Can motherhood be lonely?
It has been a while now since I have been able to fulfill my role as mum. My children have all flown the nest, the youngest being at University visiting at the holidays.
I remember bringing my first born home from the hospital in his Moses basket. I was 24 years old, tired and overwhelmed. As I looked down at this little boy laying on his front (yes this is what they advised for the first few months then changed it to putting babies on their back)with his legs pulled up like a frog, I felt disconnected and numb.
The initial feeling of joy and amazement of having given birth to a new life seemed like a distant memory. I remember walking through the door and suddenly feeling panic rise.
After my mum and husband had left to go to work I was left alone with this little human. It dawned on me that I was responsible for him. That I was his lifeline and that from now on my life was his. This was a scary realisation.
In hindsight, I was suffering from postnatal depression. I had read about it but no one had told me how dark and alone this could be. I had self diagnosed myself as having had depression as a teenager, easing my low moods through writing poems, but this was on a different level.
But I had no time to wallow as my beautiful boy was not a sleeper. He would wake up in the early hours and we would watch music videos as this is what would keep him happy. Driving also would put him back to sleep, until I stopped the car of course.
Where was my husband in all this?
Well there were cracks before I became pregnant, which deepened even more after giving birth. This is not about blaming, I realise I was not easy to live with. He was not much older than me and was not mature to be a dad. I needed support and he couldn’t give it to me.
When my second son was born, I suggested to the doctor that maybe I should go on medication. Yes I was diagnosing myself again. Antidepressants took the edge of things, I functioned well without the erratic mood swings. But I didn’t feel joy and emotional connection with my little boy. I felt a fierce protection though and again a realisation that I had to look after these children alone.
I didn’t trust them to be looked after by anyone other than my mother. But she had to work so I had to resort to childcare when I went back to work. Thankfully, the childminder was a relative which helped my anxiety.
My daughter was born when my boys were nearly 7 and 4. They played with each other, the younger doting on the eldest and making her laugh. I was vaguely happy. Again that low level anxiety and sadness was present.
I was working full time, my marriage was a mess and I was surviving on little sleep and a diet of coffee and the kids left overs. I regret to admit I was also a secret smoker.
There was no time to write poems or to write how I felt in my journal. I didn’t share the extent of my worries with my friends or mum as I didn’t want to seem weak.
But my mum knew. At the end of the day, a parent knows her child. I know when my children are not ok and that fierce protection takes over.
So, to answer my question,
Can Motherhood be lonely?
It can be lonely, frightening, daunting and overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be suffered alone. My advice would be to any new mum, to reach out. There are so many ways to do so now, with social media groups and online help groups.
Also, an important thing to remember is we shouldn’t be so hard on ourselves. A good technique is to write down all the things you have achieved during the day. It is also good to use this when reviewing your past.
Following are some support links for new mums and mental health