Perusing the morning papers, I came across this piece in The New York Times, The Sound (of the Crying Baby) and the Fury (of the Exhausted Parent), written by a man who is a psychiatry resident at Yale. I thought it was going to be about having more compassion for young, new parents who become overwhelmed and lash out at a crying baby. Not exactly.
It is about Dr. Rama himself and his profound anger at his baby daughter.
I don’t think I knew what real anger was until our daughter arrived.
Considering that infants and toddlers scream despite having been fed, changed, walked around, bounced, hugged and kissed, I am amazed by how rarely parents talk about just how furious our young ones can make us. I think about it frequently — during the day. At night, I am too consumed by that anger…
Those angry thoughts flood my mind when her cry suddenly cuts through the quiet of our all-too-short nights. The English translation of that cry is, “Tomorrow your 12-hour workday will be a groggy-eyed waking nightmare.” As her cry shifts into a throaty scream, I have sensed a slowly growing animus bloom inside me. I have felt my lungs fill with air in preparation to yell back at her. To make her feel as terrible as I do.
I understand what it is to spend hours at night trying to soothe a screaming infant, knowing that tomorrow will be a full workday. Nonetheless, I find the depth of this father’s anger to be frightening.
My fear is heightened into alarm by this:
Instead, again perhaps surprisingly, I keep my focus on me.
Before I step into my daughter’s room in the middle of the night during a maddening crying jag, I remind myself that I come first. I love myself first. I realize that these statements are anathema in a world that screams, “Your child comes first!” However, if I can’t love myself in spite of my constant sense that I am failing her, then I can’t really love her either…
I hear my internal alarm bells wringing because a grown man is experiencing extreme anger toward a helpless baby and personalizing that anger in a way that could be dangerous. It feels to me that this father may be perilously close to losing control since he has already lost perspective.
There are only 7 comments on the piece so far, and all have been supportive, praising the father for acknowledging the frustration of many parents. I understand just how frustrating a crying newborn can be, but this doctor’s fury scares me.
Am I the only one?