The baby cried. He hadn’t stopped crying. He never stopped crying. 

“Please,” she whispered as she picked him up for the hundredth time that night, “please, please go to sleep.” 

He didn’t listen. Still shushing him in the gentlest tones she could, she began another lap around the kitchen island. It was amazing to her that she hadn’t started to wear a path in the flagstones but they still held firm beneath her slippers. She walked this way every night – like a ghost that keeps revisiting its place of death, doomed to repeat its final actions.  

She placed him carefully on the changing mat and checked his nappy again. It was still clean. She did up the poppers on his sunshine yellow onesie, cooing and talking even though it was obvious he couldn’t hear her through his sobs. She picked him up again and snuggled into him, breathing in that new baby smell that she always thought was just something people made up for films. But he definitely had a distinctive scent that meant he was hers 

Hers. Her baby. Her love. Her horror. Sometimes she felt like her heart was breaking with love. Other times she wondered if her mind was breaking instead. She was so so tired. She never knew night-time could last so long. 

Tears threatened to fall on his small, perfect head. She sank down into the armchair by the Aga, still holding him close, humming an age-old lullaby. 

Outside, the moon inched its way across the star-strewn sky. It was the only sign that time was still passing, and that she wasn’t caught in an eternal Groundhog Day. 

Eventually – an hour? Two hours? A day? – a new sound pierced the fog in her brain. The first note of birdsong. She opened her eyes and realized why she could hear it; her son was curled up asleep on her chest, all his fury spent. Outside, the eastern edge of the sky began to turn a dull pink. She’d made it. Hope fluttered lightly in her chest. 

She’d made it. 

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2 years ago

Anyone who’s walked the floor with a sleepless infant knows this story, but it’s made fresh here. We’re with the young mother as she tries to comfort her crying child hour after hour, and relieved when dawn, bringing “the first note of birdsong” signals the end of the long night. Masterful use of sounds to tell the story.

Linda Rock
Linda Rock(@linda-rock)
2 years ago

Zelda, your story took me right back to those sleepless nights with my first born. I’m always drawn to a story that I can totally relate to and yours was just that. I loved the ending that ‘she’d made it’ because I imagine that is what all mothers feel at the end of a long night. I hope to read more from you.

Carrie OLeary
Carrie OLeary(@carrie-oleary)
2 years ago

Brings back memories of my second. He had milk intolerance, but until it was picked up I was like a zombie. Then he started on solids and he had such bad stomach cramps all the time that he couldn’t lie flat. Later diagnosed as gluten and egg intolerance. He grew out of it all eventually, he’d been a bit premature and they said his stomach hadn’t matured properly at birth, but those… Read more »

Eric Radcliffe
Eric Radcliffe(@eric-radcliffe)
2 years ago

Hello Zelda, I’m always amazed at the strength that mothers have, it is boundless, and you expressed this in your story. Your heart was breaking, but it never did, and why? A Mother’s Love. A wonderful story of a mother and the child she loves. Well written Zelda.

Alan Kemister
Alan Kemister(@alan-kemister)
2 years ago

Very well done. Takes me back many decades to when I was a parent of a young child. Fathers can also relate to the idea of watching the sun come up while trying to quiet a ceaselessly crying baby.

Genya Johnson
Genya Johnson(@genya-johnson)
2 years ago

This brought back so many memories and I’m sure many new mums would relate to this. You captured the scene perfectly, the walking backwards and forwards and the crying. A heartfelt story.

Christer Norrlof
Christer Norrlof(@christer-norrlof)
2 years ago

Oh yes, also fathers get deeply involved in this nightly experience with babies, and your story works very well in reminding me of that time. It’s very well written and I love it the way you portray the ambivalence between the love, care and caution for the baby with the desperation, tiredness and utter horror of sleep deprivation. I hope you can sleep better these days.

2 years ago

As others have noted, your story brings back a lot of memories, Zelda. In retrospect, those were very sweet times, even though we wondered if/how we would survive them. Thanks for a great read and for preserving a special moment in time.

Lotchie Carmelo
Lotchie Carmelo(@lotchie-carmelo)
2 years ago

I can relate to this story. Those sleepless nights, those back pain, and those headaches. As a mother, you can conquer all for the sake of your child. A mother’s love is gentle and kind. You visualize perfectly the role of the mother of your story. Thank you for sharing this with us. Hope to read more from you. 

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