The first few months after Brooklyn was born, I didn’t leave the house much. Partly because it was the dead of winter, along with everyone in the world proclaiming she could die from the flu. Those two things are valid points but I never really acknowledged to myself that I was also choosing to isolate myself for other reasons. Cold & flu season is a great excuse, and so is a monster snow storm, but as I think about how I would be if I had a 2nd child, I realize that the reasons I was home-bound on my deserted island went deeper than the weather.

I will also admit that the times that I thought about going on an adventure with Brooklyn were often stopped by the feeling of overwhelm of simply packing her diaper bag. I still wasn’t in the groove of feeling 100% prepared when I left the house. There were so many “what if she does this?” scenarios in my head, and what baby supply I would need if that even happened. What if she had a diaper blow out like the one at breastfeeding support group? The kind of blow out that shoots straight up her back and had me staring at her wondering where to even start with cleaning it. Or where to hide the evidence.

Then I wondered where I’d even go. I had no friends close by that had babies. I actually only had one childhood friend that lived by me but her kids were older where I just felt like a bother. Why would she want to hang out with a boring baby and even more boring mom? What did I even have to offer for conversation other than talking about how much I was watching “Golden Girls” and “Nick at Nite” until 5am. I hated the “George Lopez Show” and never watched it when it was on the air. Now I was watching back-to-back episodes on Nick at Night for hours. Why didn’t I just rent movies for crying out loud? Oh, wait, that would mean I’d actually have to pay attention and follow along with the movie. Brainless TV it is!

I felt like no one wanted to hear about how it was truly going for me. Never did I hear friends or family tell me how their first few months were after their baby was born.   Oh the sleepless nights were a common topic, of course. Then there were the diaper stories. How many diapers they went through, along with the poop up the back, the colors, and smell. All would end in laughter, which I believe is a goal visitors have with a new mom.  Nothing serious, let’s keep it light, funny, and talk about poo and vomit. So basically I learned I wasn’t going to sleep a lot and I knew she was going to piss and shit a lot. I honestly thought my feelings were totally out there and that NO ONE would understand. Therefore, I kept them to myself. I kept A LOT to myself. I chose not to be vulnerable and that’s where the isolation started.

During this time, my husband was wonderful in so many ways. I have to preface that because of course any challenges I had with him during this time I feel horribly guilty even bringing up. It’s not like he did anything wrong. There were just these times and feelings which created that separation and feelings of being alone. I mostly blame my boobs for it but I also have to honor that it’s just how I felt about him and this time. The first week after Brooklyn was born, he stayed home with me. Which was wonderful. Even though he couldn’t do much, his presence with me was just so comforting. The companionship was warm and cozy. If Brooklyn was screaming, we were “in this thing together!” He has 2 children from a previous marriage where he also knew a lot more than I did. “What are those sesame seeds in her poo? And why is it orange?” He knew the answer. “How the fuck did you know that?” I would swing my head and ask him. Well, he had walked this road a couple times.

When he had to go back to work, shit got real. I had huge anxiety once that clock hit 9pm. I would count down the minutes until he drew the shades and went upstairs, by himself, at 11pm. I stayed downstairs for a while because Brooklyn was up all night crying as I figured out the breastfeeding crap. I slept on the reclining leather sofa with her bassinet next to me; reclining back and forth getting small bursts of sleep in between feeding her. I still can hear that leather screeching sound when she’d wake up and I’d recline up to feed her. Then recline down pulling up an afghan that was made for Brooklyn and too small for me. I remember when the sun would start shining in, I’d look at that damn clock to see 6am, and panicked that the day was beginning. At the same time, it didn’t seem like the day before ever ended. Soon he’d be getting up to shower for work. He’d leave and then I’d be alone with a long day of nothing. Staring at the blob on the mat with her tummy time pillow. Just making obnoxious noises at her, shaking things in her face, reading to her, and singing any song I could because I didn’t know any lullabies (My college friends recommended sitcom theme songs so “Thank you for Being a Friend” was the magic tune. That happened day after day and that line up lasted a whole hot 30 minutes.

I can’t believe I still have that clock up on our wall. I wasn’t mad at my husband for leaving me. I felt guilty for having any sort of negative feelings to him getting sleep and going to work.   Was I jealous? Probably a bit. More so I was just missing him and his comfort. It was hard to be alone with Brooklyn. I wasn’t afraid anything bad would happen or I wasn’t capable of taking care of her. I was simply bored, lonely, and just desperate for companionship. I felt I was becoming boring as a result. What did I even have to offer when all I did was put her on my boobs, staring at her, watch Nick at Nite, and raise and lower myself in a recliner?

