You're Not Alone in Your Loneliness—A Collection of Stories
From pregnancy through the early years, many mothers experience isolation and loneliness, yet few ever talk about it. Here’s a collection of short stories from mothers all around the country who prove that together, we’re not alone in our experiences.
Motherhood for me wasn’t like the movies—a big group of girlfriends who all had babies together and shared the ups and downs. As an introvert and anxiety warrior, I struggled with loneliness every day.
When you battle fear most of your life, and your instincts are totally in the background, trying to forge friendships as a new mama can feel daunting. Fear stood in my way, whispering in my ear that I didn’t fit in, that I was not enough. The comfort I was keeping to myself became a barrier around me. How do you put yourself out there when you stink at small talk and just don’t know where to start? How do you get people to see the real you?
I put myself out there, but it just didn’t go anywhere. I didn’t have the knack for being a social butterfly, and I just got more down about it. I was struggling as a mom and craved the companionship of another mother who could relate. I would stand there at school pick-up and playgroup feeling isolated and uncomfortable.
I’ve realized over the years that I’m not alone. As I share my story and step out of my comfort zone, I learn that so many other moms can relate. My fear, my discomfort, my loneliness do not have to be a life sentence. I continue to push through my fear, not giving it weight or power in my life. I start with self-talk that brings out the best in me and gives me courage to keep putting myself out there. I reach out online, at music class, at the next birthday party. It will happen. It did happen. For all the times I tried and failed, it took only once to reach out to that other mom who looked scared and uncomfortable, and to open up and share. It ended up being the start of a much needed friendship.
Nearly every mother has felt the weight of loneliness at some point in their journey. To feel less alone in our own experiences, I reached out to several mothers around the country to share their stories of feeling lonely and isolated in motherhood. Here’s a collection of their experiences.
As a single mom, my struggle with loneliness has been real and extremely raw.
While it has come in waves over the past five years, I felt it more profoundly as my child transitioned from toddler to preschooler. His easygoing ways were quickly replaced by a hulking mass of intense emotions, like a pressure cooker waiting to explode. In these moments, I feel the suffocating realness of my loneliness.
There is no partner, no team. It is me shouldering the mood swings, taking time off for doctor appointments, and figuring out bus routes to extracurriculars. There is no one to tag me out when the stress overwhelms me, or to shelter me from the verbal barrage when my son doesn’t get his way. It is only me finding ways to celebrate and plan vacations and special outings.
It would be so nice to have someone to look over to and glean some strength from, or just have some adult conversation that’s not about superheroes and Lego.
I had severe anxiety while pregnant with my first daughter. I felt like my life as I knew it was over. And in a way it was—I had moved to New York ten years earlier for a lingerie design job. I ran the division, and I absolutely loved my career, but becoming pregnant changed my perspective. I chose to take a year off work even though there was a strong possibility they wouldn't hold my position. When I was six months pregnant, I moved to Long Island, where I knew nobody. None of my new friends had kids, and I lost quite a few of them because they just could not understand that life changes when you have children.
Nothing anyone told me could have prepared me for the culture shock of staying home with a baby. I went from being in shape, running a division, interacting with co-workers, and being able to do what I wanted when I wanted to being completely overwhelmed with a newborn. No sleep, no time for me, minimal help from a husband who worked long hours, and nobody to talk to.
I was depressed. I felt like my life had shattered into a million pieces. I remember taking walks down to my local beach with my daughter and crying because I was so lonely. I envied the mothers who had company. I stopped leaving the house because it just made me sad.
This was not me. I had always been a happy, positive person, who was confident and strong. Now I was sad, miserable, and completely overwhelmed. I felt so helpless that I contemplated why I was even alive.
That is when I made a choice to take time for myself. I started doing fifteen-minute home workouts, and I implemented a healthy eating plan. When I started seeing changes, it gave me the confidence boost I needed to get out there and start making new friends. I met so many judgmental mamas, but that didn’t stop me. I continued to “mom date” until I finally found an amazing moms’ group, with women who had suffered from the same postpartum depression and loneliness that I had.
