– Woolston, Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand

I wrote this a week after the Sept 4th earthquake.

This week has been the longest, yet shortest of my life.

A week ago I was making dinner, putting on the dishwasher, going to bed a little late so not doing the dishes because they’d still be there in the morning. My house was clean, well the kids rooms, kitchen and lounge which is something which is rare in this house but was my new mission. I was working out what cleaning I was going to do the next day so my house could start to look like something I could be proud of. Little was I to know what was to come.

Saturday 4th September, 4.35am. Shaking, some thing’s not right, I usually stay in bed on edge when there’s an earthquake but something was different, something was not right with the sounds I was hearing. Mark bolted and grabbed Morgan, I raced and grabbed Lauren then just stood under her door frame, something hit me, (turns out it was our fire extinguisher, I was very lucky I was hit in the shin and that neither Lauren or I was hit in the head), I was screaming in my head, the sound was something else, a wobbling banging sound, something I can’t describe and certainly hope I never hear again. It was still, raced over to Mark and Morgan and just sat in the door frame with the two kids while Mark sorted us out light, grabbed Morgan’s duvet, it was so lovely and warm. Mark was running around checking on things, checking on neighbours, all the time I just wanted him with us. The power went out during the shaking so it was difficult to use phones and the like. After a little while we moved into Laurens room as there are toys in there to keep the kids entertained, there was no way I was going back to sleep after that and wasn’t expecting the kids to either. I text Mum straight away as I didn’t want her waking and hearing the news and wondering if we were ok, I ended up ringing their home phone and waking them up, I knew they couldn’t do anything but just the thought that they knew was comforting. I left it till a slightly more reasonable time to text my best friend and sister to let them know, again not wanting them to wake and worry.

Day was starting to break, it was the eeriest thing, all was quiet and still, apart from the occasional aftershock. I’d been listening to the radio through headphones as all we had was a little radio walkman and no speakers to use. I knew that buildings were down, that roads were torn up, I was trying to be strong for the kids. Once the sun was up enough we went for a wander around to see what had happened immediately around us, we got off very lightly. Out came the camping gear to boil water/milk so we could have hot drinks and breakfast. The power came on at 10.30am, in the meantime we had located our old corded phone and plugged it in to take strain off the cell network and our batteries that we didn’t know how long we’d have to rely on. Mark’s work had called, he works on the roads so in events like this they’re called out to assist, he told them he was staying home. We located the cat who’d been missing since the outset, he was hiding in the far corner under Morgan’s bed, this has proven to be his safe place since and we’ve found him back there a number of times.

I don’t remember much of the first day, we got the kids to bed then went to bed ourselves at some point but didn’t really sleep, it was a long night, always on edge, always waiting for the next shake, I was so scared that when I needed to go to the toilet I made Mark come with me.

Sunday morning came and the sick feeling I’d been coping with all night came to a head, I ended up attempting to throw up but my stomach was empty so nothing would come. Mark had to go into work for a bit, I was a complete wreck so I went to his parents place for some company. The feeling of unease was with me the entire day and again I ate hardly anything although I did force myself to try. Night came 8.30pm and it was off to bed, slightly better sleep but still not ideal.

Monday morning and I was calling plumbers to come sort out our hot water cylinder that thought it was a good idea to go for a bit of a walk during the earthquake, a friend came round in the afternoon, as much for support for her as for me, quick dinner then bed at 7.30. Much better sleep, woke to a few aftershocks but I was at least able to sleep.

Can’t even remember Tuesday to tell you anything more of it other than we went to bed at 8.30! Oh I went to a friends for a shower and the kids had a bath, then another friend came round that afternoon. Lauren decided that tonight was the night to be awake for 2 hours then Morgan woke distraught at not being able to find his water bottle.

Wednesday morning, Mark headed off to work, 8.51am a rumble, shaking, a massive bang, more shaking and a bit more of a rumble. We’d just had a decent aftershock, power was off again and I immediately called Mark to let him know we were ok but had no power, he didn’t realise how strong it was but as we were to learn the reason for that is because it was so very close to home. He was straight on the phone arranging for a replacement so he could come home, which he did and spent the rest of the day at home with us, was ideal really since the cylinder was replaced then and we went and did the groceries. Went to bed around 9 and slept quite well, woke to an aftershock but got back to sleep quickly.

Thursday I was on my own with the kids all day although I did talk to a couple of friends on the phone and Mark popped home for a very quick visit. Night started to fall and Mark still wasn’t home, the uneasy feeling started to creep back, as it does most evenings anyway, he finally called and we agreed to meet at KFC to pick up some dinner, was very pleased to get out and do that. Again the night went well, no kids waking which was wonderful just an alarm for Mark to go to work.

Friday has been mostly uneventful, my cousin popped in for 10 mins this morning en route to the airport to head back to the UK, she was in Wellington or somewhere like that at the time and was only in Christchurch last night. The afternoon bought a visit to a Playcentre friends house which was a nice walk away, kids are very tired though so were melting down at the end. Mark got home after dark again, kept Lauren up till he got home, not sure why but having them both up playing made me feel more comfortable.

So that’s my week so far, nights are the worst, I’m not sure if it’s because the earthquake hit at night or if it would be the same if it was during the day. I’m not fond of the dark any more, wasn’t it’s biggest fan before but I’m even less so now. Night brings on the nerves, the ill feelings and the need for adult company to feel safe. The littlest sound makes me jump at night although I am still a little jumpy during the day. I’m certainly not in a rush for Mark to start working nights again. At the moment I’m taking each day as it comes, there’s really not any other way to do it, you get better but every shake or noise sends you back a little again, not completely back to the start but enough to not want to be on my own.

The kids are coping reasonably well, Morgan is 4.5 (well almost) and Lauren is 16.5 months. They’re both more tired than usual so it is taking a toll on them but we’ve certainly gotten off lightly. Morgan has a love for making loud noises and shaking things around, Lauren is just demanding and starting to throw things when things don’t go her way, I’m not sure if they would have been like this otherwise but these are new things for them. We put a lot of it down to the fact that they didn’t wake before they were in our arms so all they were aware of was us protecting them.

What made us move instantly that time when others we haven’t I will never know. We are very lucky, we lost our hot water cylinder and have cracks in the walls that weren’t there before, but we have a house to live in and Mark still has a job to go to, we still have a family. We have a lot to be thankful for.

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