Some nights there’s not enough cake

It’s one of the headache-inducing paradoxes of parenthood that you are both wonder-struck and frustrated by the presence of this new person in your life.

So many days I find myself alternately longing to freeze this moment, to savour everything baby about her, and clock-watching, desperate for her bedtime.

I feel guilty even thinking this, let alone writing it. Yet there it is, the reality of where we stand. We sit in the rocking chair tonight. I hold her as her wails fill the room. I don’t know what’s wrong. Everything’s wrong.

Even after she finally drops off to sleep (her father’s doing – she always settles with him) I feel little satisfaction. I eat more than I should and wonder what measure I should use to gauge my parenting.

My frustration – because there is no word that quite describes what I’m experiencing – seems without direction. I suppose it’s mainly at myself. It can’t be with her because I know innately that none of this is her doing. She is crying because something is wrong.

I look at her and ache with love. It’s a love that just can’t be equated with anything. I want her to stop crying not because it’s annoying me and making it impossible to think clearly – though, yes, this is true – but because I cannot bear her unhappiness.

Instead I am disappointed by my own lack of patience. I am angry that even with all the resources available to me – the time, the knowledge, the energy, the support, the love – I still keep coming up short. I still feel like I’m only just coping.

I don’t want her to see this in me.

She’s started crawling properly now. She’s moving forward at surprising speed. As predicted, she’s into everything and I’ve got to keep my eye on her.

Sometimes she crawls to the other room, smiling at me to make sure I’m still there, that I’m still engaged. Then she crawls up to me and tugs at my jeans, fussing if I don’t respond quickly enough.

She’s off to explore it all but I am her safe place.

It’s a miracle that I am someone’s safety when I am racked with uncertainty. It makes no sense that her smile disregards the anxiety eating its way through me.

It’s as if those big eyes in that little face only see a better version of me – the person I hope I’ll become.

[she/her] • writer • unschooler • team Soul Farm • Revillaging podcast • breastfeeding counsellor • Trinidadian in Cornwall

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  • Oh Adele, this is such a beautiful and upsetting post to read! I’ve been there MANY a time. Every day in fact. I think it’s part of being a mum. Don’t be too hard on yourself, you’re doing a brilliant job. Talitha obviously thinks so – you should take a leaf out of her book and pat yourself on the back. x

  • everything you’ve written seems to be how every mum feels. You aren’t alone and you are doing just fine

  • I remember feeling this way so many times. And eating too much cake. When my son was between 6 and 9 months old, I got too little sleep because he was waking so much at night, I was a hormonal mess because I weaned him on to formula and had no idea about the emotional crash that would cause, and I think we were both starting to get frustrated by his inability to communicate. My husband and I regularly discuss how much easier it is to deal with an upset toddler who can communicate what’s wrong than an upset baby.

    I suspect the reasons for the upset are the same though – the usual suspects – too tired, too hungry, needing reassurance, sore gums, learning something new, and growing pains (he grows in major spurts – and it was only when he was able to talk that he could express to us that his legs were sore, or his arms were sore – he had no temp, so we didn’t know he was feeling so uncomfortable).

    Is it any consolation to know that this stage passes? For you and for you baby? And that sometimes as a mother, there isn’t anything you can do to fix the hurt or take it away. It is enough to just be there and for her to know you are there for her.

  • What you say resonates with me, but you know what, there is no one book for every mother and she may experience. Don’t be hard on yourself you are doing very well. And your girl is blossoming nicely, its clear to see. Sometimes it may feel that they are achieving all their milestones at our personal expense, I guess that’s part of being a mom. Sometime I find it hard sometimes I think that’s the ultimate love. 

    Take one day at a time. Rest when you can house work will always be there. When you can treat yourself and be sure to accept help when offered as long as you are confident you will get the help you need.

    I have many rough days as I have very little respite and not family to help. Its just hubby and me and my son is uber active, he still awakes at night. Now that he has his own room I co-sleep with him in his room so I dont’ fully get restorative sleep but as you say there moments in time I wish I could freeze. There I times I ask myself am I doing enough to engage him keep him occupied. There are many questions and no one answer works, so do the best you can for you and your family and you can’t go too far of the mark :0)

  • Everything you are stating is common and normal and we have all been there. Any crying at any age is frustrating, daunting and annoying. Yes you want to help alleviate her but often they cry because they are over tired or frustrated themself. Why not go to the GP and have them give her a once over. If nothing is wrong ie. constipation/colic (which can last for years acc to my GP) etc then perhaps you could take her to an osteopath who works with kids. I know mine helped my toddler massively in relaxing and sleeping as well as with his ear infections. You are a great mum so go easy on yourself x

    • We’ve had great luck with an osteopath in the past too. They are brilliant, aren’t they? She’s not usually fussy. These days it’s usually because she’s about to do something new. I think it’s a lot happening in the brain. Of course, I don’t appreciate this so much when we’re going through a wired-tired baby cry session!

  • It’s pretty normal to feel this way. We wouldn’t care if we weren’t anxious about their wellbeing or safety. And caring is our job as a mother. 

    A very emotive and beautiful post.
    CJ x

  • I have had a week like this with 5months. I bunged her up with baby rice and gave her an upset tummy. She cried for four hours three nights in a row. I was torn between hating myself for causing her pain, hating Heinz for making baby rice, hating how loud a baby could cry and hating myself for having no patience when my baby was in pain.

    Sometimes I have no words left to comfort her with. I just have to sit near, or rock gently, or stroke a cheek and hope she can feel the love I have for her – when I am too tired to tell her so.

    I always comfort myself with this thought. My mother merrily tells me how I howled at night as a baby. The doctor told her to shut the door and let me get on with it. She did. I have no memory of this, and I sleep, wait for it, like baby 😉


    • No guilt, Ericka, no guilt. I know that’s probably suggesting the impossible though. It probably wasn’t the baby rice anyway. It’s so hard that they can’t tell us what’s going on. It sounds like you’re doing a great job just being with her. That’s all they need from us. 

  •  ‘So many days I find myself alternately longing to freeze this moment, to
    savour everything baby about her, and clock-watching, desperate for her

    Are you inside my head?!

    You’ve managed to sum up thoughts that I haven’t been able to articulate myself. I think this internal conflict you describe is one of those motherhood things we can all empathise with. I often find myself feeling guilty for haviing this conflict, I know I SHOULD be enjoying and savouring all these moments but instead I’m thinking about when I get my next break from him. Mother’s guilt, you can’t win.

    • It’s such a complex experience. There is so much love, fun, beauty but it’s such hard work too. It’s unrelenting. Perhaps the best we can do is to focus on the former and not the latter.

  • I love this post. She doesn’t need to see a better version of you. She loves you exactly the way you are now. 
    I think it is so natural to have such conflicting feelings, I wrote a letter to Iyla the other day when she was ill which made me cry as I wrote it. I was so overwhelmed with the love I felt for her and then a few days later she spend most of the day moaning and I wanted to run away! I did then feel guilty afterwards but then we always have something to feel guilty about! x

  • Just started reading your blog and can completely relate to this post. My husband commented a couple of days ago when I had had a rough day with our son, ‘but you were all loved up with him yesterday’. It seems like one day or even one hour to the next you seesaw from the deepest love to the deepest despair…and then the guilt. 

  • This is such a familiar conundrum, please don’t beat yourself up about inconsistencies and feeling love and frustration at once – the only consistent thing about parenting is adjusting to constant change. Your daughter needs to know that you are both strong and fallible, and most importantly, trying, sometimes failing, and getting up again to love and mother and try some more.