As I started making friends, I realized I needed to talk about my struggles openly, and that is when I started my own mommy group, so that I can help other mamas make friends. Now I am surrounded by amazing friends simply because one day I decided to make time for something that mattered to me.
-Sabrina Schwartz, Sabrina Gets Healthy
It's unfortunate that loneliness and motherhood often go hand in hand. I became so consumed with taking care of my family and being the best mom that I could that I didn't even realize I had begun isolating myself.
I loved being with my family and creating new memories, but I was also exhausted from all that motherhood entails, along with everything else. I began making excuses for why I didn't want to hang out, then I became overwhelmed with anxiety because I felt that being a mom replaced everything else. I was embarrassed to share my feelings with my friends and loved ones, which isolated me even more.
Today, I am still trying to balance it all and remove myself from that lonely place. Motherhood doesn't have to be lonely, and I'm not in it alone. Reluctantly, at times, I force myself to go out with friends so that I can get back to my former self—the woman I am and not just a mother.
-Tia Brevard, Juice Box
Motherhood has been the most paradoxical experience of my life. It has been twenty months now, and there are still moments when I get surprised by the extreme emotions this journey evokes. The loneliness was a gradual process that started with the premature delivery of my sweet baby. We stayed in NICU for a month. My whole focus was on a stream of questions: What is our weight-gain today? Can I maintain a regular pumping schedule to ensure there is enough milk for baby? Is baby progressing well? Are there any complications that have arisen, and what is the prognosis? How will I afford to settle the bill, since healthcare is very costly in Kenya?
This, coupled with healing the caesarean section wound, left no time for anything else. Prematurity is not yet understood in our culture, and hence it was not possible to get the necessary emotional support. On discharge, the comments as to how tiny baby girl looked, plus the extreme precautions I took to avoid infections (no visitors allowed in her room) further isolated me from my friends who seemed not to understand that a premature baby is very delicate.
Not many people were patient with this new me, and my social group shrank significantly. I concluded that, as a new mom, you need to give yourself time to adjust to having a tiny human in your life. Do not pressure yourself to meet social obligations if you feel it conflicts with what is best for baby. Those who understand and stand by you in this adjustment period, especially the first year, prove to be a great support system when you need help. As for the others, they were there for a season that has since passed.
Our triplets were born on November 29, 2017—Elijah, Emery, and our baby Easton, who had passed away when I was nineteen weeks pregnant from twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome. I was a first-time mother, and I was already grieving the loss of a child. I had friends and family from all over giving me their condolences, and I heard the same offer from everyone: “Let me know if there is anything I can do for you.”
The loneliness I felt when I heard these words was unbearable. How could anyone know what I needed? Especially if they had never gone through something like this? Even my husband, who was grieving the loss of our son, as well, didn’t know what he could do for me.
The word loneliness doesn’t always mean that you are alone. I had a lot of people by my side during my time of grief, and I still felt alone. I felt alone because, apart from my husband, none of the people around me had experienced what I had experienced: the loss of a child.
-Heather Andersen, Andersen Family Blog
It struck me in the most unlikely moment. I was washing the dishes when this overwhelming feeling of loneliness just came over me. My three-year-old was playing, and while he was in awe of how the wheels worked on his monster truck, there I was in tears.
It had been four months since my husband, three-year-old son, and I arrived in Canada. What was a family vacation from Manila, Philippines turned out to be a life-changing moment when we learned that my mother-in-law was terminally ill. My life immediately turned upside down as my husband and I decided to move to Canada permanently. I left behind a successful career, and I never got to say goodbye to family and friends. It was quick. It was harsh. But it was what had to be done.
Fortunately, my boss was very supportive and allowed me to work remotely as he hired my replacement. In an instant, I was a work-at-home mom while my husband started to look for work and take care of my mother-in-law. It was a lot to deal with. It was juggling chores, work, marriage, and taking care of my son. I felt like I was drowning.
