I didn’t expect the loneliness of new motherhood — or the importance of community

When my husband and I decided we were ready to become parents, I was able to get pregnant easily and enjoyed smooth trimesters full of confidence. Lulled into thinking the journey on the other side of the womb would be just as easy, I developed unrealistic expectations born from a lack of real knowledge and discussions about what was ahead.

Looking back, I believe something is woefully missing from conversations during the expectant phase of new parenthood. After giving birth, I wondered if I was the only mom who missed something between the lines of those pregnancy books. But I wasn't alone—I just needed support from other parents to remind me of that.

Welcoming a child isn't just about a new life, but also a new transition to motherhood. Yet, the attention tends to be on meeting the infant's needs—without much regard for how the parents are faring. What emotional grief new mothers could be spared if only we were given more realistic information, invited in on more authentic conversations and seen as people who deserve support separate from our newborns?

I needed to find my way, but what I was going through already felt hard enough. I knew I couldn't be the only woman who had given birth and was feeling this stranded: isolated, alone with my fears, lonely in my struggle to stay above water and desperate to look like I had things under control. The stress of it all pulled me down to depths I had never known before.

Where was everyone now?

So, I sought out a local mom's group. I didn't doubt that sharing and being heard by other women experiencing motherhood for the first time would be validating. But I realized after my first get-together with this group of women gathered by our local hospital, each group has its own distinct personality based on the mindset of those who comprise it. And while this wasn't the group for me, it did confirm my suspicion that I needed a group.

After sharing this experience with another mom friend from a few towns away, she invited me to come to her group's next meeting. Before the first meeting was over, I knew it was a fit. Those weekly get-togethers at our alternating homes were my lifeline. Here was a group of women, brought together by the common desire to be where we could just be, in whatever way that happened to manifest at that moment.

In the honesty of those hours together, we found our voices and courage to admit we are sometimes lost, and oftentimes terrified—and there was no embarrassment in that. We listened and by helping each other troubleshoot, we provided calm and empowerment. We celebrated victories, which helped us all find the joy in the journey, bumps and all. Their belief in me became my belief in myself.

It was in connecting with other mothers—those who were on this journey with me—that I learned how normal and okay it was to worry if I am doing it all wrong. And while there is no dismissing the value of parenting books, classes and resources, I also needed community.

It may not have been simple to find, but it was a great sense of relief when it was discovered. In our assembled community, we realized we were not alone in dealing with the good and bad. And no matter what, we knew we weren't alone.

Originally posted on Medium.

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