I woke up suddenly at 3:00 a.m., a full hour before my alarm was set to annoy me with its chirping. I tried to figure out which of my senses was responsible for my jolted awakening.
I could hear Ella Bella, our sheltie, tippy tapping across the kitchen floor and then her quiet whine begging to be let out, usually a sign that there’s an possum lurking on the other side of the fence in the back yard waiting to torment her. But, I didn’t think that was why I was awake…I’m usually a fairly deep sleeper and there’s the whole single-sided deafness thing I have going on, so it’s rare that a noise, particularly one as subtle as a dog’s nails clicking on wood would rouse me from sleep.
I could smell Abigail’s breath, next to me, as she snored softly. It wasn’t exactly sweet…she is not an infant anymore and her night-time breath is not the sweetness of milk and angel and kisses, but it wasn’t exactly strong enough to pull me from my dreams.
I could feel the tightness in my back as I stretched, but it was more the soreness of a productive weekend than any kind of wrench from sleep pain.
I couldn’t remember any dream that had startled me. I just shrugged it off to something I couldn’t explain and got up and let Ella Bella out, then came back to bed to sleep for a few more minutes. As I pulled the covers back up, I leaned over and kissed Abigail’s forehead and instantly realized that the sense that woke me up wasn’t might sense of sight or smell or hearing or touch or taste. It was my sense of motherhood, that thing when I was younger that I feared I would never have, that mystical ability to sense, on a primal level, when something is wrong with your child. Abigail had a fever, thankfully not a very high one, but enough to alert my senses and wake me up. Before I was a mom, I was sure that I would never, ever have that instinct about my own children. Basically, because I’m clueless and generally non-observant. The running joke in my family was that I would have a baby and leave her somewhere: the shopping cart at the market, a bench at the park, waiting on the platform at a train station. My absent-mindedness is something of a legend in my family. In spite of that, or perhaps because of it (am I hyper-vigilant because I’m so sure I’m going to do something forgetful that will hurt them), I do instinctually know when something is wrong with my babies. And, I wouldn’t have it any other way, even when it robs me of an hour of sleep!