Fox attacks and a mother's fears
I survived growing up in London just fine, but when we weighed up shifting our little family here from Wellington, I couldn't help but worry about how dangerous it would be. I know it's hardly Guatemala City, but there's no doubt I felt safer in the capital of New Zealand than Britain.
Yes, there would be the benefit of being closer to my family - but would London be safe for one-year-old Milin? My mental list of worries included the traffic, the knife crime, the security fears around schools, the safety of parks - the list grew weekly. But what I never once considered was the danger posed by foxes. That's right, foxes.
Today, a little four-week-old boy is recovering in a London hospital after being attacked by one of these urban pests. They've long since shaken the cunning but cute image bolstered by tales such as Fantastic Mister Fox. Instead, they're a feared and not-so-uncommon sight around London, their beady eyes often lit up in headlights by drivers at dusk on suburban streets.
According to the media, baby Denny Dolan was dragged from his cot by a fox who had got into the house. His mother had to kick the attacker, and the little boy needed to have a finger reattached and treatment to his face.
Listening to this on the news made my heart race. I felt dizzy. I didn't want to put Milin to bed. Were all the windows closed? (Of course they were, it was snowing outside.) My list of 'things that make London unsafe' suddenly had a new entry on it that was lit up in flashing lights saying Danger, Danger, Danger.
I felt sick for the parents of the little boy, I felt awe for the mother who saved her son from the jaws of a hungry animal, but most of all I felt fear.
Before Milin was born, I'm not sure I knew real fear. But in the last 13 months I've asked myself more than once, is there any greater terror than the fear a mother feels for her baby?
It started when Milin was just a week old and we were preparing to leave Wellington Hospital. I was terrified. I wasn't ready. What would I do? What if I broke him, or dropped him, or if he didn't like me?
Then came the sleepless nights. While Milin slept, I listened through the night for him to move. I would wake up in a panic - was he still breathing? I am still constantly thankful he is so healthy and truly, I have not known the real fear of a mother with a sick child.
Now he is older though, I still wake in the night afraid. Recently, my fears have been for his future. Will Tony and I do well enough for him? Will we be able to give him the best start in life? I don't think I have ever worried for my own future in the way I worry for his.
Most of my fears are, however, in some way manageable or possible to mitigate to some extent. But how on earth do you protect your baby from a hungry fox, looking for food in the cold British winter and getting brave enough to come indoors?
I know some people will answer that I may as well worry about crossing the road while pushing Milin's buggy. They might be right. The chances of being attacked by a fox in London are very, very slim. But I'd still answer that fearing for the safety of your baby is one of the most instinctive emotions a human can feel. And whether it's an irrational fear of foxes, or a sensible concern about a child climbing too tall a tree, I can't see how it's wrong to want to protect your baby. Take care out there little ones.