The early days of motherhood are so lonely and isolating. The days begin to blur together when it’s an endless cycle of feeding and changing diapers and not sleeping. Sure, you try to get out and take a walk, and maybe you have people come over and stay for a few hours, but it certainly doesn’t feel like much when you compare it to the amount of time you’re alone.
In those early weeks and months, everything feels long. Ten minutes can feel like an hour, especially when you’re nursing a baby. As much as I loved nursing my son, every session felt like a million hours. Normally, I loved sitting and not doing anything, but something felt so different when I was nursing. Sometimes it felt like it dragged on forever and ever.
I spent a lot of time alone with my son when he was a baby. His dad and I were still together, but he worked anywhere from 12 to 16 hours a day, so I was home all day alone with the baby. Sure, it was boring, being at home alone with someone who can’t hold up their own head, let alone talk to you. But this felt so much bigger than simple boredom. The feeling was heavy, and the way it hung around me made me realize I wasn’t really bored; I was overwhelmingly lonely.
The loneliness of motherhood is like an ache that you just can’t get rid of. It started as a dull throb in my heart and spread until it consumed my entire body. The loneliness felt like a sore that no amount of soothing balm could heal. I felt isolated by the drudgery of my everyday life, and I couldn’t figure out how to shake off the loneliness.
I craved interaction with other people: friends were the best, obviously, but I was happy taking whatever I could get. I’m not a huge fan of talking on the phone, but I would call my mom almost every day to have someone to talk to. More often than not, I just needed to hear an adult voice. I could never share with her how I was struggling, but hearing her voice on the phone dulled the ache, even if it was only temporary.
Silence feels loud when you’re lonely. Before my son was born, I’d relish silence. When he was a baby, the silence crushed me like a thousand-pound boulder.
Here’s the thing about the loneliness of motherhood: You feel like you’re the only one going through whatever struggles you’re going through. My son was a terrible sleeper until he was about three and a half. But when he was a baby it was the hardest. I’d talk to my friends who had babies close to his age and they would tell me how their kids would sleep for five or six hours at a time, or even straight through the night. I wanted to cry every time I heard that. I felt like I must have been doing something wrong, and that only made me feel even more isolated.
The constant comparing your baby/toddler to others exacerbates the loneliness. Because in your own head, you think you’re the only mom in the history of moms to be going through this thing that is stressing you out. It makes you feel even more lonely than you already feel. It’s easy to isolate yourself when you have a low opinion of your mothering skills.
But in spite of what you think, you’re not alone. There is someone out there who can save you from yourself. For me, finding a community of moms who shared my parenting beliefs saved me a lot. Even though the group was online, I felt less lonely; finding and talking with like minded people literally saved my sanity.
If you have access to a library that has a baby or toddler group, and you can get to it, GO. Trust me, you will see a room full of other moms who are desperate for adult interaction. You might make a friend, or at very least will have a mom to talk to for an hour while you are trying to keep your kids from putting every toy in their mouths. Knowing that we had that little playgroup every week gave me something to look forward to. Because when I walked in, I saw a bunch of moms who looked like me: leggings and T-shirts, hastily brushed hair, purple circles under their eyes. It was the one place where I wasn’t afraid to be honest if my kid was being a total asshole or if I just needed to vent for a while.
The loneliness feels all-consuming, but you aren’t alone. There is support and friendship for you out there.