When I was pregnant with my first child I had a lot of expectations of what motherhood would be like, and most of it was based on my experiences as a nanny, child care worker and teacher. I was confident I would do a good job physically caring for my child. I mean, knew the basics! I soon found out having her was a lot different than I envisioned. The most surprising thing?
How lonely I was.
I went from teaching a kindergarten class to staying at home with an infant. Babies sleep so much, and the actual care they need, while constant, comes in waves. There was a lot of silence, both when she was awake and asleep. I went from the busy chatter of a classroom to the stillness of a home with just us two, and one didn’t talk. While I love babies, they give you little interaction for quite some time. You give and give and give and receive not much in return. The smiles and laughs and coos of a four month old and older take time, meanwhile there is mostly crying or silence. It was hard.
I would find myself making up excuses to go to the grocery store, or to walk around Target. We’d stroll the aisles aimlessly, looking to have something different to look at than the walls of my own home. I’d find myself talking to her constantly, just to hear a voice that wasn’t trapped exclusively in my own head. I lived far from family and at that point a lot of my friends had moved, so it was just us two during the day. I was lonely.
The transition to motherhood was hard, not only the loneliness but in the end of a lifestyle that you can’t actually wrap your mind around until it is gone. You know your life is going to change with kids, but you don’t realize how much it does until they are born. Your life is so completely changed that you have a hard time recognizing your new normal. I think that is why mama’s always say, “enjoy your free time!” to those that are pregnant (which I found annoying, but now understand.) You want to say, “take a nap,” “get a pedicure,” “go on vacation!” It’s not that you can’t do these things once you’re a mom, it just becomes harder. You learn the burden of guilt that comes with having a baby, where the times you are away you worry about them and have trouble enjoying where you are. It’s a double edged sword, always, because you become so wrapped up in worrying about them that you forget to be you.
I look back on those days and see how lonely I was, how I craved interaction and a little peace of mind. I wish I had reached out for more support. When my son was born the next year I brought him to playgroups right away and had a support system. I set up playdates where we would sit and have coffee while the kids played, or visited a park for an hour. It made such a difference having that in my life at that time. I was less lonely(partly because I had a very chatty 18 month old as well!), and more confident in my skills as a mother. I look back and see that while I adore babies and would take a day back at anytime to squeeze them, I really love having my kids at the age they are. They are interesting, funny, and so unique. They make me laugh and keep me company and life is full and happy.
I just want you to know that the first days as a mama are not always what you may think. They are hard and lonely and full of questions. There is a bone deep tiredness and a sense of failure if things aren’t what you thought they’d be.
But it gets better, I promise.
This face! Molly at 3 months old.