The Day I Knew I Was No Longer Alone
My daughter Alisha was born on June 27th several weeks after her estimated due date. It was about a couple weeks into motherhood when I realized very suddenly I had managed to go from paid work, quiet lunches and drive times where I listen to whatever music I felt like… to being thrust into the life changing event of childbirth, followed by 2 weeks of no time to myself (as I was constantly surrounded by family and medical staff), to crickets…. Yes, crickets. There was a sudden silence from the rest of the world after my initial, life changing welcoming to motherhood. I now found myself spending long days in a 650 square foot apartment, working at a job with no pay, rarely getting to eat lunch and let’s not even talk about “quiet time”. Boy, did I ever miss my prior long commute to work and my (what I thought then was) utter exhaustion at the end of a long work day. What’s worse—my daughter totally did not get the memo about going to sleep after a feeding, OR napping several times a day, OR going to sleep when the sun went down. I remember thinking to myself that someone just played a mean joke on me.
No one ever tells us about coming up with a Plan B or what your life is like if your newborn doesn’t sleep?
~ I had all these hours to fill, but because Alisha needed what seemed like 24/7 hands on attention, the crafting, cooking and baking (which I thought I’d get accomplished while on maternity leave) never got done. What I needed was a friend… another mother who could commiserate with me—who might understand my challenges and struggles as a mother. I was desperate for this, but after several failed attempts to connect with others mothers in my huge apartment complex, I began to realize that finding friendship and support as a mother was much harder than I anticipated. As weeks passed, I somehow busied myself taking care of Alisha. When she got a little older, I began to venture further away from my house. We found our groove. I started enjoying motherhood, falling in love with my baby, and yet… I was still desperate to meet and hang out with other moms. Until one day I learned about the Mothers’ Center—a mothers group held in different places that happened to be local to my community on Long Island. I loved the fact this organization seemed to understand the need for support and friendship in our roles as mothers. When I finally was able to get in touch with the center closest to my home, the person on the other end of the phone asked me what I thought was the stupidest question in the whole world—was I free Wednesday two weeks from now at 11:00? YES, of course I was! Suddenly, I had a renewed sense of excitement. I did not care that there was going to be about 15 people in the group that I had never met before. All I knew was I finally had a means to get together with other new mommies. And I wasn’t disappointed. The very FIRST day of the group was the BEST “Mommy Day” ever! There were two moms facilitating a group of about 10 other mothers and a childcare room where we could leave our babies while we met. Of course, it freaked me out to leave my 6-month-old baby without me (as I had not left her with anyone ever before) but I was desperate for some me time. And the truth is, the group made it as easy as possible for mothers to step away from their child by placing the child care right next door to where we met. I could even look through a window to see her at anytime or take her out and bring her with me if I desired! The gathering began with an introduction to the group. The group facilitator said we would be spending several months together, once a week, talking about our pregnancies and new motherhood. We then took turns introducing ourselves (we were all first time moms) and saying something brief about how we were doing that day. The first three women spoke and did somewhat “soft” intros—giving their babies’ name and age and then mentioning how much they loved being a mother. I was happy for them, I was… but it felt like it was just more of the same old same old that I heard on every playground I visited. And, it was still nothing of what I was feeling. It was at that moment when I realized that I had unconsciously been on a mission since I began my motherhood journey—a mission to find my peer group that would tell me that they loved being a mother, BUT ALSO that…
I was not crazy and alone in the challenges I faced and felt as a mother.
~ Just as I was beginning to accept that this group may just be another chat fest (when what I really needed was someone to say what I was truly feeling so I felt less crazy!) a mom sitting quietly in the circle began to speak. I was already mentally penning what I would say when it was my turn for an introduction, when I heard a crack in this mother’s voice. I halted my thoughts as my attention was drawn back to the words she said: “Please forgive me and promise me you won’t turn me into CPS, but there are sometimes when I have these horrible thoughts about being a mother… like, why did I even want to become a mother? The truth is, there are days when I hate what I am doing and when I don’t know what to do with my daughter. And, there are times when I have this urge to just walk out the door and leave her crying. What’s worse, when I am at my darkest moments, it scares me to realize that I don’t even care if I leave her crying and alone. Of course, I wouldn’t do that. I DO get over these feelings pretty quickly… but the battering that I do to myself, is just not pretty and makes me feel even worse about myself.” This mother broke the ice in the room. The next 2 moms who spoke, talked their truth. They shared deep feelings about their roles as new mothers. I cried along with them as we all shed tears of shock, relief, guilt and ultimately of letting go. And, when it came time for me to talk, I said the words out loud that I had not told the other moms whose life seemed so perfect:
“This whole motherhood thing was so much more difficult than I ever dreamed it would be.”
~ That, I began to understand, was part of the problem. I had never even entertained the thought that anything other than getting a good night’s sleep was going to be hard about becoming a mother. Therein lies the reason for the shock to my system. What new motherhood for me DID turned out to be was:
- spending 5 days a week (from 5 am to 6: 30 pm) alone with only a baby who fed frequently and did not sleep (unless I drove her around in the car)
- having no friends to spend the day with and being an hours drive from my family.
- dealing with intense guilt when I would have “crazy thoughts” (because I had this beautiful healthy baby girl and how dare I think for even one second “can someone take her and I can pretend for a day I was anything but a mother”)
My motherhood journey had been lonely. In fact, on really bad days, when Alisha would spend what seemed the better part of the day crying for reasons I could not figure out, I would think: Can I go back to the crazy job I had that I absolutely hated and could not wait to get away from? At least at that job there were people I could talk to, I actually had a whole hour for lunch by myself, and I could go to the store without schlepping all the baby stuff. I think the worse part of it all was the guilt that I would feel when I had those horrible thoughts… But now… in this circle I was amongst 5 women who shared similar horrible mommy/baby thoughts! Through my tears, I smiled. I was happy for the first time in a long time. I had finally met other mothers who also questioned their role as a mother and who admitted that sometimes they would rather be doing anything but. It may sound twisted to you—but finally I had found my tribe. And I was definitely no longer alone… Thanks to KATE FINESKE from Mom-mentum for putting this together