Sleep when the baby sleeps, cry when the baby cries. 110 days later.

Anais Gschwind
4 min readFeb 23, 2024

It was about 11.45 pm when I heard him open the front door. He walked past me in the bath because the lights were off.

What are you doing in there?

I needed the least sensory experience possible, I said.

Wine?

Yes please.

In stemware or a tumbler?

Tumbler’s fine.

He poured two glasses and got in with me.

It’s too hot

I like it hot, it’ll be good for your muscles.

We sit quietly in the dark. It always takes a moment for him to decompress after coming home from work. I usually allow him that time but it’s taken me a long time to learn. I’d last seen him this morning at 9.30 am when we dropped him at work.

I’m sorry, he said.

It had been a big day.

Everything has been big lately but today was a blinder.

There were so many tears, mine and Luca’s.

There’s the always looming pump schedule deadline, and not being able to go to the toilet, and trying to get somewhere on time and then today’s grand finale in which Luca scream cried for thirty excruciating minutes. We were 5 minutes from home when I knew I couldn’t continue driving and pulled over.

I don’t know what to do, I cried at Luca, begging him to stop howling. I was flooded with overwhelm as the cars and trucks screamed past the car windows on dusk. I’d never felt so alone in my life.

As someone who considers themselves a calm person, these moments of sheer terror and emotional pressure are confronting.

As my glowing social media flow will attest, my postnatal period has been a flurry of visitors, supportive friends near and far and a loving and present but often at work husband. It’s not been shit.

It does however conceal an interior world that is impossible to communicate, try as I may. I suppose no one really wants to hear anyone complain? Except me perhaps?

There is also this perverse sense that new mothers should be in a state of unbridled joy. Not just joy, but in the throes of the single greatest experience of love and joy available within the realm of human existence — apparently unattainable by anyone else who hasn’t had a child.

I’m not entirely sure who came up with this and I don’t know who to blame but it doesn’t seem fair on anyone.

Not long after Luca was born (the drugs had worn off) I flew into a rage because no one had told me what it would really be like in those early days. I felt betrayed.

It was as though everyone had concealed their lived experience from me. Anyone who remembers those first couple of months of parenthood as dreamy is either lying, completely unhinged or suffering from amnesia.

That said, some form of mind game is at play. Somehow, every traumatic event — such as a 30 minute highway scream cry—is wiped from the slate each time something joyful occurs. I guess this is how people end up with multiple children.

For each outing, lovely lunch, picture perfect morning scene there is also: the constant alert bordering on alarm while attempting to appear chill, the searing sense of time in terms of pumping intervals, the consistent rousing weight of another little life force to tune into and the associated key stakeholder responsibility for age-appropriate emotional and learning development of a tiny mind while also taking care of myriad domestic duties including a harrowing quantity of washing in all forms. Meanwhile, the dog, once queen of the household, yearns eternally for the languid walks of yesteryear.

All this work in the absence of an ego-affirming ‘actual’ job that seems the only valued form of labour and worthwhile contribution to ‘society’.

At a wine event yesterday someone asked me

What do you do?

I paused, then I said,

I had a baby three months ago.

Which is lie because it’s almost four months now and also because what I do is all those huge and tiny things I listed above.

I wish I’d said those things. Then I remember that no one gives a shit and I will revert to lying to everyone like the mothers that came before me.

I get angry that I can’t tell everyone how I really feel all the time. How much I miss certain things. How scared I am that I’ve rushed Luca and I along this reemergence into the world. Should I have stayed at home more? Have I missed everything? By spending time pumping milk am I not preferencing time with him? How can I even dream of returning to work? What if he cries? What if I become invisible?

Early motherhood is fertile ground of developing the guilt narrative that persists for many women’s entire lives. I get overwhelmed with trying to do it all and with not doing enough. I get obsessive about being present and terrified I can’t capture and keep every moment.

Then Luca wears a new cute onesie, or makes a cute face and I sit quietly or I post a story or I send a picture and my shoulders relax for a moment and I exhale, I feel truly, deeply, for a serene moment, how could anything possibly be wrong? He is the best baby that has ever lived and everything is fine.

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