Reflections on Identity

Mothering My First Child

A Journey of Guilt, Anxiety, and Love

Laura Friedman Williams
Published in
9 min readJul 4, 2023

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The author with her daughter in 2000

My daughter is nine months old and refuses to sleep unless she is lying in bed with me. We live in a one-bedroom apartment and her crib is next to my bed, but that is not close enough. One day I climb into the crib to see it from her perspective. I lie down on her little mattress, stare at the quilted bumper pads embroidered with pink butterflies, touch the velvety stuffed bunnies standing at attention. Through the slats of wood I see my bed almost within reach. I understand right away that it is a lost cause; she will never sleep in that crib, not with me a mere breath away.

One night, I leave her asleep in the middle of my queen-sized bed while I wander in the living room, cleaning and watching tv and forgetting about her altogether. Not until I hear a thump in the bedroom do I remember where I left her and by then she has a broken collarbone. Her arm dangles helplessly for the next week, but then she is fine; I have a guilty conscience from which I will never fully recover.

I load up on books written by experts who all say the same thing in slightly different iterations: the baby has to be trained to sleep. This will involve excessive crying on her part and tenacity on mine. I endure night after night of listening to her…

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Laura Friedman Williams
Human Parts

Author of AVAILABLE: A Very Honest Account of Life After Divorce (Boro/HarperUK June ‘21; Harper360 May ‘21). Mom of three, diehard New Yorker.