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Christchurch Earthquake 2010 - I am a Mother of Two Boys

By Michelle Forward - 8th September 2010

image from inervegas Flickr

I am the mother of two young boys (2 and 5) and currently living through the aftermath of a 7.1 magnitude earthquake in Christchurch New Zealand.  The earthquake hit at around 4:35am on Saturday 4th September 2010.

My husband and I woke up with a most horrendous bang and our first instinct was getting to our two boys.  I know I have never moved faster in my life. We each ripped a child from their deep slumber and braced ourselves in a doorway.  It was pitch black, the power was out, there were sounds of breaking glass and the toilet started a constant flush. There was a deep rumble that resonated so deeply through my body.  Our house moved in a way that is hard to describe and I had grave concerns how we were going to get through this.  There were jolts as well as swaying and it seemed an eternity.

Our boys sleep with a night light on and this was their first concern, the complete darkness.  Mr 5 was quite chirpy and was yakking away through the experience, whereas Mr 2 kept grabbing my arms to ensure a tight embrace.  He was so quiet.

I sat in the doorway hugging Mr 2 so tight and I was filled with the enormity of absolute lack of control.  As a mother I try and run a tight ship for our household, but there I was, unable to ensure anything.  I had no idea what we were going to find once the shaking stopped. 

It was about an hour before we left the doorways and a beautiful blue sky day was dawning.  We were one of the incredibly lucky ones that had a house that withstood the violent shaking.  Not many items fell off shelves.  Doors of cupboards opened but their contents remained inside; I looked around and couldn’t even imagine how that could have happened.

I think at about 8am I remembered to breathe again. 

We were also fortunate to maintain phone services.  Texts and phone calls flooded in to check on our wellbeing and I remember thinking how strange it was that people all over the world were seeing pictures of this disaster and we were in a house looking out to an undamaged neighbourhood.  I can’t imagine how difficult it would have been if our house was uninhabitable.

I thought as the day went on that the worst was over, but once the adrenalin subsided, I became very teary.  We dealt with aftershocks on a constant basis. The boys went about their day as they normally would, but as darkness came I noticed a change in their demeanour. 

We talked with the boys about what had happened and tried to keep their routines the same.  I let them know that I had been scared too, but I kept my teary conversations with friends and family in a different room, out of ear shot.  It seemed to help to allow the boys to deal with what was happening at the time and returning to play once the shocks were over.  Having a secret stash of new Lego in the cupboard also helped the boys return to a familiar, enjoyable activity.  My husband and I decided to put the boys to bed in the normal way and then once they were asleep I went and slept in Mr 5’s bed.  I needed to be there for my own peace of mind.

In the days which have followed we have been subjected to around 200 aftershocks apparently.  Cruelly, the largest, most violent ones have been at night.  People are in constant fear of sleeping. Last night was fairly quiet and the aftershocks had reduced in magnitude, but this morning we were hit with a 5.1 quake which was the most violent since Saturday.

The schools and early learning centres have been closed for the week which has meant I have been able to keep the boys in close proximity to me.  I don’t know how I will be able to physically walk away from them once school opens and I return to work? 

There are many children out there that are understandably traumatised.  There are links on the Christchurch City Council website with ideas on dealing with trauma.  Keep talking to friends and family.  We are all going through it together which is somehow reassuring. 

One thing I have found so wonderful, is the lack of staunchness people are exhibiting.  There has been  honesty - people have been able to express their fears and talk about their concerns. 

This earthquake has broken buildings but reinforced our community.

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