I have yet to meet a mother out there who has not experienced loneliness. It is one of the great ironies of motherhood—we create new life but often feel separated from our old one.
Motherhood can be isolating, especially when you have a new baby. You are basically hibernating in your house, recovering from childbirth—mentally, physically and emotionally. And this beautiful piece of existence you carried for nine months now requires all of your time and energy has taken your world by storm.
Friends from your ‘pre-mom’ life have jobs and obligations of their own. Family members go back to their lives. Spouses eventually go back to work. And there you sit.
What so many of us don’t expect—but happens quite frequently—is that loneliness goes hand-in-hand with anxiety. And unfortunately, anxiety is not usually quelled by staying at home with a screaming baby, little-to-no-sleep, and limited social interaction. This combo of frustrations happens to many women—myself included.
After the birth of my first child, I was filled with so much happiness that I thought my heart would burst. I’d look down at this face of an angel and take in every detail—the small bumps on her nose, her perfect brown eye lashes, her alabaster skin. I was so incredibly happy that I never saw the anxiety coming.
But anxiety tends to creep up on you. It can start in the peripheral, looming in the distance like a storm cloud. You can sense its presence but because of its elusive nature it’s hard to put a name to it—to call it out and say, “That. That is anxiety.”
My cloud descended slowly. It tiptoed closer while I sat alone, nursing my baby in the long winter mornings. It followed me closely, right at my back,as I wandered through the grocery store, hoping to see another mom who felt secluded like me.
I didn’t realize that I was fully enveloped in anxiety until much later—after the proverbial cloud had dissipated and I realized I had been sitting in the fog.
I had become consumed with keeping my baby safe, of making sure she hit her milestones and protecting her from any type of germs whatsoever. My entire world revolved around the responsibility of this precious little life, and nothing else.
Emerging from my cloud was a gradual thing. It took time and it took effort.
I didn’t know any other new mothers and I had no idea how I was supposed to meet them. I tried to make conversation in the lines of department stores but it inevitably got to that moment where one of us would have to take the next step...and neither of us would. There is only so long that two grown women can stand in front of the baby aisle and discuss the pros and cons of rice cereal. But when the moment came where I should have taken this encounter to the next level—to move it out of the store and into a living room—I was transported back to being a tongue-tied teenager with a real fear of rejection. It can be awkward. It can be intimidating. But mama, somebody has to do it.
Motherhood comes with a unique set of challenges and the person who is going to relate best to what you’re going through is another mother who is experiencing the same things.
She will understand your exact thoughts and your distant dreams. She will shed light on new techniques and provide a shoulder to cry on. She will discuss the color of your baby’s poop and help you navigate your breast pump. She will be the breath of fresh air that helps push you into the sunlight.
Here is my best advice to you, mamas: be conscious. If you notice you have your own storm cloud nipping at your heels then take action. Be brave.
When you spot the woman who has spit-up caked down the front of her shirt, who is sipping a coffee and singing “Baby Beluga” in the middle of the frozen section of your local grocery store—stop. Remind yourself that women belong in communities—we are born to relate, to include.
Take a deep breath and be the person you wish someone would be to you. Comment on her baby carrier. Ask how old her baby is. Ask if she is as deathly afraid of the Diaper Genie as you are. Reach out for the light of another mama and force the loneliness and anxiety to go elsewhere.
Sometimes, ladies, we have to create our own rainbows.