That blissful (yeah, right) first year: tips for avoiding isolation

By | November 4, 2013

After nine months of anticipation, the reality of life as the mommy of a newborn can come as shock. The excitement you’ve felt for so long can get gobbled up in the whirlwind of changing diapers, nursing, changing more diapers, nursing again, rocking, etc. Between trying to figure out what you’re doing and being exhausted, it’s easy to go days at a time without leaving the house. But that isolation isn’t good for you. You need other moms, preferably some who are in the same new-mom fog you’re in, but also some who are a little further along so they can show you the way.

And don’t give  me any crap about not having time to take a shower, because you do if you want it badly enough. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with bringing the bouncy seat into the bathroom while you shower. I know a wailing baby makes you want to drop the shampoo and run, but babies cry. And they eventually turn into toddlers who tantrum and preschoolers (even tweens!) who whine. It’s life. If you have toddlers who are killing each other, endangering the baby, or setting the house on fire, that’s one thing. Same thing if you have a special-needs baby; never put your child in danger. But don’t base your ability to take a five-minute shower on whether your baby objects.

Even if you’re not willing to let your baby cry while you shower, there’s always a way if it’s important to you. At one time, I had an (almost) 3-year-old, an (almost) 1-year-old, and a newborn. I never missed a single day of taking a shower and putting makeup on, even if I wasn’t leaving the house. It was just a part of the “old me” I wasn’t willing to give up. I can’t really say why, but it felt like the person I was before kids would cease to exist if I stopped “getting ready” every morning. I used to get up early so I could get it done before my husband left for work. If it’s not that important to you, fine – go as you are. I promise you won’t be the only one. Just don’t use it as an excuse for not getting out.

But I digress. The purpose of this post isn’t to comment on your beauty routine; it’s to tell you how to avoid new mommy isolation (because it can truly drive you nuts). Here are some ideas:

Hospital support groups for new moms:

A lot of hospitals have these. If yours does, take advantage of it. I don’t know if I would have survived my first year of mommyhood without the group my hospital hosted. It was run by two mother/baby nurses who were dedicated to taking care of the moms…which is nice at a time when everybody else is focused on the baby. They offered advice, held crying babies, let us go to the bathroom by ourselves (you never saw a group of women have to pee so much!), etc. We met weekly, and I cried when it was time to move on. With newborns strewn all over the floor, they gently but firmly booted us out when our babies were mobile. I’m still friends with some of the moms I met in this group. It was truly a life-saver.

Local moms’ groups

Just about every town has a moms’ group. Some are small and informal; others are structured chapters of national groups. Some meet at churches, some at parks, and some at members’ homes. Some are primarily “real life” groups with online support; others are mainly online groups where members schedule “real life” activities as a bonus. Back in the dark ages when my oldest was born, my other lifeline (in addition to the hospital group) was a message board for local moms. It eventually got absorbed into Facebook, but I’m still friends with most of the members. Some of them became very dear friends, even if I rarely saw them in person.

When you have a newborn, it can be a little intimidating to go to a playgroup that includes toddlers and preschoolers, but don’t let that stop you. At this point, it’s for you, not your baby. Put him in a sling or stroller to keep him safe, and go socialize. There will be other babies there who can grow up with yours.

Online speciality groups

However you identify yourself as a mom, there’s an online group out there for you. Single moms, military moms, moms of multiples, older moms…you name it. Try more than one. They each have their own personality, and it would be a miracle if you didn’t come across one that wasn’t a good fit. Don’t let that turn you off; just move on and find one that feels right.

Start a blog

A blog is a great place to vent, to work through your own adjustment to motherhood, etc. As you gain readers, you can ask for (and give) advice and suggestions. The amazing thing about the blogosphere is that moms who have things in common tend to find each other.

Disappointment comes from reality not living up to expectations. And few things throw us for more of a loop than the reality of new motherhood. We expect total bliss and get poop, vomit, crying, sleep deprivation, leaky boobs, and a lack of adult company. Most of these things are just part of motherhood, but the lack of adult company is fixable. And it’s essential to your sanity. Don’t let yourself become isolated. There are other moms out there going through exactly the same things, and they’re as starved for companionship as you are. Go find them.

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