Okay, so there are going to be some hard truths coming. Some of which I am not proud of and in fact, a few I feel downright ashamed of.
Let’s start with the first one: I didn’t know if I ever wanted to be a mom. I never liked to babysit; I never looked at little kids and thought they were just the cutest. I was often times more than happy to return a baby back to its rightful owner. This comes to a surprise to most people in my life. Most would describe me as warm, friendly, mothering, positive, upbeat, cheerful. Those closest to me are shocked to learn I wasn’t sure I was meant to be a mom.
I met my amazing husband at 33, married at 35 (old to some). We both weren’t sure if we wanted to have kids. We decided to let the universe decide. We tried for a few months and due to my advanced maternal age (don’t get me started on that terminology — it’s a topic for another time), we thought we’d try one round of IUI. Our doctor warned us that there was less than an 11% chance of it working and most likely we would need to try multiple times, and possibly eventually undergo IVF. We decided to try it once and if it didn’t work then we would live our full child-free lives.
Well, the universe decided that we should be parents — and on August 18th, 2017, we found out we were pregnant. Before I continue, it is important for me to acknowledge how lucky we were to get pregnant so quickly and easily. I know there are millions of people struggling with infertility who would kill to be in a position like ours. And for that I am sorry. I can only imagine the pain that many feel. It is here where I hesitate to keep going because my truth is hard for many to hear, but honesty is the thing that our world needs most so people know they are not alone.
This is where all the loneliness starts. I had grand visions after finding out we were pregnant. I thought I would love being pregnant as I felt and watched my little nugget grow inside of me. I thought I would have a baby I could breastfeed, and watch grow, and meet all his milestones on time, and share in the joy of creating such a wonderful human. I envisioned play dates and connecting with moms in my area, talking about everything from nap schedules to poop consistency and what it was like to return to work after being on maternity leave. I imagined finding “my people,” a gaggle of women who would become my best friends and my support system.
I honestly don’t know if I would do this all again if I knew what life would be like. It pains me to say that.
Boy, was I wrong. One week after finding out I was pregnant, I become horrendously sick. I eventually found out that I had hyperemesis gravidarum, the sickness that Kate Middleton and Amy Schumer had. I was sick every single day of my entire pregnancy. I had to be hospitalized and IV’d for fluids. My husband lost a ton of weight because he couldn’t make any foods that wouldn’t make me sick. I spent nearly eight months dry-heaving my way through life. So much for enjoying pregnancy, but this I could get over. I was lucky to be pregnant and excited about our baby boy.
The contractions started coming early, and at 31 weeks and 2 days, I gave birth to my beautiful baby boy. I had no idea what having a premature baby meant. I was just relieved that he had ten fingers and ten toes and was alive. I had no idea how painful a two-month NICU stay would be. I had no idea how isolating and emotional it would be watching my only child through a plastic isolette while breathing through tubes, and having a feeding tube down his nose in order to survive. I didn’t even get to hold him until a few days after he was born.
Throughout this, I was alone. Don’t get me wrong, my husband was my rock. He supported me emotionally and physically. He and my mom were the ones that had to (literally) pull me off the living room floor and tell me to stop pumping because I was doing it 13 times a day just to keep up my supply for my baby to receive via feeding tube. Gone were the visions of blissful breastfeeding; my baby needed formula to gain weight. Our first pediatrician after discharge told me that “breast is best” and I burst into tears in the middle of the appointment because I had to give my son a combination of formula and breast milk in order to help him thrive. Needless to say, we no longer have that pediatrician.
What I longed for what a friend who could understand.
As time progressed, our path continued to take a different course than most. Our son was developmentally behind. I would take him to those playdates and moms’ groups I always dreamed of, only to be saddened to see how much further along those babies were. I would come home and cry to my husband, wishing that our little one could be like the others. Those babies were rolling, babbling, and had neck control while our little peanut stared off into space at a picture on our wall. While others were encouraging crawling, we had nine specialists in our lives attempting to help our son close the gap from his delays. I felt so alone.
I persevered and stayed positive. I joined preemie online groups, and a phone support group. But I ached for a real live friend who could empathize with what I was experiencing.
The loneliness was real, but I was resilient. I charged through each day with a positivity that could rule the world. But when he was one year old, our son came down with a serious blood disorder after a surgery. He had acquired something called neutropenia, of unknown causes, where every single time he has a fever he has to be hospitalized. As I write this, we have been to the hospital four times in the last five weeks (twice this week alone). If he doesn’t get treated for his fever within an hour, he could die of an infection.
I spend most of my days and nights obsessively checking for a fever. My husband had to quit his job because someone has to be on call for him. Again… the loneliness. I have wonderful friends, but they are (rightfully) naively and blissfully unaware of the life we live. They get to live normal lives with their children meeting milestones, never having to go to the hospitals and never knowing what it is like watching your baby get hooked up to IVs, blood draws and excruciating pain knowing that my boy could live his life like a “boy in the bubble.”
I truly thought that having a child would help my sensitive, deep soul feel connected and fulfilled with deep, lifelong friendships. Instead it has brought isolation, fear and feelings of inadequacy.
This is where the honest truth hurts: This is hard. I honestly don’t know if I would do this all again if I knew what life would be like. It pains me to say that. I love my son, but the days are long, hard and scary. The constant fear I live in is causing havoc on my life, my body and my relationships.
I write all this not for pity but as an olive branch of hope. People may look at us in pictures and feel like we have it all together, but clearly we don’t. Internally I feel alone. I truly thought that having a child would help my sensitive, deep soul feel connected and fulfilled with deep, lifelong friendships. Instead it has brought isolation, fear and feelings of inadequacy. I write this for all the mamas out there who are struggling.
Maybe your story isn’t as extreme as mine, or maybe it is much worse and you envy our situation. Maybe you are a working mom who feels like you don’t have time to make new friends, or maybe you are a stay at home mom who is feeling depressed and isolated. This is my plea: Let’s start being honest with ourselves and others, whether in person or on social media. Being honest and authentic is the way to friendship and connections. Knowing that I am not alone in life’s daily struggle gives me that hope. Maybe it can give you some, too.