Apr 28, 2011  •  In Baby, Claire, Motherhood, Personal


I just had a mommy breakdown.

J was about to leave for work when I burst into tears. He decided to work from home this morning and ordered to go get some rest.

But how could I, when I am surrounded by a thick fog of guilt? How could I, when there are dishes to be done, tables to be cleared, and laundry to be put away?

Oh, yes, and we can’t forget the crying baby.

Let’s back up a little here…

Claire has also been extra fussy, extra needy, and extra cranky for the past month or so. She even cries when I hold her tight, which she hasn’t done since she had colic. We can only blame it on teething, because we haven’t changed her diet, routine, or anything else.

Her sleep has also returned to her pre-sleep-training days. She will fight bedtime tooth and nail. She used to love getting baths but now she will cry through bathtime as well because she knows that it is part of her bedtime routine. She will cry an hour or so nonstop as soon as we start to put her to bed.

She has also taken to waking up several times a night again and refusing to go back to sleep.

All the methods that we used for sleep training the first time seem to have little to no effect on my baby now. I have tried extending the length of time between naps, shortening them, cutting out a nap, and/or instituting an earlier bedtime. No help. Additionally, how can we bear to go through sleep training again when we know that she is in so much discomfort from teething?

Other moms tell me that their babies became extra fussy a week before cutting their first tooth. Some, just a day or two. Well, we’ve been going through this for over a month now and it’s driving me absolutely insane. Yes, we still have our moments when Claire is happy and giggly again. But these are far and few between and I can’t help but wonder if Claire will remain this way until she has cut all her first teeth (which means another year and a half of this torture).

Pondering her next mischief…

Last week, Girl on the Park was visiting New York and I attended a brunch in honor of her visit. The Zhukeepers arrived with their adorable son in tow, and throughout the duration of the meal I couldn’t help but be amazed at how— for lack of a better word — chill their son was. How he didn’t mind that strangers were holding him. How he fell asleep without a fuss in his stroller. How happy he seemed.

Now, I consider Laura a friend and I am genuinely happy for her and her husband that they have been blessed with such an amazing kid. At the same time, I couldn’t help but feel a twinge of jealousy. I couldn’t help but wonder to myself, ‘Is this how babies should act?’

And when I came home to my own cranky mess of a baby I couldn’t help but wonder if I were doing something wrong for her to act this way.

The guilt continued to pile on for the rest of the week as I poured over various parenting boards and talked to friends and realized that Claire was still behind on most of her milestones. Was I doing something wrong in this regard too?

It’s because I stopped breastfeeding her. It’s because I don’t give her 100% of my attention ALL the time. It’s because we don’t feed her organic food. It’s because I was given morphine while I was pregnant with her. It’s because I had an epidural. It’s because…


That’s what J said as he tried to console me this morning. “STOP thinking you’re a bad mom. STOP comparing. She is perfectly healthy and perfectly normal.”

Then he sent me off to bed. (I still ended up doing the dishes first.)

And here I am, blogging about what happened.

Maybe Claire is the normal one, and I am the overworried, oversensitive, neurotic mom.

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23 Responses to “Breakdown”

  1. Annie says:


  2. Lida says:

    I have no mommy experience and therefore no advice, but it’s so evident that you love Claire and are trying your best. Be kinder to yourself!

  3. Stephanie says:

    It’s you! (I’m saying that with laughter, please understand) The guilt is normal, the hyperanalysis of what you’re doing/not doing/did do/didn’t do is all normal. Claire is normal! Because you’re a type A, and because you’re an analytical thinker, it is hard to accept that there are factors out of your control in parenting. Kids are, at birth, already destined to a certain personality and development. As a parent, you will be giving Claire stability and love, guiding her decisions, and nurturing her growth- but you WON’T be shaping her personality. The parents who have rock-star kids (and mine have been super easy) deserve very little credit. Maybe establishing a routine is an accomplishment. Perhaps a variety of foods and toys are important. But, truly, your child is doing things on her terms, at her pace, and with her own personality.

    That was rambling. The point is DON’T BEAT YOURSELF UP. Don’t take it personally. You have a ton on your plate right now, so take one bite at a time.

