Last night was rough. I mean we’ve had worse, much worse. The kind of nights when my son woke up every half an hour and cried while my husband and I were frantically looking for the reason: is it colic? is it teeth? is it us? Did we do something to cause this fit?
I thought those kind of nights were long gone. After Kroshka turned one year old, I’ve been getting eight hours of sleep semi-regularly. Maybe that’s why, when he needs my attention in the middle of the night now, it seems like a bigger deal.
He woke up at half past midnight and wouldn’t go back to sleep until I took him into my arms and walked around the room rocking him. I was going to write “gently rocking him”, because “gently” is the kind of word that usually comes next to “rocking a baby”, but my rocking was anything but gentle.
I was pacing the room as fast and as far as one possibly could, constrained by 15 square meters. I’d rush to the window — 5 angry steps — turn around swiftly and make my way back to the wall — 5 more steps, so quick and determined as if I was walking to the office of my boss to triumphantly resign after years of misery.
My shushing sounded more like hissing. And for the life of me I couldn’t bring myself to sing a lullaby. In my head there was only one word: enough! In the past two weeks we had quite a few nights like this. Perhaps, yesterday I reached my tipping point. I was angry.
Angry at the situation: I set the alarm for 5.30 am the night before in hopes to wake up before everyone else and do yoga — there goes my early wake up call! Angry at my husband: why does he get to lie in bed — even if he is awake — while I do this? Angry at my son because he wouldn’t go back to sleep. And, most of all, angry at myself for being angry at a one-and-a-half-year-old.
I tried giving Kroshka to my husband, but it only led to more crying so I continued my midnight run around the bedroom. At some point I walked out to the living room where the curtains were open and moon light was streaming through the window. For the first time since I woke up I saw my baby’s face clearly, his sweet innocent face, and felt like the most horrible human being. “Close your eyes”, I whispered and he put his tiny hands over his eyes obligingly. “Who is this angry woman?” I thought, “Who is she?”
I don’t act like that. I am calm and patient. This short temper revealed itself only after Kroshka was born. And only at night. Could it be sleep deprivation? I have a friend with whom I shared a room in the dormitory: the nicest person! Until you accidentally wake her up in the morning by stepping on a squeaky floorboard. Being the person who always wakes up in good mood, I could never understand her grumpiness, but I think I do now.
My husband took Kroshka in the morning and played with him so I could have a bit more sleep and then a shower too. I came out of the bathroom dabbing my wet hair with a towel.
“Why were you so angry at night?” asked my husband.
“That’s a good question, I’ve been thinking about it myself.”
He looked at our son playing with a truck on the floor and said: “pau”, which in Sinhalese means something like “poor thing”.
“And me?” I cried out, my eyes tearing up.
It clicked in that moment. When was the last time someone said “pau” to me? When was I the poor thing last? In labor? You know in movies there’s always this character who screams: “I don’t need your pity!” Most recently I watched Steve scream that at Miranda in season 4 of Sex and the City, when he got testicular cancer. But, turns out, I do. I do need pity. Only let’s call it compassion instead.
It is easier to be compassionate when you feel compassion. And at this moment even I don’t have compassion for myself, only anger at being angry.
I want someone to say “You’ve been up every other night for the past two weeks? That’s tough!” “You walked ten blocks with a fifteen-kilo baby in one hand while pushing the stroller with another? Man, how do you do it?”
I’ve been the responsible, sensible, reliable woman every hour of every day for the past one and a half years. I want to be a little girl for one quick minute and for someone to say “pau!” to me.
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