Becoming a mum for the first time can be incredibly lonely. Saying that statement out loud often seems like the ultimate oddity and indeed it’s not something many of us consider when we get that life-changing news that we’re pregnant. Generally, the mum-to-be and her busy mind turns to the usual things; will the baby be healthy? What will labour be like? Why does this morning sickness last all bloody day? Outside of that we then start to think about the practical things, such as applying for maternity leave, buying a pram, what about the car seat? Why won’t said car seat fit properly? Whether to co-sleep or not and a million and one other very real issues that need our attention before the baba arrives.
What many of us rarely think about, is how desperately lonely motherhood can be and before I had my baby boy last December, I never considered how isolated I was going to feel.
How could I be lonely? I’ll have a new baby to care for?
But little did I know, that so much of motherhood can be lonely, especially in those early days when my husband went back to work and it was just me and this tiny baby. No instruction manual. No idea what the hell I was doing and zero confidence to go outside.
Why was it so hard?
Firstly, it goes without saying that newborns are incredibly cute and you may find yourself spending hours simply marvelling at how perfect they are, from their tiny fingernails to their fluttery eyelashes, but for the most part new babies don’t do much other than eat, cry, sleep and poop. There is minimal interaction on their part, yet maximum effort required from you. This tiny life is literally counting on your for his or her very existence, but in the beginning you’ll get very little payback. No real smiles, no hugs, no belly laughs. And I found that incredibly lonely. I also found the nights really tough. I think most of us can face challenges more readily in the daytime, but at night things always seem harder.
Speaking of night time, when those days get shorter it can be hell on your state of mind too. I had my baby in December and I found those short, dark days and cold weather were very real barriers to getting out and about with the baby. Before I knew it, the day would be getting dark and it might still be hours before my husband came home to help. Having said that, I am realising that summer is no picnic either, it may be sunnier but dear God that presents its own set of challenges too in terms of keeping your baby out of the sun, without having them too hot in the pram or indeed at night time.
Finally, this very cute, very needy bundle will have more gear to assemble then a small army going on manoeuvres for six months in the Lebanon and leaving the house can take several attempts before you manage to get it right. Throw nursing and a general lack of confidence on top of that and getting out of the house can become a huge challenge.
When you add it all up, it’s not hard to see how new mums can sometimes go days without having proper conversations with another adult outside of the house and that can be a real shock to the system.
So let’s just say it.
Being a mum can be lonely.
So, I like many others, turned to the online world for help. I joined a mummy community filled with other women who had given birth around the same time as me. Throughout our journey we’re shared literally everything and since giving birth, it has been such a lifeline for us all. From sharing pictures of every red bump, to asking about baby poop consistency in the dead of night, to talking about the really tough issues, such as feelings of post-natal depression, the online mummy group I am a part of has been an incredibly positive experience.
I know I'm lucky because let's face it, the online world can also be hugely negative at times. We've all been the victim of unpleasant keyboard warriors who are in cahoots with the negative brigade and seem to enjoy rounding on a new mum who's asked an innocent question. But if you do manage to find a group full of encouragement and help, it's simply fantastic. I mean there are times, be it in the middle of the night or during the day, when your baby might be crying and you’re pacing the floor feeling utterly alone and not knowing what to do next and there in the palm of your hand, a couple of taps away, is another mum ready to talk it out. Indeed, many of the mammies have even gone for meet ups cementing their friendships, I suspect for life.
But look, I don’t want to paint motherhood as a completely lonely endeavour either and indeed as the weeks passed by and my baby boy grew and started to interact with me more, everything improved. He went from delicate, needy new-born, to this smashing little dude with his own personality. And, while online mummy groups are indispensable, I can’t stress enough how important it is to get out with your baby too… by Jesus, for me it was terrifying the first time I packed up the baby and went off in the car for a coffee. It can be scary as hell and yes you may not feel like it, especially in those early days when it’s just you and the baby, but trust me; do it. Even if it’s just a walk around the block; do it and if you need some encouragement remember your online mummy group is right there, metaphorically holding your hand.