With the results of a new survey showing just how many new mothers feel cut off and lonely after the birth of their baby, Clare from Grubby Little Faces shares her own personal experience.
Does this experience sound familiar?
How was it for you?
I stared at the clock. 9.10am. I stared back at the moses basket. 9.10am? It had only been an hour since my husband had kissed us both goodbye and gone to work. I was cheery then. Full of positivity and a can-do attitude. I had a mission to go to the library. Me and our daughter were going to do baby rhymetime. I was going to get us ready, feed her, change her, put her in the pram, check my changing bag and waltz out the door. New mum and her much wanted, totally loved, two month old baby. A picture of motherhood.
But my confidence was ebbing away. After keeping us up most the night our baby had decided that now would be a good time to take a nap. I had no idea what to do. Do I wake her? Do I try to feed her? Do I leave her to sleep. If I do wake her will she cry all the way to the library? If I left her to sleep I would miss my only real chance to talk to other new Mums. Because, try as I might to put on a positive face, I needed to meet new Mums. I was lonely. Desperately and deeply lonely.
It never occurred to me just how lonely motherhood might be. To be honest there were a lot of things that hadn’t occurred to me about motherhood, however loneliness was one of the biggest shocks. After all, I reasoned, I was used to being on my own. Like many people we do not live near our parents or close family. It’s about a two hour drive to get to either of our families. Around 16 years ago my husband (my boyfriend then) found a job in the South West and we decided to move there and try living together. We were complete strangers to the area and knew a total of two people. But it was an exciting time. In love, new life, new jobs, new home. We were on a romantic adventure and we were in it together. I naively presumed having our own family would be exactly the same. An adventure. Where two would become three and we’d tackle the world together.
I mean, how could I possibly be lonely? I had a loving husband, a healthy baby, our loving parents would visit as much as they could at weekends, I knew a few people who would drop in occasionally, and a handful of people I had met through a local NCT group that I saw from time-to-time. But there was no denying it I was lonely. I found looking after my baby, Monday to Friday, from 8am to 7.30pm very, very lonely. I also felt very guilty admitting my loneliness as I had so desperately wanted a baby. I felt I should be some sort of Supermum, I should be grateful, with no right to complain as I was very lucky to have her. But I knew I desperately needed the company of other new Mums who were going through exactly the same things as me.
So here I was trying to fathom out how to get us to the library. I finally decided upon gently, easing her out of the moses basket into the pram. She woke and cried. I picked her up and realised she needed changing. After changing her I decided that I wanted to try feeding her before we went out. I was breastfeeding and still felt clumsy and self-conscious about it so preferred to do it at home. This was a big reason for a lot of my loneliness. Although breastfeeding was going well for us I was so lost as to how to do it gracefully in public. I was pretty shy about it and I was worried I didn’t have the confidence to defend myself against anyone who might have a problem with me breastfeeding outside the privacy of my house or baby changing toilet.
By the time we eventually left the house we were late. A 30 minute walk and we made it just as they started singing the last song….
‘goodbye all the boys,
goodbye all the girls,
it’s time to say goodbye.’
Defeated, I slunk into a corner and felt truly and utterly miserable. Gone was my chance to smile at another Mum. Gone was my chance to be comforted by watching other Mums doing the same as me; wiping baby sick off their jumper or juggling the baby into the pram. Gone was my possibility to say ‘Hi. Do you fancy a coffee after?’. I was gutted.
7 years on I remember that day at the library vividly. I had also written about it in a notebook I kept during this time. It’s full of my worries, thoughts, ideas and baby schedules. Looking at it now I can see that I was really confused during that time and I was struggling to work out who I was. I seem to be struggling to find some form of control/understanding over my new life.
I can also see that when I started to make new friends, and my confidence as a new Mum grew, things did get better. I got more confident about breastfeeding in public so I didn’t have to time my outings quite so rigidly. I worked out how to get us ready in the morning. I found friendly playgroups which were run by people who made you coffee and introduced you to other new Mums. I had the confidence to stop going to playgroups that I didn’t feel happy at. I started inviting other Mums to my house (I didn’t have a car so this was often easier and less stressful). And most importantly I started telling people I was struggling and lonely. Because only then, when I showed my vulnerability, my imperfections, did I make some very, very good friends. Friends that I still lean on, talk to and support now. Three kids in.
I wanted to share this story on my blog because a few week ago the results of AXA PPA and Netmum’s survey revealed over a quarter of new mums are lonely. This survey was brought to my attention when a blogging friend, Amy Ransom, went on This Morning and BBC News to talk about it. It was exciting and emotional to watch. She and another Mum eloquently explained that being a new Mum or even a third time around Mum, can be lonely. Their honesty made me reflect on my time and inspired me to share my story too. I hope it helps.
Perhaps you are another Mum who is feeling lonely, perhaps you are going to be a Mum and are worried about loneliness or perhaps you know a new Mum who you could meet for a coffee. I just want people to know it’s perfectly normal. There are a lot of Mums who feel this way. It does hurt but it can and will get better. Try to reach out and talk about it. You are welcome to comment here to share your thoughts.