In the blink of an eye, your life changes completely the moment baby arrives. At the same time, you’re cut off from family, friends, work colleagues and your usual routine. So, it’s understandable that women who enter motherhood with rose-tinted glasses struggle with the reality of life as a parent. Very often, it’s the direct opposite of what they had imagined it to be.
“The life you once knew suddenly comes to an abrupt halt. And in its place is this cute, crying, fussy baby who takes up all of your time and energy,” notes Joyce Selvathurai, 36, a mum of one. “You will eventually get used to your new lifestyle ― and in my case, end up loving it ― but the road to realising it can be a very lonely one.”
Here are nine scenarios you will very likely encounter in your first year as a mum. You will probably not see them coming, so it’s going to be a surprising and lonely experience. But chin up, mamas, because this, too, shall pass!
Loneliest moment #1 When it’s just you and bubba during those never-ending night feeds
Night-time feeds are very calm and enjoyable as everything is quiet and there aren’t any distractions. After all, it’s just you and your little one, snuggling together as you breast- or bottle-feed. And indeed, most night feeds are so soothing that both you and bub can easily fall asleep again right after a feed and a cuddle. Other times, not so much. “I remember those all-night feeding marathons. Everyone else in the house would be asleep,” says mum Theresa Tan. “Sometimes, after my baby fell asleep, I would stay up looking out of the window at random people walking by, wishing I had someone to talk to while waiting for baby to wake up again. It was incredibly lonely.”
Loneliest moment #2 When the husband returns to work
Once you bring baby home, you can expect a plethora of visitors and well-wishers to stop by for visits. You will also be surrounded by family, friends and, of course, your husband, who is at your beck and call. Those days will be exciting and festive as you celebrate bub’s arrival with company. However, too soon, the visitors stop coming, your family and friends return to their usual routines and your husband goes back to work after his paternity leave! “That was when reality really sank in for me,” recalls mum-of-two Vanitha Devi. “The first day I was all alone with my baby, I had my hands full caring for him, but I couldn’t help but feel a little sad, because I had nobody else to connect with or share my day with.”
The first day I was all alone with my baby, I had my hands full caring for him, but I couldn’t help but feel a little sad, because I had nobody else connect with or share my day with.”
Loneliest moment #3 When you’re breastfeeding alone in a room while everyone else is outside socialising
Imagine this scenario. You’ve been cooped up at home with baby for a few weeks since giving birth. So far, your only interaction with the outside world has been at the paediatric clinic for baby’s checkups, or the nearby grocery store when you’re buying diapers. Then, you receive fabulous news. Your friends are planning to drop by to visit you and baby! All week, you look forward excitedly to their visit – finally, some adult conversation with your favourite people! Two minutes after your friends arrive, bub starts fussing and you know it’s time to breastfeed. Since you’re still learning the ropes of breastfeeding, you excuse yourself to feed baby in another a room. But you end up staying there for an hour, because it’s seems like junior’s gunning for a cluster feed. Vanitha can relate to this all too well. “It’s been three years but I can still remember the intense loneliness I felt when I heard my friends in my living room, laughing and talking with my husband while I was alone in the room breastfeeding,” Vanitha adds. “By the time I finished, my visitors were ready to leave as well. It was very disappointing.”
Loneliest moment #4 When the husband has to travel
If you think staying home alone with baby for an entire day is isolating, wait till you have to do it for a few consecutive weeks because the husband has to travel for work. “The first time my husband had to go on a work trip, it was disastrous,” says mum Lucy Chan. “I was too afraid to venture out on my own with baby, so we stayed home the entire week. By the time he got back, I was suffering from major cabin fever!”.
Loneliest moment #5 When everyone else seems to be doing something fun on social media
Nothing makes a new mum feel more lonely than scrolling through Facebook and Instagram posts about friends holidaying in the Maldives or having a crazy Friday night out. “There was a time when I just couldn’t go online anymore because everyone seemed to be doing something incredibly cool, and I was at home struggling with breastfeeding and a colicky baby,” says mum Siti Khadijah. Sure, you get your moments, too, such as when you post a pic of yourself with your adorable baby and receive comments about how happy you look. But, only you know that you experience moments of isolation along with the joy.
Loneliest moment #6 When your baby-free friends meet up spontaneously
Remember those pre-baby days when you could say “Count me in!” to a last-minute dinner and drinks session with the girls? You’ll realise just how unrealistic, and virtually impossible it will be to do that once your tyke arrives. Yet, life goes on for your friends who haven’t had their life turned upside down by a needy newborn. Of course, being the pals that they are, they will try to include you in their fancy plans, but sadly, you won’t be able to join them. All you can do is look wistfully at the pictures they send you via your WhatsApp group chat or the ones on Facebook and Instagram where they tag you and wish you were there.
Nothing makes a new mum feel more lonely than scrolling through Facebook and Instagram posts about friends holidaying in the Maldives or having a crazy Friday night out.
Loneliest moment #7 When the in-laws criticise your parenting skills
Even when you and your hubby agree on core parenting principles, you’ll soon realise he might not always see everything from your point of view. This is especially true when your mother-in-law makes the occasional snide comment. Remarks like “Baby looks hungry, didn’t mummy feed him today?” might make you feel like your mothering skills are being attacked, but your husband might pooh-pooh it as you over-reacting. “My husband never understood why I would get upset when his parents would pass judgment on how we were raising our baby,” says Chan. “He thought they were trying to be helpful, which made me even angrier and more alone. Thank goodness, my girlfriends, who are also mums, reassured me that I wasn’t overreacting and were there for me as a sounding board.”
Loneliest moment #8 When your baby cries non-stop in public
“Is his diaper full?”, “Maybe he needs a nap”, “Have you tried feeding him? He sounds hungry”. Sound familiar? Yes, this is all the “well-meaning advice” you get from friends or random strangers when your peewee has complete lost his sh*t in public and nothing you do helps. As mums, we know that sometimes babies cry for no reason, especially when you’re out and he might just be feeling over-stimulated by all the noise around him. Try telling that to the others, though. Yep, it’s a losing battle, one that you’re sadly fighting alone.
Loneliest moment #9 When you worry that you’re doing it all wrong
Somehow, the stress and guilt of parenting a newborn only seems to affect mums. Dads just seem like they’ve always got their act together – even when they diaper bub wrongly, or feed a baby who’s just started solids a peanut butter and jam sandwich. What’s worse is that these feelings of self-doubt and comparing yourself and your child to others can hit you anytime, anywhere. It doesn’t only assail you in the middle of the night when you’re left alone with your thoughts. This forlorn feeling can also happen in the middle of a birthday party when you realise that your child is incredibly shy, just like you, and can’t seem to make any friends. It breaks your heart that you can’t do anything about it because that’s just who junior is, and you feel alone in your guilt and sorrow. There, there, mummy, take heart ― kids are resilient and they will find their own footing in the world eventually. For now, you’re doing a great job and you should be proud of yourself!
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