  4. Ann says:

    You are a great mother, do ever think that you are doing something wrong or not doing enough. I have an eleven month old daughter and she is barely crawling. When we go out and I see babies younger than her walking it makes me feel like I’m not doing something, but my husband tells me not to compare her growth/development with other babies b/c that will drive me crazy. And it’s true, I had to stop. She knows that mommy loves her most and would do anything for her and that all that matters!! You are a great mom. Don’t beat yourself up!
    I had a rough few months with my baby in the beginning, but it got better. She has become alot easier and I have been finally able to enjoy her as a baby.
    Hang in there!!!

  5. Courtney says:

    I take the Dog Whisperer approach. You know how people always say dogs can sense fear so you have to act like you’re in control and not afraid? And Caesar Milan says you must be a CALM and ASSERTIVE pack leader. Well that’s what I (try to) do with my baby.

    I try really hard to keep an even keel. Don’t let things get to me. When she’s really worked up over something- in a restaurant, and people are looking, and I’m trying to nurse her under the nursing cover without the whole place seeing my boob, and then deciding to pack up the food and leave because we’re ruining everyone’s meal with our screaming baby- I start to feel anxious, stressed, embarrassed, etc. However, I know that if my daughter senses my stress and tension she’ll get more stressed and upset. So I work really hard to reign it in and stay calm- and if I can’t really, actually stay calm, I at least try really hard to project a calm demeanor.

    A friend’s parents had their first grandchild 2 months before my daughter was born. The comparisons were non-stop. Their conclusion- I’m such a calm, easygoing mom and my daughter is so pleasant and well-adjusted (compared to their DIL and granddaughter). That convinced me that my attempts to project the calm demeanor I don’t always feel worked, because they thought I was so calm.

    And truth be told, the other bit of Dog Whisperer advice I take is to not provide affection during behaviors/feelings I don’t want to enforce. Obviously that didn’t apply early on, because infants can’t help but cry. But once she got older, if she was really upset and having a fit I wouldn’t coo and comfort and say it’s OK. In an upbeat tone I’d say, “What are you fussing about? Nobody likes a fussy baby! Hey, what’s over there, let’s go look out the window/pet the dog/watch the visualization on iTunes while listening to music!” And now that she’s (FINALLY at 15 months) walking, when she falls and gets hurt I just say, “Hey, you’re OK! Do you want to go see Daddy/ride your trike/get a drink of water?!” Distraction is my friend.

    So, my advice would be fake it ’til you make it. And even if it doesn’t work on Claire, less stress is good for you too, right?

    And remember- sometimes babies cry and there’s really nothing you can do about it. Her crying doesn’t make you a bad mom. You do your best to make her comfortable and then you let her work it out. A parent who is 100% all about their child 100% of the time is a crappy parent/wife/friend.

    Sorry it’s so tough. Keeping calming thoughts for you and sleepy thoughts for Claire.

    PS- When my daughter was Claire’s age and would be inconsolably crying about something, one trick that routinely worked was to put on any kind of music on iTunes, turn on the visualization feature and let her watch the colors swirl on the screen. It really distracted/soothed/mesmerized her.

  6. Kristy says:

    I just discovered your blog and love it. I read several other blogs but this is the first time I’m moved to actually post a comment. My son is 15 months and I have been enduring the same thing with his sleep. He did great with sleep training – so I thought. He has his ups and downs and his teething periods last longer than a week. I don’t mean to be discouraging – I have taken comfort in reading your similarities to my situation. (I also LOVED and completely understood the post about “because she loves me most.” Exactly my experience.) The only advice I can offer is stop reading so much and researching (that’s what I was told to do) and try not to compare. Meanwhile, keep the great honest posts coming. LOVE them. And thanks for being so real as opposed to a lot of other blogs out there.

  7. Yes, become a Baby Whisperer.

    You are just like my SIL was.. a first-time MOM 🙂 Don’t be so hard on yourself. Seriously.. you are worrying because this is your first kid and you have no other kids to benchmark with, nor do you know if you are doing anything right because you are a MOM

    I only hope I can remember these words for myself when I become a mom.

    Hang in there. 🙂

  8. LHR says:

    Claire is totally normal. You are totally normal. The fact that you’re being so hard on yourself is further proof that you’re an wonderful mom.

    Teething blows and can really change a kid for the time being. Cliche to say, but it’s just a phase. I know it’s still hell on earth while you’re in it, but one day it’ll just stop. My son went through the molar cutting phase for like 3 months. Then one day, all was back to normal.

