Dot writes: I have a condition I call maternal tinnitus. It involves hearing phantom noises of children in the night. I spend so much of the night-time hours alert (even in my sleep) for childish voices that sometimes my ears provide them for me. In particular it’s Hugh I listen for, as Frank is in the room and indeed, let’s face it, in the bed with us. This morning I thought I heard Hugh a good half hour or so before I really heard him, but when I woke up fully there was silence. At one point I kept hearing what I thought was the sound of him crying in the other room, but then realised it was Frank lightly snoring right beside me. I also listen to: the buzzing of the fuse box in the living room; the wind; clanks and bumps from next door; unidentified creaking sounds; Ken (who only snores occasionally but breathes loudly); the voices of what if going round and round in my head. Because once I’ve woken up in the night – really woken up, not just shifted over to give Frank the breast – I tend to have pointless and anxious thoughts about mistakes I’ve made and things I should have done differently. I don’t know why this cloud of worry and regret descends on insomniac hours. Why can’t I spend that time thinking about how charming my baby is, or how Ken and I had a great time in New Zealand? But no, it’s all “if only” and “why didn’t I”.
The night after Frank was born the next door neighbours had a loud outdoor party into the small hours. In retrospect, there was a silver lining: that was one broken night I spent listening to music. Oddly, they were playing all the stuff that was popular when I was a teenager (early to mid nineties). I thought of sticking my head out of the window and saying something like: “if you really want to know what it feels like to be part of the Oasis generation, come and listen out for the cranky toddler and I’ll finish up your alcopops.” But actually it was Ken who stuck his head out, and when that didn’t work called the Guards. And shortly after a mysterious peace descended.