Fearing that I, too, would be seen as delusional, or simply uncool, if I told the truth, I stuck to the dominant narrative of resentment and fatigue, of post-childbirth complaints and detailed analyses of infant digestive systems. And yes, there was tremendous comfort in sharing stories from the trenches. Some days the only thing that stanched the hysterical crying jags was knowing that being forced to fashion a diaper out of a plastic bag would make a great story for my mom friends, who, I knew, loved their babies just as ferociously as I loved mine. It wasn’t that I thought I was alone in this emotion — it was that I listened, in vain, for its echo in the chorus of complaint. Sutures would heal. Poop would sort itself out. What I really wanted to know was, what to do with all this love? My daughter seemed too small to receive it all. She couldn’t even bear the weight of her own head.
Why is it so easy to joke about wanting to murder your child and so hard to talk about worrying you might actually die of love? Maybe it’s a hard-wired superstition that if we publicly express our delight at our children, the gods will hear us and smite us for our pride. Maybe all happy families really are alike. Or, as Jennifer Senior describes in her book “All Joy and No Fun,” it’s easier to find the words for the tough stuff: “The vocabulary for aggravation is large. The vocabulary for transcendence is more elusive.” We have a thousand words for sleep deprivation but a paucity of terms to describe that hour, just after dawn, when your child has gotten in your bed and is sleeping next to you, one arm flung over her head, her breath somewhere between a snore and a purr.