The fourth floorboard on my landing creaks. When my partner hears the repetitive sound late at night he knows my anxiety is back and my "checking" has started again.
I have to check. I have to know that the scenario I have created in my head isn't playing out behind that door. Behind that door is where my daughter sleeps, completely unaware that this is the eighth time I have been in to her room to film her making that weird sound she makes in her sleep. Footage that I will later show to health professionals in hope of any form of reassurance that it's a normal noise. Which it is, because it's a sniff.
When I first found out I was pregnant, the scenarios that played out in my mind didn't involve me sitting next to my newborn's cot and crying with fear. The scenarios were of me blossoming into motherhood and handling the night time feeds like a boss. I'd never put a pillow over my head or say "I just don't know what to do." I wouldn't be constantly afraid of my baby getting an illness, and her "symptoms" wouldn't change depending on articles that had popped up on my news feed that day. My friends wouldn't have to watch what they said around me, nor would a turn of phrase suggesting my baby was pulling a strange face make me go home and stop answering calls. No, in my head everything would be exactly as I was led to believe it could be. "Hard work, but you will love every moment of it" and I did love moments of it, until a tiny doubt about my daughter's health crept into my mind and slowly consumed any rational thoughts I had leaving me standing in public spaces, zoned out and shaking.
I would watch other new mums in my baby groups and be so jealous of them. Their baby wasn't showing any signs of having a rare Crimean-Congo Haemorrhagic fever. They were so relaxed and never once did I get the inkling that their worries were devouring them.
That was until I asked them. Once I was strong enough to let other people know that I felt terrified 23 hours a day (an episode of HBO's Girls each day allowed me a little break) everything changed. The resounding "me too" felt euphoric to me. I was almost giddy to know that the mums I had been envious of were feeling equally as terrified as me. Their fears and worries were caused by all manner of things that I would never have even considered. The comfort of knowing this helped me more than any counselling session.
I continued to go to the baby groups that I had previously dreaded, even when my daughter was too old to be held in my arms and sung to. I would pay my £1.50 and sit in a room full of other mums and we would talk about which wipes we were terrified of that week, or which fruit had the greatest choking risk and although this didn't rid me of anxiety, it felt great to know that other squeaky floorboards would be sounding in the night along with mine.