When we first found out that we were expecting, like most parents to be, we couldn’t wait to share the exciting news with friends and family alike. It was bittersweet, however, as it just so happened to be around the exact same time my family had decided to immigrate, and this visit home would be the last time I see them in a long while. It is one of the unfortunate facts of life: family spreads out, friends move away and before we know it, life has taken us to places we aren’t always ready for. For me, this meant I would be going through pregnancy and the birth of a new child without any family or any friends around. It sounds rather pitiful, but I was ok at the time. I went through pregnancy without much trouble – I was consumed with work, so busy in fact, we decided to not go to a prenatal class. This was my first mistake. At 37 weeks pregnant, at our last doctor appointment, it became apparent that the baby would not be coming the usual way, and so a c-section was scheduled. All work came to a grinding halt and two days later, I was in the hospital, holding my beautiful baby. Is there any moment more precious than those first few hours with your newborn? Friends and Family from afar waited eagerly for message updates, pictures, and video calls. And we were happy to share our bundle of joy (but also happy to have the calm of not being inundated with visitors just yet). The first few weeks after the birth were a blur. Late nights, early morning feedings, drama with feeding, and trying to get into the gist of being a new parent – we barely knew which way was up. Then, slowly came the visitors – first the in-laws, then my Mom, who flew out to meet her new grandchild, then a couple of friends, and then… they were all gone. My husband returned to work, and the reality of being home, alone, with a small person began to set in. I know I am not the only new mom who has experienced or gone through this, but I feel like you only understand completely when you are living it. Living in complete isolation. The days melt into each other, it’s 4 pm and you’re still in your PJs, then it’s 7 pm and you realize you haven’t uttered a single word all day. I never realized how lonely motherhood could be. I felt my mind easily slipping into a space of despair. Shouldn’t I be happy, I have a beautiful healthy child? Then, one day, after getting sick of my own self-pity, I decided to take action – I wrote on local mom pages asking if anyone, any new moms, wanted to meet up and connect. I joined a baby class and tried my best to make friends with the other moms there. Making friends should be easy right? I mean, we all have this kid thing in common after all.Making new friends, with other moms, has been one of the hardest and awkward things I have ever done. It soon became apparent to me, that all these moms around me already had mom friends, mom groups, or social circles that they were a part of. A lot of them formed friendships in pre and ante-natal classes and breaking into one of these circles I discovered, was impossible. I felt like an outsider. I awkwardly would ask if they would like to meet up sometime, and would generally get an awkward “oh ok”, trying to be polite, response in return. I gathered all the numbers I had collected and created a “mom” group. Week after week, invite after invite, I was rejected, again and again. Oh, we’re busy, sick, *fill in the blank… Never rude – but always no. It stung to see pictures of them all hanging out online – but I’m a grown woman and I shouldn’t let that bother me right? Right?! And then finally, one day, someone actually said yes! Shock and disbelief. I couldn’t believe, at last, someone was actually willing to hang out with me. But then the anxiety hit me – what if she doesn’t like me? What if whatever terrible thing about me comes out and she never wants to hang out again? What if I embarrass myself or she thinks I’m stupid? I was feeling like that awkward teenager about to begin high school. I felt like I was going on a first date – A first Mom date. I showered, dressed (chose a nice shirt, not like the stained holy t-shirts I’ve been wearing), brushed my hair and teeth, sprayed on some perfume, and even put on some mascara. Did I look decent, and not like a hot mess? I packed my bag, changed my baby, and grabbed his snack and toys. Finally, we were ready. My heart pounding, the nervousness creeping over me. “Stop being ridiculous, who cares if no one likes you!”. But I did care – I cared a lot. It’s been over a year of trying to make friends, and finally, someone was going to hang out with me. I mustered all the confidence I possibly could, and headed out.We met up at a restaurant that was kid-friendly, and where our babies could run amok on the lawns. She was happy to be there, and we chatted easily. Could it be? Is this going ok? The bubbles didn’t hurt either. The kids played nicely and we reminisced about their littleness and shared our anxieties for the future. At the end of the afternoon, we parted in good spirits and what seemed to have been a genuine connection. She later thanked me for organizing the outing and agreed to repeat it in the future. Will this continue, I can’t know for sure, but it has given me the confidence to not stop trying, to continue to try and connect.
So why am I telling you all this? Human connection is a fundamental need, and without it, we can easily become depressed. While every new parent experiences things differently, a lot of us feel disconnected, alone, or isolated. I wish for everyone to become more aware, forgiving, and gentle with the new parents out there. Don’t glare at them because their baby is crying in the restaurant, don’t scold the way they have chosen to parent/feed/dress, etc their baby. Being a new parent is one of the hardest things you will ever do – don’t add to the anxiety and stress new (and even old) parents are already experiencing. Instead, reach out, help out, smile and support. If you are a new parent, ask for help, let others know how you are feeling. And if you have a friend or family member who is expecting or a new parent themselves – reach out, connect, include and visit – you don’t know how much it will help.