6pm. Walking frantically around the neighbourhood with my screaming 4 week old baby. Trying to ignore people on the streets giving me looks that say “is she murdering that baby?”.
Texting my husband frantically, “are you almost home?????”
Pounding the pavement more, past the brownstones, shops and parks that I’d walked past so many times a day. I had a new constant companion, someone I couldn’t leave alone for a minute, yet I’d never felt so lonely in my life.
When my baby was awake, she was pretty much always screaming. The only way we found to calm her down was to put her into a sling and walk around the neighbourhood with her until she fell asleep again.
Sometimes this would take 10 minutes, sometimes an hour.
These first few terrifying weeks had me in shock.
Was this really my life now?
I’d wake from every short burst of sleep with a harsh thump back into reality. Often I’d cry when I’d realize that the screaming baby was mine, and I had no idea how to fix whatever was making her so unhappy.
I’d venture out to mother’s group, excited to be able to speak to other adults during the day.
I’d time the outing so the baby would sleep for the majority of the outing, and would spend the entire meeting swaying from side to side trying to keep the baby asleep, too shell shocked to speak with the other moms.
Their babies would be happily lying on the floor on their backs, either asleep or staring at the play gym. I felt like I didn’t belong in this group of happy babies and mothers – even surrounded by a large group of people, I still felt like I was completely alone.
Nighttime would be the worst. As the evening would draw near, I’d count down the seconds till my husband came home from work to help me share baby duty.
After a few hours though, when I should have been heading to bed to catch as much sleep as possible before the night of waking every hour or two began, I would make excuses to stay up, because nothing was worse than taking care of our fussy baby during those long, lonely nights.
Just me and my sad baby. Just me, frantically trying to calm her and let my husband get some sleep.
Thankfully things did improve, even if it was slowly.
Finding other mothers with equally hard babies helped. Opening up to friends helped. It took me a long time to be able to open up about what was going on for us. I felt like it must be my fault, like I was doing something wrong to cause this endless crying.
Once our baby was diagnosed with a medical problem that was causing her crying, I felt like a weight was lifted, and I was able to talk to people about what was going on.
I had no idea how many people were out there, facing the same situation as we were.
When I’d asked friends about what it was like having a baby before our child was born, they’d all said things like “it’s hard, but so much fun!”
Since we’d not experienced any of the joy that our friends had talk about, we felt like we were the only ones going through such a hard experience.
I now wish I’d been able to open up about our experience earlier. Once I was able to talk about what was happening, we found love, support, and a solution.
I wasn’t alone! There were hard, fussy babies everywhere!
Christine Knight is an Australian learning to navigate life in New York with her 11-month-old baby and husband. She’s on hiatus from her career in writing, marketing and advertising while she obsessively photographs and blogs about her baby’s first year.