyes wide open, crying, fighting, when they are in fact asleep. When it came to E I could just about predict it down to the minute. In our case, Eva would begin to cry, I would attempt to pick her up and soothe her. She would fight, bite, scream and kick to free herself while calling my name.
It took me a long time to realise that in this moment, my baby wasn’t there.
Her self preservation instincts were. I would walk away leaving the light on just long enough to hear the tone of her cry change. E was back. Once I heard this, I would quickly scoop her up, lay her on my chest and tickle her back as she sobbed herself back to sleep. While I sobbed along quietly with her.
You know that new born exhaustion. Multiple that by three years.
One the first one kicked off, typically around midnight each night, these bastards would come almost hourly for nearly three years. Something as simple as switching on the shower which resulted in a thump in the wall as the water ran through was enough to start a frenzy. If the colour bond fence slammed in the wind, there went the next 6 hours of sleep.
You see parents, particularly those suffering from addiction, mental health issues or those prone to violent outbursts don’t realise just how much damage is done to the child.
They justify screaming and hitting as discipline. Convince themselves that violence directed toward the mother for example, is not harmful to the child. The most harm is done to THE CHILD.
I have never been to a real life war zone. The kind you see splashed across the TV or on UN television broadcasts. I cannot compare my experience to that.
But I have been to war.
Sometimes for E and I, it feels as though we are still there.
On the night this photograph was taken, my ex husband had been sending me graphic, threatening messages claiming to be outside my home. Suggesting I might need new tyres. Terrorising me.
That morning he had left flowers on the roof of my car. When they went ignored, he returned that afternoon where he had banged on our home windows whilst yelling out to Eva. Repeatedly entered out back yard via the colour bond fence, slamming it as he went.
The night before he had threatened to come into my house while I slept. Promised to be over at midnight. Accused me of wanting sexual attention then called repeatedly, screaming and hanging up.
He blamed my ignorance of his flowers the following day for his behaviour. He was just the good husband bringing his estranged wife flowers, despite violently threatening her less than 12 hours before. I was just the bitch tearing our family down.
All this, the banging, screaming, flower delivering chaos whilst 18 month old Eva and I cowered inside, careful to avoid the smallest of cracks through the tightly drawn blinds.
The terror of our domestic reality invaded my baby’s sleep until she could find no rest. She became chronically constipated from stress as our doctor put it. She projectile vomited whilst holding her bowel movements trying to avoid the pain of going to the toilet. Too often my house guests have helped me shower Eva, clawing the vomit from her hair whilst I scrubbed vomit from the floor and walls.
It became so horrendous that for the next three years, the rental properties I chose were dictated by flooring. Vomit proof flooring.
Aside from the terror evident in my daughters face in the picture, you can also see her intense empathy. Not a soul got left behind in her cot that night. No one lies alone in the dark in our house, even if that means very little room for mama : )
Until recently, E had been night terror free for almost a year. Recently however, she has experienced some issues with physical bullying at school and this has resulted in a rapid regression into her night terrors. For a couple of weeks now E has seemed more like the child in this picture, frightened, not wanting to go to school, following me around the house, upstairs, downstairs. In bed with casper and I by midnight after going to sleep in her own a few hours before.
This tells me that the scars are still healing, perhaps at the moment they’ve been cracked wide open. People don’t realise that Trauma stays. It lives in your bones. With Eva’s new night terrors have come the reoccurrence of my own night mares. Poor Casper tells of me yelling in my sleep in the morning….
Today I received E’s very first primary school report. The evidence of years of insecurity are etched across the page. E struggles to confidently volunteer answers or her involvement. She prefers to play when invited but prefers not to put herself out there.
She counts and recognises numbers and letters confidently at home but struggles to volunteer those correct answers and participate actively at school for fear of being ridiculed. Her reading and academic confidence is behind for her age.
However… TEARS as I read the following….
“Evangelique is consistently respectful and always shows excellent manners. She is helpful and always positive. She is competent in music and settles well into the daily routine of kindergarten. Eva completes all tasks and listens to instructions to the best of her ability. She loves Japanese and singing Japanese songs. Despite finding many activities challenging, Eva displays a consistently positive attitude towards school”.
This tells me that the kid in this picture is happy! She is respectful, well mannered and loving. That she is nothing like the monster who bruised her little heart so badly. That whilst some days can be challenging and scary things still happen sometimes. That while she bares the scars of unique challenges, this kid tries her little heart out and enjoys every minute of it.
That whilst I’m fighting the motherly urge to call the psychologist and enlist an army of tutors, I am doing a good job, and I’ve raised a good kid.
So here’s to INVINCIBLE little E. The Very best part of me.