I was the first of my friends to have a baby—and that period of my life was filled with an excruciating loneliness and various hardships that I felt none of my childfree friends could understand.
In no way am I blaming them. In hindsight, I realize that I, too, was once without kids and couldn’t possibly understand how the journey into motherhood completely uproots you and changes everything.
But through the tough days of my pregnancy, through the sleepless nights and the baby blues, through the tears that traveled down my cheeks as I rocked a cranky newborn in my arms… I wish my friends without kids could have understood the immensity of this new transition I had begun.
I held a lot of grief when I first became a mother—and I didn’t know how to carry it. I actually felt guilty for carrying it. During my pregnancy and the months that followed postpartum, this weight of grief came from not only feeling like I was suffering a loss of self, but also a loss of how I connected and related to those around me.
I felt alone.
Sure, my childfree friends were excited and celebrated the new life that my husband and I’d just welcomed into the world. I got thousands of texts asking how the baby was doing, if the baby needed anything or when they could meet the baby.
But far and few texts were formed to really check in on me, the mama whose life had just been forever changed.
Related: 14 ways to *really* help a new mom
The mama who was drowning in postpartum anxiety.
The mama whose body ached and still trembled from giving birth.
The mama who loved her baby with every fiber of her being, yet still felt disconnected from him at times.
The mama who was having a tough time navigating new parenthood with her husband.
The mama who looked in the mirror and couldn’t recognize who she was.
The mama who felt distant and dissociated from everyone and everything.
I heard time and time again how great of a job I was doing. I heard time and time again how beautiful my baby boy was. I heard time and time again how I “didn’t even look like I’d just had a baby.” But hearing all those things over and over gave me no invitation to need help.
I never wanted my strength for how I carried my pregnancy and how I navigated postpartum to be seen as a badge of honor. I wanted permission to be weak and vulnerable. I wanted permission to need.
Sometimes, she just needs you to be an anchor in her time of transition—and grant her patience as she finds her footing again.
I wanted my childfree friends to know about the pressures of returning to work before I was even ready. To know that figuring out how to fill the hours at home with a newborn baby can be overwhelming at times. To know that behind my “I’m fine” there was a heap of emotions that I hadn’t even gotten the chance to process through yet.
I wanted my childfree friends to know that telling me to “just switch to formula” while I struggled with breastfeeding did more harm than help. To know how tiring it was for me to have to beg people to respect the boundaries I put in place for my family. To know that sometimes asking for help made me feel ashamed and inadequate as a mother.
I wanted my childfree friends to know how consuming motherhood was (and still is), and that figuring out how to balance a new baby on top of marriage, on top of a social life comes with so many challenges.
I wanted my childfree friends to know that as beautiful as motherhood looks from the outside in, it is really difficult at times.
But most of all, I wanted my childfree friends to know that being the first one to have kids can be so, so lonely. And that even when they felt like I didn’t need them anymore, it was quite the opposite.
They may not truly know the depths of motherhood until they become moms themselves. They may not have recognized the new woman I became, who was simultaneously birthed once my baby was born. But the one thing that I wish they’d know is that they were my anchors in an unfamiliar time, the ones who reminded me of the woman I was beneath my title of “mother.” Even when they couldn’t realize how much they meant to me during that time. Even if I was more distant than usual. Even though I couldn’t hang out as much as I used to.
Since being the first of my friends to have a baby, I’ve gotten to witness a couple of my friends enter motherhood. And though they may not have understood it then, they certainly understand it now. That the need for your community increases tenfold when you become a mother.
So if you’re the friend without kids, understand that your mama friend still needs you. Understand that you may not get everything now, but sometimes, your mama friend doesn’t need for you to. Sometimes, she just needs you to be an anchor in her time of transition—and grant her patience as she finds her footing again.
Motherly Stories are first person, 500-1000 word stories, reflecting on the insights you’ve experienced in motherhood—and the wisdom you’ve gained along the way. They also help other women realize they’re not alone. Motherly Stories don’t judge. Instead, they inspire other mamas with stories of meaning, hope and a realization that “you’ve got this.” If you have a story, please submit it here: https://www.mother.ly/share-your-story/