I’ve seen quite a lot in the media recently about how lonely it is being a new mum. This video from Channel 4 has been shared a lot on Facebook, and it seems to have prompted lots of other people to share their stories. There have been numerous reports about loneliness as a new mother, and how many new mums struggle to make friends, get out of the house, and do things with their newborn. I have read a lot about how so many mums stay in the comfort of their own homes because it makes them feel “safe”. And this makes me feel quite sad. Is Motherhood lonely?
I feel awful reading about how some new mums feel, and having not been in that situation, I can’t say I know how it feels. I can empathise, but I can’t truly know what it feels like. I didn’t know that people actually felt like this. I know a lot of new mums (even second, third, fourth time mums!) struggle with the difficulties of having a newborn, but I never thought about how this can isolate many women.
I really don’t want anyone to be offended by what I am about to write, as I am not trying to say that what you may be feeling is not relevant – because it is, and I hope those of you out there who are struggling are able to get all the help and support that you need.
However, I want to try and reassure all those mums-to-be that it doesn’t have to be lonely. That you don’t have to feel trapped in your home, and that you have no safe place to be. There are lots of mums out there who adore motherhood. Of course, there will be times when you find things hard, you will cry, and feel like the worst mum in the world. But I hope those times are few and far between.
I feel like I have been incredibly lucky to take to motherhood the way I have as a first time mum. I think I was quite chilled out in pregnancy, and fortunately had a pretty good time so I didn’t stress about anything too much. The only panic I had was at my final midwife appointment when they suspected I had pre-eclampsia and I had to be induced. I had a long labour which resulted in a c-section, so my first few days of motherhood weren’t easy, but I never felt like it was too hard for me. I decided I would breastfeed, and managed to crack it fairly early on. Again, it wasn’t easy, and the first 6 weeks are definitely the hardest, but we got there and I was able to breastfeed for 15 months.
For the first two weeks of Alfie’s life, Craig was on paternity leave and we did a LOT! We had visitors the day we got home and pretty much every day for the next two weeks. When Alfie was a week old, we went to visit my brother’s new twins and the following day we had a big family lunch in the local pub. Alfie had his newborn shoot at 10 days old and we went shopping for a bridesmaid dress for me at 2 weeks old.
Then Craig returned to work and I had my first day at home, on my own. I was recovering from a major operation, not able to drive, and expected to look after this tiny baby. And yes it was hard. I was so glad to see Craig at the end of the day. But we survived. I got through the day, and I found every day after that a little bit easier.
I had a visit from the health visitor when Alfie was 10 days old, and was signed off from further visits the following week because she was happy with how well we were doing. She seemed very surprised at how happy and cheerful I was, and how well I was coping. I didn’t suffer from any baby blues – I had heard about the dreaded day 3 blues (usually coinciding with your breast milk coming in and having a sudden rush of hormones) but I didn’t get this at all.
I was a bridesmaid to my best friend when Alfie was 3 weeks old, and we attended a wedding when Alfie was 6 weeks old and left him with my mum for the day. Some people might read this and think I was mad! But I honestly felt fine (although I did suffer after the first wedding as I was still recovering and definitely overdid it that day!). Emotionally, I was happy. More than happy.
Don’t get me wrong, I was tired and sore and tired and did I mention I was tired? Alfie wasn’t (and isn’t) a “good” sleeper, but I knew enough to know that it was all normal behaviour so I just didn’t stress about it to much. I napped when I could and rested as much as possible when he did decide to have a nap. I kept on top of the housework (mostly), but I didn’t worry about it and my husband knew not to question me about it in the early days. I did have a breakdown at about 4 weeks postpartum when I got a blocked milk duct and I was sleep deprived. I was in a lot of pain and I think I scared Craig a little as I’d been so together up until that point, he didn’t know how to help me. But I soon bounced back.
I got out of the house almost every day, even if it was just to walk down to the shops, or pop over to my sister who lived opposite me. My friends came to visit me on the days I couldn’t face leaving the house, and I enjoyed the days when I could just stay at home and chill. I never felt like I couldn’t go out. Even in the early days, when I couldn’t drive or even walk very far, I made sure I went for a short, slow walk to the shops and back to keep me sane. Babywearing was amazing at this point, and it meant it was easy for me to “pop” out quickly. Sometimes maybe I went out too much, as I really did appreciate the days when I could just slob on the sofa, not doing anything. But that was my choice, not because I felt like I had nowhere to go.
I was very lucky that I had a very close friend of mine give birth 7 weeks before me, her sister gave birth a week after me, and another friend gave birth two weeks after me. My sister also had an 16 month old and my sister-in-law had twins 4 days before me. I am also part of the most amazing facebook group, full of new mums, experienced mums and mums-to-be! I definitely wasn’t short on mummy support!
I also joined two fab baby groups. I joined Sing and Sign when Alfie was just 10 weeks old! Seems crazy now to have joined so young, but it really was beneficial. It was a brilliant group, we had a lot of fun and probably the best thing to come out of it was the lovely group of mummies I met – including our teacher. We still meet up now even though we have all left, and we have a great time when we are together. I also attended Hartbeeps when Alfie was 6 months until he was about 10 months, and it was really great fun.
Was I just lucky? Is it because I’m a naturally easy going person that I have found motherhood overall an easy and enjoyable task? I am truly grateful that I’ve never suffered from any kind of anxiety and I think I naturally have a positive outlook on life so maybe that is why I have found it easy? Going back to work was by far the hardest thing I have had to do as a mum, and I desperately wish I could stay at home all day with Alfie. Although, I have definitely found motherhood more challenging as Alfie has got older. But sometimes when I am sitting with other mums who are discussing how hard they are finding things, I’m thinking to myself that I don’t agree. At all. And I find myself making excuses almost, finding something that I can discuss. Other than sleep, I must have had it pretty easy.
So I guess what I am trying to say is that motherhood isn’t lonely for everyone. I really feel for the mums who do feel like this, and I think there needs to be better support for parents who are struggling. Even just being able to talk about it with someone would help. But I also don’t want new mums to feel like it has to be this way. Motherhood can be full of fun, laughs, joy and friends. I’m by no means a confident person, but just having a baby attached to you does make it easier to talk to people. Even if you don’t feel confident enough to go to baby groups, get out for a walk or find things in your local area to do.
Having a baby was the happiest time in my life but I know I am probably pretty unique when I say overall I haven’t found it a difficult journey. I can’t imagine my life without Alfie, and I think the hardest thing for us has been the sleepless nights, but even they are getting few and far between. Maybe I am just a “natural” at this mothering thing, or maybe I’m just “lucky”. A big part of it could be that I don’t feel guilt very often. I parent the best way I can, the way I want to, and I don’t feel guilty about it. I breastfed because I wanted to and was able to. I’ve never felt ashamed about the way I feed, and have always fed in public without any embarrassment or apology. I babywear because I want to, and have only ever had positive comments. I go to work because I HAVE to, even though I don’t enjoy it, but in the long run everything I do is for Alfie.
However you want to look at it, I count myself as pretty blessed to feel the way I do, and I hope that more mums can discover the best side of motherhood. Just being a mum.
So, is motherhood lonely? For many, it seems it can be. But for me, it is anything but. I’ve got a whole support systems of friends, family and strangers to help me on this wonderful journey. I really hope that is you are feeling lonely, you can reach out and find your support team too.
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