I had so many people around me that I could reach out to, but wouldn’t. Many of my friends were also moms, but at totally different stages where I didn’t reach out for fear of bothering them. Plus, no one ever talked about the crap I was going through. The sadness. Regrets. Grieving. Resentments. Anger. NO ONE. Everyone seemed to have their shit together and when their children were newborns, everyone seemed fine. I never had a friend reach out crying about how miserable she was. We would just sit there and coo over her baby and totally neglect talking to her about what was going on. The real shit. It was ALL about the baby. Plus, I am sure they all felt like me where they didn’t want to bother anyone with their story. Perhaps they would appear ungrateful, that they didn’t LOVE motherhood, that they didn’t love their baby? When that role of MOM is branded on your ass, shit changes. You’re now supposed to be the rock in that family. The strong one. The bitch that holds her shit together and doesn’t show a spider on the wall that she’s struggling.

When we don’t share our struggles- we are getting further into that jungle on the deserted island. No one can see us, find us, or even think about us. People aren’t going to come right out and ask “So, do you feel like your life has turned upside down, and it kinda sucks at times?” Also, with this positivity movement, GOD FORBID you complain about any part of your new life. Otherwise you’re seen as “negative”, “toxic”, or just a bad vibe. You should be GRATEFUL and appreciate your blessings. News Flash!  You are grateful. You do love your baby. You have got to acknowledge your struggle to climb out of it. It’s not a permanent place but you have to honor what you’re going through and your feelings in order to learn and become the amazing mother you’re meant to be. Rip the layers, get vulnerable, and if that’s hard then BE FUNNY about it to make it easier. Just say one thing that you’re struggling with when a friend asks how you are. See how her eyes open, she starts to get comfortable, and says to you “Oh my gosh, I felt the EXACT same way.”

Being distant from some friends is natural. I didn’t know that at the time, and it saddened me. Looking back, I know that our friendship will be there but right now it’s just taking a dip. We’re just not in the same places and life is full of so many things that distance friends even more. What overwhelmed me is finding the new community of women that were in the same boat as me. On top of it, many would say “Once she’s in school you’ll find some friends.” I didn’t want to wait THAT long or I’d go insane! (Plus I had no idea that I’d actually have her in Montessori by 18 months) I had to take action TODAY. I would go to Meet Ups, Facebook group play dates, and come home in tears to my husband saying, “I’M NEVER GOING TO MAKE ANOTHER FRIEND AGAIN!” I went into every play date so desperate to find friends. Reminds me of the dating world I had after breaking up with a long-term boyfriend when my mom told me “Don’t look at every date as your future husband.” My husband gave me the exact same advice, “Don’t go into these play dates expecting to find 5 best friends.” I had been so tight with my high school and college friends that I never really had to get out there and create a new community of friends. Well, now I had to. If I wanted to get off my island and stop talking to my volleyball (Wilson!) then I’d have to be open to disappointment.

When I finally realized that I wasn’t going to connect with every woman I met (nor would every women connect with ME either!) I relaxed a bit. I trusted my gut more on who gave me that good feeling and instant connection. My first friend I found that way was my dearest friend, Vanessa. I finally got off Google and went to a live breastfeeding support group at the local hospital. I thank my NP at our pediatrician’s office for suggesting it. My constant phone calls to her may have been a hint that I was struggling with this.

Vanessa was one of 10 women throughout the weeks we all met as a group. Honestly she was the one woman I connected with, and I knew it instantly. From the moment she pulled out her boob to feed her daughter, I said, “This is my kind of gal.” We’ve been friends ever since. Our girls went to preschool together and we will probably be sitting next to one another crying as our girls walk down the graduation aisle. We met for coffee (oh the days when our girls were immobile blobs of babies and we could sit and chat for hours!). Trips to a park, visits at one another’s home, and we also met just the two of us. We never had a dull conversation and I felt I could tell her EVERYTHING. She could tell me everything as well. There is laughter. Serious conversations. We learn so much from one another. We’ve been on trips together. We’ve even declared we’ll be the real life Golden Girls when we’re in our silver stage… or maybe earlier? I’m so grateful that I trusted my inner compass and gravitated towards her. Opened my heart to her and let her be a part of my life. The “my kind of gal” friends are the ones that will stick with you through it all. So let them see your boob, break the ice, and trust that gut when you’re talking to her. You’ll know if she’s YOUR own kind of gal.

Your Mom Friend,

Michelle Mansfield Blog

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