She groaned as she heard the screaming in stereo for what felt like the hundredth time that night. Her 9 month olds’ cries echoed down the landing and reverberated through the crappy speakers on the baby monitor next to her bed. She felt like someone had mixed sand with treacle then poured the mixture into her already bloodshot and sunken eyes, to clot on the lashes and goop up the corners in a desperate attempt to persuade their host to keep them closed more than an hour at a time. Some hope.

Hauling herself from the spare bed to which she had consigned herself until the night feeds desisted, she fumbled for her dressing gown. Inside out. Fuck it. At least it wasn’t upside down.

Stumbling down the corridor she tripped over her own slippers. That’s where they were! What kind of sleep deprived zombie would leave her slippers in the middle of the landing, she berated herself, rubbing her elbow where she had knocked it on the wall. The next day it would be yet another bruise whose origin she could not recall.

Her back ached as she hauled the baby from the cot and he groped for her breast. Sitting there in the dark she struggled to stay awake while he snuffled and suckled hungrily. Her mind wandered back to her life before children. She had never appreciated how much sleep she’d had, for starters! And how limber she had been. Her years of ballet had served her well, her body had been strong and supple, and despite her slight figure she had borne him well, with an uneventful pregnancy and a calm gentle birth. The months since had been a different story. As the relaxin had fled her body she was left with back pain from which no bubble bath could offer relief, and a pelvic floor which left her dreading every sneeze.

She glanced down at her infant. The dim light from his night light illuminated only the bare minimum of his features, but she knew every millimetre of the visage from the hours she had spent gazing at him, in this exact position, as he fed from the body in which he had grown. The slightly upturned nose, the beautiful long eyelashes, the dimple in his chin, the soft downiness of his hair. She had never known she could feel this strongly about anything. That she could go through so much for such a tiny being, so much pain and exhaustion and frustration and irritation, and still feel a love which brought tears to her eyes and a lump to her throat.

She bent forwards to place a gentle kiss on his forehead, lifted him sleepily back into the cot, and tiptoed from the room. She crawled into bed, eyes closed as soon as her head touched the pillow, to awake two hours later to the same routine.