Does the tiger ever sleep?

Does the tiger ever sleep?

Does the tiger ever sleep? I’m talking about the tiger that moves into your belly with the foetus, takes up residence and never seems to move out, just directs business from somewhere inside. Sleeping a lot, but waking up from time to time to protect her young.

It starts from the moment you realise you’re pregnant… that need to protect from harm, no matter what. For me, with all four of my babies, that meant I had to protect the baby from their father driving too fast.

“But I’m only doing 30mph!”
“It doesn’t matter, slow down, it feels too fast for me”

For some reason, I had to also protect them from alcohol. Not that I’d ever drunk a lot of alcohol, but suddenly even the thought of it made me feel sick. And coffee! How could people bear the smell?

Of course, protecting the baby also means feeding it what it needs; Mine needed various different things at various different stages… Bounty Bars, grapefruit ice lollies, fish and chips, and Bakewell tart. The tiger forced the baby’s father to drive miles sometimes to get these things, and often, once I’d got them, I’d gone off the idea. Luckily by the time the need for Bakewell tart arrived, I was in hospital on bed rest, and my lovely Mother in Law provided me and the rest of the ward with tins of the stuff… and very delicious it was too!

The tiger slept for a while after the births, but was always sleeping with one eye open, just in case somebody should do harm to the baby. She’d watch like a hawk in case somebody contaminated a teat with an unsterilized finger, or even worse tried to pacify a crying baby by letting him or her suck a finger!

Unfortunately, she slept through the two hours I left my first baby outside the shop across the road. Luckily, when he might have been in danger, the ladies in the shop watched him instead…

School was a very difficult time for the tiger. Handing over control to someone else was difficult at times; after all how could they know how to care for a child they didn’t know? How would they know that my child was different? Was more sensitive than the others? Needed more understanding? Might be being bullied?

And when there was a genuine threat to my child,, as when  two of my children were involved in road accidents, the tiger morphed into a wolf, who howled with the horror of what she might have lost, had the cars been going more quickly, or had the drivers had slower reactions. For weeks afterwards, I dwelt on what had happened, thanking God that my precious children were not seriously injured.

Over the years, the tiger/wolf emerged from time to time, mostly as a reaction to bullying. As the children grew into adulthood, I thought perhaps the tiger would move out at last, that I’d be able to relax, but no. At the slightest hint of criticism of any one of my children, I’d feel the familiar stirrings, even though now the criticism was most likely to come from one or other of my children, rather than from an outsider.

The births of my grandchildren were difficult times. my need to protect now also extended to my sons’ partners. I worried about them, wishing I could go through the births for them, spare them the pain. After the births, I worried about post natal depression, watched for it, and agonised because I understood what it felt like, and wanted to take it away, kiss it better like I had done with bumped heads when they were children.

And now, when my Grandchildren have to face something difficult, like a new school, or a criticism from a teacher (unfounded, of course!) I feel those familiar stirrings inside, and realise that the tiger never leaves… and she never really sleeps.

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