Lonely: Surviving the First Year of Motherhood and Learning to Reach Out

Syndicated

Clearly, changes had to be made, for me and my new family. I had a child now, and he needed a happy mother, and I needed to be a happy mother. And so one morning, as I held my infant close to me, my silent tears wetting his little cheeks, I planned a path to dig myself out of the dark tomb that was choking me. I began by looking through church bulletins and joining their moms groups. I then checked the newspaper for diaper bag clubs at health clinics, and joined their morning sessions. I joined a stroller walk club from a posting I saw up on the Y's community board. Since I was breastfeeding, I looked for a La Leche League and found one through The Quaker Society.

Whether I made the meetings or not, it didn’t matter, I was part of something. On my calendar, I had a place to go penciled in and scheduled for every day of the week. When I had had enough sleep the night before to be a safe driver in the morning, I went to whatever group event or activity I had written in on the calendar. Monday through Friday, getting out of my house had become my new job.

I can't say that I felt that I belonged in every group that I tried, because I didn't. Many of the women at the groups I walked into already had friendships in place, and I often felt like a fifth wheel. Were there sparks of potential friendship at some of these meetings? Sometimes. I longed for a smile from someone who knew me, but what had to come first was learning to find my place in this new world that was now my life. When I was lucky, a bright face eagerly awaited me at one of these groups, but more often not, there wasn't.

I never knew what would meet me on the other side of the door when I walked into these places; I was grateful when the atmosphere was an open-armed welcoming one to strangers. But when it wasn't, I kept my chin up and promised myself to return the next week, to try again, despite the disappointment of being the one there without a friend.

I didn't click with everyone at these outings, but I did make the friends I needed to. Women like Anne, from across the street, who come springtime, shared walks with me. And Carrie from The Quaker Society, a single mother who gave me courage to do more things on my own by setting an example; and Laura, from Ireland, who had a baby boy, Devon, on the same day that I had my Alec.

These women, these once wonderfully steady fixtures in my days, have since drifted out of my life. I don't remember how. I get misty eyed at this loss because they were an essential part of the fabric I was then weaving of my new life as a stay-at-home mother; they were the golden threads throughout this new tapestry, holding the loose stitches in place for me when I couldn't.

It took the entire first year of my new life to find people to talk to, to have phone numbers that I knew by heart. It was almost fall when I finally met someone I could call spontaneously to spend the afternoon with me at the park. I had survived what I now think of as the most bewildering, pathless year of my life.

During this time, I found a book called Lonely; a memoir written by Emily White. Inside these pages, I had just what I needed then: manageable action items to finding friendship. There was a checklist in the book that I followed like a tourist depends on his travel map: volunteer, create park play groups, start a church play group, attend free lectures, form a book club. Emily White's book offered limitless ideas for starting points in looking for friendship.

In the midst of feeling hopeless for myself and for my baby -- for having a disconnected mother -- there was a light bulb moment. As overcome as I was by my life that was now barely recognizable from what it once was -- it hit me, the critical importance of being proactive in creating a social community.

Passively hoping for people to come into my life was not a plan. I had to find my friends. My mental and physical survival depended on it. Interactions and smiles with my child depended on it. My little boy needed a happy, unlonely mother.

Through that almost unbearably lonely year, I grew to realize that life should be lived fully, not merely survived. Just existing did right by no one. Friendships, even surface ones in the form of acquaintances, can tide us over during the changes in life, the transitions to a new being, that leave us stripped of who we used to know.

Some people are in our lives forever, some are our life lines for just that moment that we need them -- neither less precious than the other. If you have to work to find people, to have them be your oxygen during these achingly desperate times, then that, I determinedly whispered to myself one winter morning while my beautiful son and I walked to our Friday morning Moms Club, then that, is what you have to do.

I smiled with the hope that maybe this time, there might be a new mom there, and she'd be looking for a friend.

 

You can find Alexandra on her personal blog, Good Day Regular People, where she writes of small town life while raising three boys. She tries hard to go unnoticed, and fails miserably. You can also find her on twitter @gdrpempress

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