I fear myself

Twitching minutes
Cuckold my day
A red faced mass
Of tears and needs
Rages in a corner
Me, an eaten soul
Mind echoing incoherently
A knawing passion and
Yearning for sleep

I am an empty ship
I sail on glass
Ribbons of snakes
Glide alongside
My waking hours, plentiful,
Trap me in their nightmare
I punish myself
Pounding the pavements
Praying for forgiveness

Beady eyes consume me
I am a window:
but the knife sticks.


This poem was written when my son was 4 months old and my daughter was about to turn 2. For the first six months, my son did not sleep for longer than 3 hours at a time. I was exhausted and felt that I was failing as a mother as I was hardly able to function to engage with my daughter. In addition, I was in a very unhappy relationship. Lonely. Exhausted. Disappointed.

My Health Visitor suggested I may have PND. My doctor gave me questionnaire to complete. When he added up all my answers and checked my score, he, too, concluded that I had PND. And gave me anti-depressants. Which helped. For a while. They couldn’t take away the loneliness I felt, but I was less maudlin when I had a glass of red.

When my son was six months I introduced some formula, which seemed to help enormously with his sleeping. And I started running, which helped me to stop the anti-depressants. And I realised that I had probably never had PND. I was a mother with two small children. I had no help. I was exhausted. I was guilt ridden. I was lonely, in a relationship which wasn’t nurturing.

The poem was an acknowledgement of my feelings. An acceptance. Because motherhood can be hard. Because I never stopped loving my children at any point, but I had lost my sense of self. I was a pair of boobs which weren’t functioning too well because my son didn’t sleep very much. I was a crap mum because there were lots of days when I wanted to plonk my daughter in front of CBeebies because I was too tired to get dressed and go out of the house. I was a woman who pretended that everything was OK in a relationship which quite clearly wasn’t. Where was the woman who was passionate about women and the arts, about music, a good glass of red, discussing Socialism and who felt no fear when facing the world? Because it felt like she had gone. The Baby Gap. The gap between me and myself post children. The gap between me and the world. The gap between me and my partner. The consumerism posited as a solution to our parenting “problems”.

About Francesca Keayes

I am a teacher and mother of two small children. Motherhood has brought both challenges and wonder to my life. Through MeWe, I have used poetry to address more the challenges faced, particularly the loneliness experienced in a difficult relationship whilst trying to maintain a sense of self. It i…Read more

2 Responses to “Baby Gap”

  1. Helen Sargeant

    The photograph of you and your son is so moving, vulnerable, fragile.

    I love the words of this poem and I really identify with what they say; I often felt like “an empty ship, sailing on glass” when the boys were little – I still do.

    I have been nursing a sick son for four days. He wakes in the night 2-3 times just like he did when a baby. Daytime I feel delirious, I sup coffee, tea to keep going, I constantly playing catch up with housework, care, maintenance.

  2. Char March

    Utterly fabulous photo, and poem. Stunning images and power in your words. Bravo for managing to keep going, Francesca – I hereby bequeath unto thee The Grand Golden Gong Award For Stoic Mother In Face Of Adversity And Extreme Sleep Deprivation!


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