Call it adrenaline, call it maternal instinct.
But Tess Guthrie could not say where she found the strength to pry a two-metre python from the arm of her young daughter in the middle of the night.
In the early hours of Saturday morning, Guthrie, from Lismore in northern New South Wales, was woken by the hissing of her cat, which had been behaving unusually in the days before the python's appearance. In the darkness she could make out a strange figure in the bed next to her.
Reaching for the light on her mobile phone, she found a snake coiled around the arm of her sleeping two-year-old daughter Zara.
"Automatically, I jumped," she said.
"I don't know if my movement startled the snake, but that's when it started to constrict around her arm and then it just started to strike at her, and it got her three times.
"And on the third time [it was biting down on her] I grabbed the snake on the head I pulled her and the snake apart from each other.
"In my head I was just going through this unbelievable terror, and my thought was that it was going to actually kill her at first, because it was wrapped so tight."
Guthrie flung the snake across the room and made a mad dash from her detached granny flat to her father's house.
"Her little arm was bleeding really bad from the bites, and all I could feel was blood and Zara was screaming by that stage, and I was in hysterics because it was such a shocking thing to wake up to," she said.
"It was just terrifying.
"I don't know how ... I was able to pull it off."
She and Zara were taken by ambulance to Lismore Base Hospital, where Guthrie works as a receptionist, and stayed the night.
She was still in disbelief and reluctant to return to the granny flat this morning, but she and Zara were otherwise safe and well.
Tex's Snake Removals' Tex Tillis, who removed the reptile, said the coastal python or carpet snake was not looking for a meal, just a "group hug".
"Pythons, underneath their bottom lip have a row of sensors which evolution has equipped them with to see the world in infrared. In the dark, baby and mother sleeping in the bed would look like a lump of heat," Tillis said.
Once the python felt under attack, Tillis said, it started to constrict.
"That snake, if it was bigger, could have crushed the baby. It could have tried to eat the baby, yes," he said.
"And when mum went to save [the child] it could have wrapped her hands like the best police manacles around ... and then thrown a loop around her neck and killed her. It's all in self-defence."
This python was a junior, between five and 10 years old and 1.85 metres long, Tillis said.
Tillis said other parents unfortunate enough to find themselves in a similar situation would be best served immediately turning on the light.
"And then what you really have to do is grab the snake ... just below his head so it immobilises his jaw," he said.
Guthrie insisted that the reptile be released back into the wild.
"The other remarkable thing about this woman is that she had no malice towards the snake," Tillis said.
- Brisbane Times