The Loneliness Of First-Time Motherhood
When I started to let people know that I was expecting my first baby, the words of advice immediately started to flow – and I was a grateful and attentive listener.
I had no idea about the world of babies, so avidly took notes and accepted lists from anyone who offered:
- Which hospital should we go to?
- Do we go private or public and what on earth does semi-private mean?
- Do we need a 3D scan, the ultimate first pregnancy indulgence?
- Do we buy a Moses basket or a cot or both?
- Should I buy some bottles as back-up, or just wing it and focus on making breastfeeding work?
- And what’s the story with baby clothes? Babygros are called sleepsuits and vests are bodysuits apparently – who knew?
If in doubt, I'd write it all down in the notebook.
“Do we need a 3D scan, the ultimate first pregnancy indulgence?”
Baths: I read that I should buy a plastic one, so I did. Then I read that there’s absolutely no need to buy a bath, just bring the baby into the shower, and I felt silly for buying a bath. In the end, the plastic bath was used hundreds of times for three babies, and we also brought them into the shower. What I learned from this is that there’s no one right answer, no dogma when it comes to babies.
Books: I read three pregnancy books (which all gave conflicting advice) and four different baby name books. The information was overwhelming, but I figured I’d refer back to the books as needed. There was no point in trying to remember everything before the baby was born. We’d muddle through like everyone else does, right?
Bags: I was advised on what to bring to the hospital. What to pack in the main bag, the labour bag (so confusing trying to understand the difference) and what to ask my husband to bring in before we’d be discharged. I was told what to have at home in the house for those first days and weeks – small baby clothes, bigger baby clothes, maternity clothes for me (wait, what?) and meals in the freezer. Oh and soothers in case we’d need them, though I was sure I wouldn’t (oh, hindsight).
Months and months of advice and lists and answers to questions. Wonderful help from wonderful friends. But nobody told me it could be lonely.
And perhaps that’s because the people I know hadn’t experienced loneliness during first-time motherhood. Or perhaps they didn’t want to worry me. Or maybe they had moved on and forgotten just what a challenge it can be; at home with a newborn, with no other adult to talk to, day after day.
I remember wandering around the house, watching rain pelting the ground outside, wondering if I should go to the supermarket – not because we needed anything, but just to get out of the house, to speak to another person. Even if it was just a “hello” and “thank you” to the checkout girl.
I remember wondering if it would be irresponsible of me to bring the baby out in the rain, albeit in the car, just so that I could get out of the house. I remember eating lunch standing at the counter in the kitchen; baby in my arms or on my hip because she didn’t want to be put down.
I remember wondering how I’d manage to sneak a shower. Would she nap for more than ten minutes this time? Then, does it really matter if I shower? I’m not leaving the house anyway.
I remember watching the clock each evening, listening for the sound of the car in the driveway so that I could pass my tiny companion to her dad and have a few minutes to myself. I remember the lifeline that was the radio. And my one friend who had a baby at the same time. Our weekly coffee and shopping trip got me through maternity leave.
I had been told about mother and baby groups and breastfeeding groups, but they were all on early in the morning, and I couldn’t see how I could get organised on time. And turning up at a stranger’s house just seemed a bridge too far for me at the time. I’d heard of people doing baby massage, baby yoga and mother and baby bootcamp, but it all sounded like hard work on top of hard work, so I stayed at home.
I wish I’d known to get out there and join those groups, join those classes. As I did on subsequent maternity leaves. I wish I’d known that the extra effort of getting up and out by 9am would pay off in unimaginable ways – the value of company and conversation. Coffee and cake with people going through exactly the same learning curve as I was. Hindsight.
“I’d heard of people doing baby massage and bootcamp, but it all sounded like hard work, so I stayed at home”
And that’s not to say that everyone should join groups and classes. And it’s definitely not the case that everyone will be lonely, quite the opposite. But I wish I’d known that motherhood could be lonely. So that instead of feeling confused and guilty about it, I could have done something about it. Hindsight.
Did you feel lonely as a new mom? What are your tips and advice for other moms? Leave a comment below and let us know.
If you haven't yet joined our Birth Clubs, they're a great way to get in touch with expectant and new moms at just the same stage as you: You're not alone!