Having a baby is described as the happiest time of your life. Bringing a new life into the world is an exciting and monumental event, but once the baby is born life can take a different turn.
The loneliness, confusion, and anxiety are normal emotions to experience after having a baby and even in the years after you bring your baby home – but they are topics that don’t seem to be discussed very much.
I’m here to tell you that you are most definitely not alone, that the majority of new mums experience loneliness, and that it doesn’t last forever.
Is it really just me?
No, it’s not. If you talk to any of your friends and REALLY ask how they are feeling, most new mums guiltily admit that they aren’t beaming rainbows 24/7 and that their baby is making them feel isolated from their old life.
It was a profound relief for me to find out I wasn’t alone in feeling this way – but then I was irritated. Why didn’t anybody tell me how lonely I would be with just my baby for company?
Motherhood gets a glossy reputation of being the best time of your life, but like most stereotypes this concept is built on false pretences.
New babies are lovely but it’s absolutely normal to feel lonely after giving birth because you’re adjusting to a new way of life. You’re not getting much sleep, your body is in shambles, and night after night it’s just you, the baby, and the long tedious minutes of feedings, diaper changes, and crying (both of you).
It’s important to keep these days in perspective, however, and realise that you will adjust to these new demands and you are more resilient than you know. It’s super awkward but you’ve also got to reach out to other moms and make the effort to connect so that you’ve got support besides just you, your partner, or family.
Are you an expecting mum? Take a look at my top tips for labour and delivery to make labour easier.
Becoming a Mother
People think that because you choose to become a mum, you shouldn’t complain about how hard it is. That is a load of garbage. Becoming a mum is the most selfless and loving act you will ever do you in your entire life, and it’s also the most difficult thing you’ll ever do.
You have every right to voice how hard it is. To encourage you, remember that motherhood is a process. Every day you will shed a tiny piece of the person you once were and become a different, more resilient version.
During this transition your friendships will change, time takes on a new meaning, and you will be constantly busy with mind-numbing but consuming tasks of keeping your baby satisfied and thriving. Oh yeah, and you are doing all this on no sleep. This is hard for non-parents to relate to, and therefore feels very isolating.
Have you heard of baby brain? Know more about it here.
The Bubble Bursts
Once the happy baby hormones have worn off and you are sitting at home in your mesh panties with your boobs bursting and baby spit up on every shirt you own, suddenly the bubble bursts. You go from wanting to stare at your darling newborn all day to wishing with every fibre of your being she could utter a single response to your endless chattering.
I remember being so jealous of my partner that he could to back to work and see and talk to “real” people while I was stuck at home with the baby. Then I felt guilty because I was lucky to be in a financial position to be able to stay at home and then I’d just get stuck in this endless loop of guilt and jealously.
On top of that, you start to feel like your partner just doesn’t get it. “How are you so tired? You got to be home all day” or “If you are lonely just go see your friends.”
What they don’t get is that it feels like more effort than it’s worth to pack up the van full of baby equipment and juggle around naps to go sit at a coffee shop and jiggle your baby to keep it from fussing so you can have a 15 min conversation.
All you wanted was to become a mother, and you quickly realise that it’s not living up to your expectations.
Are we our own worst enemy?
It’s easy to get in our own heads – we’re often our own worst enemy. To beat the loneliness we need to make the effort to get out and meet friends or even get online or on the phone and talk to them.
But socialising seemed so difficult for me. It was overwhelming to bring my baby to public places because I’d get anxiety about the baby fussing or crying and even if they don’t you often have to factor in questions like “is there a changing table there?” or “where can I feed the baby?”.
But then I’d get grumpy about never leaving the house or talking to friends. Even when I did muster up the energy to get out and see a friend with the baby in tow, all I would talk about was baby topics but I just couldn’t seem to help myself talking about sleep routines, breastfeeding, etc.
In the words of Nike, you have to just do it.
I know how hard it is to get out and pack up the newborn for an outing but sometimes you have to get out and do it anyway. Go for a walk with a friend. Go to a mums group, even though you don’t feel like it.
It’s just like working out – the hardest part is getting dressed and ready. You don’t want to do it but once you wash your face, put on some real clothes, and step out the door, you may actually enjoy yourself! I know I usually did.
It’s important to be honest and open with your partner too – don’t just wallow in jealousy and self pity. He or she is not a mind reader! You owe it to your relationship to communicate how you’re feeling. Oftentimes your partner wants to help but doesn’t know how, and they’re probably feeling helpless and out of tune as well.
Finally, realise that every mum goes through loneliness. EVERYONE struggles – it’s just that nobody likes to talk about it because, well, it sucks.
It’s harder to say “actually I’m feeling lonely and depressed and tired” when someone asks you “How are you?”. That answer just gets awkward looks and uncomfortable shuffling unless you’re talking to another mum friend or a closer friend.
Remember that your baby WILL get bigger, they WILL become more independent, and you will emerge from the baby phase a stronger version of your old self.
Tips to Help Connect
- Get out to those mummy and me groups. Yes, they may be full of people you would usually not connect with but it’s worth it even if you find just one gem of a friend.
- Start random conversations- play areas, shopping centres, nappy changing facilities, the park. View them all as a chance for actual adult conversation!
- Let go of your own insecurities – chances are the mum next to you is so engrossed with her own baby that she will never notice the poo stain on your shirt or trousers.
- Get online! Facebook groups, websites, or apps are great ways to talk with other adults when you live in more isolated communities like me. I met other mums through an online fitness program.
- Just make the effort no matter how tired you are – sending a quick text or Facebook message takes less than 5 minutes.
Remember what you went through….
Once you’re through that new baby haze, don’t forget what you went through! Remember how hard it was for you to get back to friends and maintain conversations the next time you get annoyed with a new mum for not replying back to you.
If someone close seems annoyed that you’re not in touch as much as you used to be, direct them to this post and explain that you’re just struggling right now. It’s scary, but people really just don’t understand.
If there is one take away from this post for you, my friend, it’s that you are not alone. We are not alone.