Just to clarify – this did happen, but a few months ago. It’s taken me until now to be able to write about it.
Saturday night. I’m exhausted and go to bed at 9:30pm, falling into a deep sleep almost immediately. S is asleep in her cot next to me; I go to bed praying she won’t wake up for at least a few hours.
11:30pm. I am woken by the sound of knocking. I don’t know where it is coming from… if I ignore it, it’ll go away.
It’s not stopped.
It seems to be my front door.
First the brass knocker goes a few times. Then a hand knocks the door. Then the letter box goes a few times. Then the brass knocker again.
In my drowsy state, I lay in bed for a while and think maybe they’ll give up and go away.
They don’t give up. I begin to worry the noise will wake S. I don’t want her to wake up. I begin to get angry with whoever is idiot enough to be knocking my door in the middle of the night. My first guess is the bloke I was seeing at Christmas, on his way home drunk. Or another bloke who’s been sniffing around lately. I figure it’s one of those two, thinking it’s ok to knock on my door in the middle of the night.
I begin to get angry. After fifteen minutes of trying to ignore it, hoping they’ll go away, I storm out of bed and down the stairs. I pull back the door curtain. Through the glass I can see red flashing lights. My first thought is that it’s the police or someone. I unlock the door and open it, keeping the chain on. Ready to hurl abuse at whoever dares risk waking my sleeping child.
It’s not the police or anyone official.
It’s not the boy I was seeing at Christmas.
It’s not the other bloke.
It’s someone I always knew might come knocking, but didn’t actually expect to see; certainly not close to midnight on a Saturday night.
It’s S’s father.
He is clearly drunk. The flashing lights are coming from his bike, which he has brought up the stairs to my door with him. He is leaning against the edge of the balcony. He sees me and says, “howdy.”
Without a word, without even thinking, I close the door. I lock it and draw the curtain. I calmly go into the living room and collect the cordless phone and sneak upstairs to check S is still ok. Check that he hasn’t somehow gotten in here and taken her. She is sleeping soundly. I check she is breathing, as I do every time I check on her when she’s sleeping.
Every sound I hear is him trying to get in. I am sure I closed all the windows properly, and even if I didn’t, I had the council fit safety catches on them so they don’t open more than an inch. But he might find a way around them. He might find a way to get through the door, even though it’s locked and the chain is on. The last time we were half-talking via email, he told people, “she’s tired, the baby is teething. Teething is hard, she won’t be able to cope. She’ll give in eventually and let me look after the baby while she sleeps, and then I’ll take her.” This is what is now sending chills down my spine. I cannot let that man take my baby girl. I cannot let him anywhere near her. I need to protect her.
I go back downstairs and shut myself in the living room and dial 101.
The dispatcher comes on the line and I tell her, “My ex is outside my front door and I don’t know what to do…” Then I begin to cry.
She puts me through to someone in my local police station who takes my address. At this point something appears on his screen about it being a domestic abuse situation. He sends two officers out immediately, and in the meantime talks to me. We go through a series of questions I’ve now been through numerous times. But never while I was shaking, crying and petrified. Do I feel threatened? Has he ever threatened me? Do I think he will hurt me or someone else?
While we are still talking on the phone, the door knocks and I jump out of my skin. The man tells me to stay on the phone to him while I check who it is. It’s the police. I let them in and put the phone down.
The police tell me they have checked thoroughly outside. There is no sign of anyone lurking. I ask if they checked under the stairs; they tell me they checked the whole block. By the bins? Yes. On the street outside? Yes, that’s where their car is parked. In the car park out back? Yes, they’ve checked and there is nobody there. He is not outside any more.
They talk to me until I’ve calmed down a bit. Then we go through some safety precautions. They tell me if he comes back, they will come back. They tell me that keeping the chain on the door is all well and good, but once I’ve unlocked it, that chain is only good for the first couple of kicks.
They tell me that in a domestic disturbance where children are involved, they need to check on the child. One of them comes upstairs with me and I show them my beautiful S, still sleeping soundly and oblivious. I check and she is definitely breathing.
They leave around 1:30am. I lock the door behind them and put the chain on. Then I check the door is locked. Twice. I pull the curtain closed. I want to get a drink, but I don’t want to go into the kitchen; the window is right next to the front door and has no blind or curtain.
I go upstairs to bed, and lay there for over an hour before I go back to sleep.
Every noise is him, outside. Birds on the roof are him trying to break in through the skylight in the bathroom.
I don’t eat for two days. S gets sick and we both have to have a couple of days off nursery and work.
When we go back to nursery, I have a long meeting with the manager and the safety coordinator. I give them a photograph of S’s father and tell them if they ever see him hanging around outside of the nursery, they are to call me. Under no circumstances must he be allowed anywhere near my child. They reassure me of their safety procedures. When I leave, they are already arranging a plan for ensuring all the nursery staff see the photo as soon as possible: “I’ll go and sing songs with the room, and you talk to the children.” They are doing everything they can, but I still fight off tears all the way to work. Later, S’s keyworker tells me they have all been shown the photo and told not to let him into the nursery, and to call the police if he is there.
After a few days, we are back to “normal” – except now, the door is always locked when S is in the house. When I take the rubbish out I have no choice but to lock S inside of the house while I go down to the bins as quickly as I can. I don’t open the kitchen windows unless I am in the kitchen. If I step out, even for a moment, they are closed and locked. When I leave S at nursery, my phone is in my hand. I never switch it to silent or off. I never go further than home or the shops while S is not with me, in case I need to get back to her.
Looking back, I am pleased with my reaction. I didn’t speak to him. I didn’t react. I just closed the door and walked away from him. That was the first time I have ever even vaguely stood up to him.
I am not the person he controlled through eight months of pregnancy. I am not the person he managed to convince I needed him in order to be a parent. I am not the person who craved his approval and agreement for every action, no matter how small.
I may be physically petrified, but not mentally. Not any more. I will protect my child until the end of my days. He will not take her. She is too perfect to be tainted by him.
People say to me, oh, it’s been a few months now; that’s a good sign. It’s not a good sign. He plays the long game. But so do I. I have far too much to lose, not to.