There are times when parenting is not all unicorns and rainbows

The year that turned out nothing like I expected

I kept a diary of my son’s first year. It’s tear-stained, probably breastmilk-stained as well, and it certainly has a lot of emotion in it. I was told to keep this diary by a social worker at the Newborn Intensive Care Centre where my child spent the first two months of his life. She told me to keep the diary so that I could keep track of the remarkable progress he was making, but I kept the diary because writing felt like it was the only control that I had at the time.

My baby cried a lot. He screamed, he screeched, he howled, he bawled A LOT, like a crazy amount of the time. He had issues with eating and digestion and sleeping. Oh so many issues, it was a hard year that first one.

When I read my diary back all these years later, my eyes well-up at the memories, my breath actually quickens and I wonder how on earth we got through it unscathed (although I’m not sure we actually did). There were days, I loathed it. I hated the sound of the crying, I hated the fact that he wouldn’t gain weight, I hated the fact that nothing I could do would comfort him. I wondered where the Johnson & Johnson shampoo ad days were or the scenes I saw in the Huggies nappies ads. Why was my life nothing like a Hallmark card and more like a nightmare from Rotten Cards?

Every parent has their story

Charlotte Hsu recently wrote a piece for Salon in which she describes life with her newborn baby Max, an “extreme” baby as his paediatrician describes him.

  • I loved our baby more than I ever could have predicted.
  • As time went on, though, I found that I did not like being a mother.
  • Everyone says, “Congratulations,” but no one tells you how hard it will be.
  • I often felt that having a kid was the worst decision I ever made. When one friend kept asking, “But it’s a wonderful time, too, isn’t it?” I kept replying, “No.”

That crying can be all-consuming. As much as we read that babies cry and that it’s hard to get out of the house, nothing can actually prepare you for the reality that is a colicky or irritable child, a child that doesn’t seem to soothe. We don’t hear of mothers saying that it’s so hard or so tiresome and all-consuming that they wished they hadn’t had the baby. They may think it and feel it on the really bad days but it’s the kind of thing very few parents would ever dare utter aloud. Which makes Charlotte’s piece so enthralling to read.

But I also lost myself; I had no life outside of Max. I became depressed. I started Googling things like “I hate being a mom.”

I was too tired to go out to coffee or dinner. One beautiful Sunday in June, my husband and I invited friends over to grill, then asked them to entertain themselves because we were too exhausted to take part.

On and on it went. Weeks evaporated, then months, as I bounced Max, performing deep squats on our porch. His little eyes popped open whenever I tried to lay him down, so to keep him sleeping, I took to toting him around the house in a sling.

People — family, friends, strangers — would stop to proffer advice:

  • Max needs to see the doctor.
  • Your baby is in pain.
  • Maybe he has gas.
  • His cry is throaty. It could be asthma.
  • Are you breastfeeding? Yes? You should try cutting cheese out of your diet. Stop eating onions. Stay away from spices.
  • People suggested that the baby was screaming because it was too hot outside, or too cold, or too humid.

Our doctor disagreed: Max was just an extremely fussy kid, she said. He was born that way. He was healthy, gaining plenty of weight, so we had nothing to worry about.

The reality is that science doesn’t know exactly why some babies cry more than others.

Sometimes the joy takes a while to flood through

If you are sitting out there with a screaming baby wondering just when the joy of parenthood is about to arrive, you are not alone. The truth is that wonder doesn’t always come wrapped in a nappy and delivered at birth. Sometimes the joy, just like the child, takes a little more time to settle.

  • Four months in, we are battered souls. We have watched our baby cry for hours, sporting what we call the “perma-frown.”
  • My husband and I are shells of the people we once were, but we can finally see glimmers of a better life ahead.

As a postscript to her story Charlotte wants the parents of colicky babies to know that Max is now a delight, and she is finally happy to be a mother.

My first year of hell also passed and now the only thing that I have to remember it by is the diary and the heavy circles under my eyes that tell the story of a year of tears and lost sleep. I sometimes regret that first year, I regret that fact that I didn’t enjoy it more, that I worried too much, that I should have done it “differently” but I never regret having my son. Exactly the way that he is.

This article was written by Lana Hirschowitz for and has been adapted for

This blog is not recommended as an alternative to advice from a qualified professional. If you're concerned about your baby, always check with your doctor first.


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