  9. vir says:

    You are a great mom Jenny! And Claire is a normal, healthy baby. I totally battle the same type of mommy guilt b/c Kaelyn is consistently late in reaching milestones as well, weighs hardly anything and we had months of teething that came and went, and each time was as you described — horrible nights, cranky days, me feeling like a horrible mom. But it will pass. I’m right in this learning with you how everything works in phases with babies, and we just have to roll with it and try really hard not to blame ourselves and our choices for things that are truly out of our control. Thinking of you… HUG!

  10. Haiden is going through this same fussy bout at the moment. He cries and cries and cries when we try to put him to bed. He has yet to sleep entirely through the night and some days he is just as inconsolable (usually every other, because he ends up recouping from his lack of sleep the next day). When we were on vacation he was like this as well, then his first two teeth came in. I can only think that it’s teething once again. Between teeth he was back to his normal, happy self for most of the time.

    I always wonder if it’s because my part time crazy event schedule doesn’t always allow HUT to have a routine (which I do think he needs). I blame myself for not being at home all of the time. But then I realize that I just can’t do that. Each baby is different and mine is going through a fussy phase.

    As they all say “this too shall pass.”

    And it’s not you!

  11. Jessica says:

    I second LHR: Claire is totally normal. You are totally normal. She’s just going through a rough patch. There is (sadly) no possible way for you to insulate her from all pain and sadness in her life, so that’s not a realistic mothering goal. You and J are the two people in the world best suited to be taking care of Claire, and if you’re both doing all you can do, that’s all that can be done.

    Julia is not as miserable as Claire, although her teething is going about as agonizingly slowly as Claire’s. Keep in mind they also go through internal growth spurts that we may never see evidence of but it can still be affecting them.

    I think once you have #2, you’ll see how different babies can be, and how so much of their personality and temperament is inherent. I know it can sound bad, but it doesn’t really have anything to do with you (haha)! You can’t take blame or credit.

    But I’m pretty sure you’re allowed to blame hormones for whatever you want right now. Hang in there.

  12. Vanessa says:

    This is why I love you. Because I have felt the same way lately. Our baby hates sleeping. HATES IT. It’s nearly impossible to get her to sleep. CIO? Won’t have it. She would cry for days if left to her own devices. So I have no advice, only empathy.

  13. Momfish says:

    <3 Claire is lucky to have such an honest mama, that's for sure. I've felt the guilt before, too. Everly didn't sit up until 7 months old (well within the normal "range" but still later than a lot of the babies on message boards). I blamed myself for not practicing with her… yes, really. It was SO dumb in retrospect, but I beat myself up over it. You wanna know the real reason? She has a dang big head (like me) and her little body couldn't support it until she was stronger/bigger. hah.

    If she really is missing/behind on multiple developmental milestones – talk to your pediatrician about it, though I doubt it's anything serious. If they really have ruled out everything medical her fussiness could possibly be, then it's just her temperament and it's going to be like that no matter what you do or don't do, unfortunately. Will she outgrow it? Of course. Are you gonna have a bit of a tough way to go until she does? Yup. But you're doing great, and a break down is definitely understandable & deserved when you're dealing with a high-needs little girl. She's lucky she's such a dang doll baby. 😉

  14. K says:

    My son sounds like your daughter. He was a handful. He cried, he fought, he is a picky eater to this day. And my daughter (number 2) was “chill”. I truly believe it is just who they are.

    You are not a bad mom. And it’s totally normal to have a mommy meltdown once in awhile. It happends to the best of us. Good luck!

  15. Joolz says:

    Have you looked at the RIE/Magda Gerber/Emmi Pikler stuff? That made me feel much more chilledabout *lots* of stuff (but did make me guilty about the fact that I’d been trying to do too much instead! but I feel a lot more relaxed generally after going more with that approach, though haven’t been following it strictly) The book Tears and Tantrums by Solter is also worth a read on the crying front – very different from all the other books on sleep that I have read.

  16. Carol says:

    AWW JENNY!!! I can almost FEEL your pain through these words. I’m not a mother yet but I always think about how the heck we can possibly compare milestones and babies when their these individually wrapped human beings, with an enormous difference of mind, body and spirit? I really feel for mothers in this generation who have all these fancy methods, foods, toys, and etc. What the heck — our parents did just fine and they pretty much just left us alone in the backyard with nothing! (or mine did!) You’re doing great Jenny!

