Before I became a parent, I was sure that people who abused their children were other kinds of people. I couldn’t imagine harming a child and was confident I never would.
Then my daughter was born and I was flung into a brand-new world of joy and worry and wakefulness. Sara was a beautiful baby and I felt awed to be a mother. I also felt exhausted and overwhelmed.
One bright October afternoon when Sara was about six weeks old, I strapped her into the baby carrier snug against my chest and set out for a walk. But halfway down the block, Sara started to cry and wouldn’t stop. Finally I gave up and returned home, feeling hugely disappointed.
Feeling furious, in fact, that she had spoiled my afternoon—and I plunked her down in her crib where she kept right on crying. Suddenly I could imagine pushing a pillow against her screaming mouth and I ran from the room, terrified by my own rage.
Standing in the hallway, I began to sob, full of shame and despair. People who abused their children weren’t other kinds of people. They were me.
When I finally stopped crying, I noticed that Sara was quiet too and I went in to pick her up. To hold her close.