One of the clearest memories I have of those first days post-baby is sitting on the lounge at home, a day or so after we left the hospital. There were a few people there- #thelove and my mum and his mum, perhaps a couple of others, I can’t remember. I had Tilly in my arms, and she was unsettled, and I remember realizing that, despite being surrounded by people, I was completely alone.
It terrified me, and was the cause for many tears in those first days. This tiny human needed me, and me alone, and absolutely no one else could provide for her what she needed. I couldn’t escape.
Perhaps it had more to do with simply being a brand new mum with a brand new baby, and having to wing it- but as the haze of those first days cleared, I also started to notice that loneliness extends past just being solely responsible for baby.
Babies are really boring. Did you know that? They can’t do anything, they’re basically useless as stimulating companionship, and it doesn’t take long for your brain to start to go to mush as you realize you have no one to talk to during the day. Working for myself, from home, I’m not unfamiliar with being alone during the day, but at least when I was working, I could also call people! Long phone conversations are a thing of the past when a tiny person is screaming at you to pay attention to them!
And even amongst your other mummy friends, the loneliness persists. They are in the same boat as you- the kids take up all of their brain space too, so unless you make monumental effort to catch up and keep in touch, sometimes it can just be like two ships passing in the night (ditto with partners who go off to work). Add to that the sheer magnitude of effort required to leave the house- a thing that used to just happen without a second thought, and now requires planning beforehand, is subject to happiness of a baby and amount of sleep had by both said Baby and parent the night before- and if you’re not feeling confident enough, you can find a week has gone by without even venturing past the front door.
I find it most apparent when I catch up with the gorgeous mums and bubs from my mother’s group. We meet once a week for a couple of hours, and it’s truly the highlight of my week. I try to get out of the house if not every day, at least every second day, but meeting with the girls is my opportunity to share what’s happening in my world, with a group of women who understand exactly what I’m saying. I find though, that sometimes my mouth runs away with me, such is the need to get in as much as I can before it’s time to go back to being just me and baby, that I most likely steamroller a little bit while I’m there (okay, probably a lot). It feels like I can’t speak fast enough, such is my desire to refill that empty social cup.
But even being surrounded by people- or even just with hubby- I can feel alone. Alone in my tiredness, alone in my worry, alone in my thoughts. Alone in climbing out of bed and dragging on pants to go and feed in the middle of the night. Alone in my fear of having to do it all again tomorrow, on my own. Because you do do it on your own.
Parenting is the toughest gig in the world. It’s a comfort when people tell you they feel/felt the same way, or have been through the same thing, but it doesn’t take away that feeling of being on your own. It’s a level of responsibility that cannot be explained, not even when you’re in it! It’s something that even if you’re surrounded by support, it’s still up to you to guide that tiny person into the world. That is always on you.
I remember noticing the loneliness when I was a nanny all those years ago, too. It was a different experience back then- at that time, it was simply the lack of adult conversation during the day that made my job lonely- but it was lonely all the same. We love our children, and we hope and dream for them, and we want to be with them the moment we’re away from them (I miss her as soon as she goes to bed- but not enough to wake her back up!) and we can crave being ourselves again, but the truth is, the loneliness is something we accept in the long run, because the payoff for going through that loneliness is greater than anything else- it’s the nurturing of a brand new soul.
I have lonely moments, and lonely days. But I also have my girl. Somehow, at the end of the day, that makes the rest of it go away.