Let me start this by saying, I am in no way an expert on mothering, parenting, or postpartum depression or anxiety. I’m not an expert on anything. I’m still learning about myself, but felt like sharing some of my experience might make someone else breathe a sigh of relief and/or go get help.
I have read what feels like hundreds of mama blogs and articles that say that mothering, especially early motherhood, is lonely. Its true. I found that feeling alone allowed all of the not-so-great feelings and criticisms in my head the perfect environment to grow. Add to that the major nose dive my hormones took after birth and it was the perfect breeding ground for depression and anxiety.
First, in the early stages, you’re up at all hours of the night with someone who is screaming in your face. You don’t know what’s wrong and they can’t tell you. You can’t exactly text your friends to complain, ask for help, etc. because they have jobs and lives they have to live the next morning. If you do happen to locate a mama friend in the same stage as you, you don’t want to text them if they aren’t up because sleep is a precious commodity. Then, by the time it is socially acceptable to text them, you have either forgotten what you wanted to say or you want to continue with the “this is bliss” facade so you say nothing. Don’t get me wrong, my friends sent me 100s of text messages and I tried my hardest to answer them. Most of the time, though, the conversation ended when I read their message and forgot to respond because I was called to play in the floor, someone had just spit up all over themselves and me, or I had fallen asleep with a baby on my chest.
This leads us to the other bit of isolation that comes in early mamahood. You look and/or feel like a hot mess 98% of the time. It seems hypocritical to say “I’m alone, but leave me alone,” but you don’t WANT people around. You’re exhausted. You’ve just been through the most extreme thing you’ve likely experienced to this point. You are trying to learn a new HUMAN. You haven’t showered. Your organs are rearranging. You may be healing from major surgery. Your hormones make you cry over football games and commercials. It’s not a good look. Then you look around one afternoon and cry because you’re by yourself.
Next, you’ve got the fact that society makes everything a competition-especially when it comes to women. Are you breast-feeding? Are you formula feeding? One will certainly kill your child or alienate them from their other caregivers. Working? Staying at home? You’re either depriving them of connection or giving up on yourself. “Is (insert trendy name) walking yet? That’s too bad, my so and so walked by then.” “When did (trendy name) learn to use the potty? OHHH my blah blah blah was potty trained by 3 months old.” Considering you can be burned at the metaphorical stake for snapping a picture of yourself wearing your baby “incorrectly,” it doesn’t exactly make you want to walk up to someone in the park. Unless, of course, your kids are both eating from the same pile of rocks, in which case- you are my people.
So, what do you do to keep yourself “connected” on your own time, but not keep your friends up? You unlock your phone and flip through social media. That feels safe. Your friends “live” in there. You comment on pictures, send memes, etc. You may be brave enough to ask mothering questions to the right group of people. The problem comes when you start seeing everyone able to leave and enjoy life. You’ve missed celebrations or work functions or a multitude of other events. You see the Pinterest perfect parties, well groomed children on the hips of well put together women, and you see people who aren’t at home alone all day. Well…that backfired.
Here is what I learned. You shouldn’t have it all together, nor should you have all of the answers. So, screw social media and society’s opinions of how you choose to mother your children. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, reach out, or let yourself or your home be seen at less than your/its best. Those who love you couldn’t care less about the dust bunnies under your media console. The only reason you’re noticing them is because you’ve been breast feeding for 45 minutes while binge watching “Scandal.” Those who love you do not care that you have spit up and/or poop on your shirt. They love you and want to see your name pop up on their phone with an invite to come have coffee, rock the baby, or bring wine. Ask a friend or two if its ok to text them at 2am. No, they may not answer immediately, but you will still feel connected to them. I found that my connection to others was what pulled me out of my dark moments and that sometimes I could feel alone in a room full of people simply because I didn’t speak how I was feeling so someone else could say, “me too.”
Friends of new mamas: If you get up to go to the bathroom or check on your own babies, or pets, or if you’re just coming in from a fun night out, check on your new mama friend. She is probably up or will be soon, and it is nice to know someone is still there in the wee hours. Stop by. Text or call her for her coffee order or ask what donut is her favorite and bring it to her. Don’t let her excuse her way out of it every time. If she’s told you no the last few times you’ve asked- don’t ask, just show up. Some of us are stubborn and need the push and you probably know when we’re being stubborn. Know that she might be struggling with connection, but also not have the ability to put her feelings into words. Give her grace when she doesn’t text you back at 9pm. She’s fallen asleep on the couch. Most likely like this: