There are many things that women aren’t told about pregnancy and postpartum; the things no one talks about in fear that women will stop reproducing. This includes how long you bleed in the postpartum period, that you still bleed even if you have a c-section; that the first poop after you give birth is terrifying; the list goes on.
I could roll with the issues in regard to what was physically going on with my body, but there was one thing that I didn’t expect to feel after having a baby… and that's extreme loneliness. I pictured myself going to Mommy and Me classes, reading programs at the library and making mom friends at the park. I pictured me and my friends all hanging out, watching our children play nicely with one another while catching up on each other’s lives over morning mimosas.
But the reality is that you spend a lot of time with just baby and you; toddler and you; or children and you. You have a hard time getting together with friends. When you do get together, it either needs to be planned six months in advance, or you need to accommodate nursing moms with babies who don’t take bottles, very pregnant mamas, and/or kids with extreme separation anxiety. When you finally get a group of friends together with the kids, you spend more time running after said kids, ensuring they're being nice and not destroying your friend's home.
You never catch up beyond the initial casualties. The conversation seemingly goes like this, “What’s new? Tell me about your new job... Hold on, Charlie is trying to ride the dog. Okay, I’m back, you were saying… Oh shoot, now he’s throwing rocks… one minute…” By the time you get a moment to breathe, it’s time to go, and you leave feeling even more lonely than when you arrived. You were so close to interacting with friends, but yet you still feel so far away.
No one tells you that you will feel lonely despite having someone with you all the time. That someone needs you all the time, and that's exhausting. By the time your children go to bed, you have nothing left to give to anyone. When you do reach out to someone on the phone, you still can’t catch up properly. After all, it’s common knowledge that as soon as Mom's on the phone, the kids get louder and more obnoxious than any other time of day.
You send friends emails and texts, but some will go unanswered for days. You don’t hold it against your friends because you know how busy they are, too. When you do get together sans children (on the rare occasion that it's actually possible), you don’t want to waste your time complaining about how lonely you are and how you wish there were more times like this. You want to catch up. If you say anything other than the best things going on and how you feel guilty complaining about not being able to be away from your children, you feel ashamed. You feel awful for wanting to get out and be a person again- to be someone other than “Charlie’s Mom”.
You may even begin to feel lonely in your own home. You feel like every day is like the movie Groundhog Day- it’s always the same, nothing changes no matter what you do to mix things up. Every day you have to care for your children- getting them ready, feeding them, putting them down for naps and then for bedtime. It can be very monotonous.
If you have a partner, you know that sometimes you two are like ships in the night passing each other with a quick wave or update on what the kids are up to. When you're able to have a conversation, it’s about money, childcare or about Mikey’s birthday party this weekend. It rarely consists of anything you used to talk about. You rarely have time to say more than a few words to one another before someone's asking for juice for the fifth time in two minutes.
You two don’t go out for date nights because it’s expensive- and so is dance class and karate. You have to pay a babysitter, then go out and do something, and suddenly you’re down $200. You don’t prioritize your partner and you become resentful and aloof. You feel as if you are just existing side by side in a chaotic home full of your children.
It’s hard to juggle a family, a full-time job and friendships once you become a mother. Your mindset and focus change now that you're responsible for someone other than yourself. It can be all-consuming. When you're asked to hang out with friends, you politely decline because you're exhausted and won’t be any fun at all. Then the invites are becoming fewer and fewer over time until they just stop asking. The friendships fade away, breaking your heart. But just know that it’s just a tough season in every mom’s life.
You rarely have contact with people outside your home. At work, you’re focused on getting tasks done before you have to leave on time to relieve the babysitter or nanny. You don’t have time to gossip at the vending machines. If you work from home, you and your nanny become each other’s confidants as she's the only other adult you see daily. Any conversation you have out in public comes out like word vomit because you're so happy to be able to speak to someone other than your baby.
A British study of 2000 new parents showed than more than half of them felt lonely after having children. Almost half of them felt like they were friendless. Everywhere you look, you hear people talking about creating your village like it’s the easiest thing to do. But in reality, it can be hard. After giving birth, you're uncomfortable in your own skin, unsure of your new role and your new body. The last thing you want to do is pack an insane amount of baby stuff and trek to that new mom’s group.
Many women remain isolated from their friends after their baby's born because they aren’t confident in their new role. They may fear they're being judged or that they're doing it all wrong- all which the veteran mothers in your group will immediately pick up on. In today’s social media-laced world, there's also a fear of competition: who’s doing babywearing better and who’s lost their baby weight the quickest. Sometimes its easier to lay low than have to worry about having yourself put together and acting the part of the perfect mother.
“This is just a tough season,” a friend said to me once while she was describing how difficult it felt being a mother, a full-time teacher, and household manager. I’ve repeated it a lot since then because it reminds me that it's temporary. It won’t always feel impossible to make impromptu plans with a friend who’s in town for a short period of time. It won’t always be a difficult thing to plan a girls' weekend getaway sans kids. It'll get easier, and I'll feel less lonely. Hang on, mama, because it'll get easier for you too. It’s just a tough season for now.