Hey new mama,
Did you ever think it would be possible to be this lonely and yet not be able to remember the last time you were alone?
Did you ever imagine that having everything you ever wanted would make you cry this much?
In an instant, everything has changed. It seemed like only a moment ago, you had a routine and predictable patterns of human interaction—colleagues to laugh with and friends to meet with for dinner, brunch or a new class at the gym.
Now, your baby is here and predictability has been replaced by the mysterious whims of a newborn. Nothing is more important than the seemingly impossible task of keeping a little person alive, and nobody can do it but you.
Even if you have the best support system in the world around you, when baby cries, it’s for you. In the small hours of the night, it’s you he wants and you alone.
And “you alone” can be a lonely feeling.
It’s astonishing how quickly—and easily!—your own needs and wants take a back seat. Baby's every burp, diaper change, feed and cuddle is catered for—but who is catering to your needs?
You’re figuring out this new and wonderful (yet terrifying) reality, but before you realize it’s happening, days have gone by where the only adult conversation you've had was with the cashier at the supermarket. And suddenly—it hits you—you hardly recognize yourself.
But have faith. Though you can’t imagine it right now, the needy little bundle responsible for this feeling of isolation will very soon be your most powerful vehicle for re-entering the world. Through your baby, you will make some of the best friends you’ve have ever had. You just have to get out there in your own time.
When I felt as isolated as you do now, I did something that was entirely out of my introvert-orientated character—I put myself out there. I joined a baby music class and a breastfeeding support group. You may not have imagined yourself to be the kind of woman who would enjoy sitting in a circle on the floor singing “Wheels on the bus”—with actions!—and truthfully, I didn’t either. Yet there we all were anyway, and loving it.
It took a bit of effort at first, and sometimes I came away feeling like all I’d talked about for hours on end were feeding schedules and sleep deprivation, and I wondered where the ‘pre-baby me’ went. But faster than I imagined, I found my squad. You will too. They are out there: a whole group of wonderful women—soon to become friends—that you would never have had the motivation to go out and meet if it wasn’t for this loneliness you’re feeling right now.
On the days between baby group gatherings, when the hours stretched long and lonely in front of me, I got up and went outside. It’s been said that “It is solved by walking,” and it really can be as simple as that.
When I felt isolated, lonely or frustrated, I put the baby in the stroller and went out for a walk. I breathed in the fresh air. I sat in a cafe and drank coffee. I watched the world go by. And, to my surprise, I made new friends.
At first I felt awkward chatting with other moms—sharing personal details with total strangers —but it was amazing how quickly my lame playground conversation opener (“Hey, do you find that sippy cup works well for you?”) turned into friendships I came to treasure and rely on.
Once a week, just for a couple of hours, I found some alone time. This sounds simple, although it’s anything but—yet it’s one of the most important things I could do for myself as a new mother. I learned to put it on my calendar and prioritize it—I got a sitter or made sure my husband knew that was when he needed to take over.
Then, I used the time to do something I wouldn’t have been able to do with my little one in tow—I got my hair done, worked out, read a book on a park bench in the sun, met a girlfriend for coffee—or absolutely nothing, guilt free. These hours were a lifeline. They reminded me that life hadn’t stopped—that everything was still out there waiting for me, once this sweet and challenging season had passed.
And it will be for you too, mama. You’ll see.
Catherine Dietrich is a freelance writer and mom to two girls. A former women’s magazine journalist, she now writes for various online publications as well as celebrating the ordinary moments of motherhood on her blog, Littles, Love and Sunshine. Catherine is a British South African, currently living in the Bahamas with her husband and two small daughters.