  17. Kit says:

    With my little ball of terror (I say that lovingly) we believe she was 1. Bored out of her freakin mind being a newborn blob 2. When our baby started crawling/standing- she had a new totally different affect! Just you wait and see!!!

  18. Erin says:

    Thank you for sharing so honestly. You remind me of me a lot (well, I’m not as cool..) and I think I’ll reread this post when my baby arrives as I know I’ll have days like this too. You are a wonderful mom, and excellent job and choosing a wonderful husband!

  19. Emily says:

    Trust me it’s the baby~! :)))) My little boy is a ridiculous MESS with teeth he has four and is 8 months old and started at Christmas with the unbelievable fussiness and it took over a month to come in. I thought I would jump out a window:) He was inconsolable and terrible I will be honest. There aren’t enough adjectives to describe the situation. But I wasn’t the only one judging him, other mom’s would say “I don’t remember my baby ever being that fussy” or “my baby never hated the car seat that much” or “you should just put him down he will be ok that’s why he cries so much” . He literally screamed at me the entire I would get ready if I set him in his bouncer or seat to take a 2 min bath. I couldn’t set him down to get dressed I would have to try to juggle him, he would scream the entire time in the car no matter how long. I honestly thought something was wrong with him and had resigned myself to this fact and would blame myself or accept depending on the day.
    I say all this to give you hope. Two teeth broke and I had the sweetest boy on the planet. I am no exaggerating he was amazing for over a month then it started again and lasted over a month again… OMG.
    But then they broke and he’s had a break.
    He just started babbling and saying dadda and mamaa and pulling up. I think that when they are in so much pain it does slow them down a little.
    Natural teething remedies and tylenol and motrin and orajel all kind of help for a little while but not all at once:)
    And for you.. TAKE a BREAK and get out of house everytime you can.. Seriously it will help at least not hear the annoying fussing, and you love her more than words and her crying bothers you the most trust me.


  20. You know well that I completely understand where you are right now. I have no sage advice other than it sucks and then it gets better. I particulary appreciated this from your post:

    At the same time, I couldn’t help but feel a twinge of jealousy. I couldn’t help but wonder to myself, ‘Is this how babies should act?’

    And when I came home to my own cranky mess of a baby I couldn’t help but wonder if I were doing something wrong for her to act this way.

    Man is it hard to be out and about with chill babies and come home to your own not-so-chill one. Thank you for your honesty.

  21. Laura says:

    Awwww Jenny, I am so so sorry that we played any part in this!!! I can tell you that the difference is definitely NOT anything that we or you did – like you said, Sam is just a chill baby for the most part. It really is amazing how differently he behaves from day to day when WE do everything exactly the same; and now that he’s getting his SECOND tooth, he’s having a lot more trouble (a bunch of night wakings etc) than he did with the first tooth. It really is just That’s How Sam Is…. A friend of mine had her second baby not too long ago and one of the first things she told me about her was “Wow, I thought I was doing something right with the first one, but now I see that my parenting had absolutely zero effect – she was just an easy baby and this one is a difficult one.” So as grateful as we are that Sam is generally a chill baby (for the moment) we are not so foolish as to think that it’s because of our superior parenting for a single second!! I hope your second baby is the chillest baby ever not just so you get a bit of a break, but also to show you that you certainly aren’t doing anything to MAKE Claire this way!! Best of luck and I hope things improve rapidly now that the long-awaited teeth are finally here!!!!! XOXOXOXO

    • Laura, I’m sorry if you felt bad at all about this post because that was not my intention at all. I totally understand that some babies are just easier/harder than others, and I’m glad that you agree with me (even though I might not always seem like it) that parenting can only go so far in terms of babies’ personalities. I really am happy for you that Sam is such a cool baby. 🙂

  22. Val says:

    Take her to the chiropractor for an adjustment. There are plenty who treat babies and children, and it can’t hurt.

    When I have a kid who is struggling with whatever, that’s the first place to start.

    I have some calm kids and also some more intense ones, and life evolves, sure enough. At times I’ve told myself, “It’s temporary, it’s temporary,” over and over like a mantra.

    Sending you wishes for peace and sleep. love, Val

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