While I am thankful for every day’s blessings—having my son and my husband—there are days when I feel lonely. I miss having coffee with my friends while we talked for hours. I miss family gatherings filled with laughter and lots of food. I know, very mundane stuff. But the loss of these simple things that I used to have makes the loneliness overwhelming.
I try my best to focus on other things, blogging and writing, to veer away from this feeling. And it has helped me a lot, in many ways. I have days when I’m feeling well and not even thinking about what I left behind. And then there are days when it strikes me hard . . . Just like that day when I was washing dishes while my son played with his toys and I cried silently. Very mundane. Very real.
-Daisy Casio-Mohamed, The Life We Have Now
My isolation and loneliness began during my pregnancy. Having twins meant double the hormones, and unfortunately, they made my pregnancy a tough one. I left work quite soon and spent most of my time sucking on mints, trying to lessen my sickness, or on bed rest. One particularly bad day I broke down, fed up. That was the first time I felt alone. Although my partner was there with me, he wouldn’t go through this. He wouldn’t feel how I was feeling. Carrying these babies was all my responsibility. I felt scared and so isolated.
After the girls were born, the feeling increased. Everybody went about their lives while mine stopped. I had few mum friends, let alone ones with twins. All of the advice people gave us didn’t work for two babies, and I felt like nobody understood what I was going through. A few months after this, I realized I had postpartum depression. I wasn’t diagnosed at that point; I hid it. I didn’t want to be judged. I didn’t want people to think I was ungrateful or a bad mum. It was just another way for my isolation to grow, and soon I felt like I had walls around me that not even my partner could break through.
Since being medically diagnosed with postpartum depression, I have learned to speak openly about my feelings, and bit by bit, I have seen my walls come down. I have made more twin mum friends who have helped and supported me, and I feel so much less alone.
-Becky Welsh, Living With Peas
Motherhood. A truly powerful state of being. Yet with all its power, it can feel like you’re on the loneliest island. What’s worse is that the loneliness creeps in, slowly soaking away until you’ve isolated yourself and allow it to cover you like invasive vines.
This feeling crept in a few weeks after having my son. At the time, my husband and I lived about an hour away from friends and family. It was difficult adjusting to taking care of a child while recovering from a c-section. I spent most of my days alone in the house. I didn’t see anyone. I didn’t talk to or message anyone. It was just the baby and me.
I was having to learn how to take care of this little bean while also trying to take care of myself—I felt like a failure. I felt like I shouldn’t be a mom. I felt like I didn’t belong.
-Tabatha Whiteside, Tabatha Whiteside
Today I realized how this newborn changed my life.
I was relaxing in a warm salt bath, and it hit me in the face. The loneliness crawled up to me. I am sleep-deprived, my nipples are sore, my back hurts, and the blood dripping from down there makes me uncomfortable.
They said becoming a mother would be the best experience. Well, I have not seen any of my friends in the last two days. My husband is on his own mission. Between breastfeeding, cleaning diapers, and almost no sleep, I start to miss my bed. I feel so tired, and so lonely.
Since the baby was born, I have not left the house. I can't—she needs me. I try to explain my feelings to my husband, but I don't think he will understand. My life has come to a complete standstill. Everyone else is still living their lives. Here I am with a two-day-old baby, and I am so confused. There is no how-to manual.
-Kesia Salome Neethling, Just A Girl With a Tattoo
As a first-time twin NICU mom, honestly, I was not enjoying motherhood as people had predicted.
Resting on my bed and thinking about my babies was the only moment I could connect. Visitors expressed pity for my low-birth-weight babies. Some shared tragic stories of child death. I felt dreadful when I should have been acting like a loving, caring mommy.
I was clueless as to why the dreamy story of motherly love was not what I was feeling. It had been fourteen days without breastfeeding my babies, who were struggling hard just to live. I felt self-hate, constantly wondering why I was not able to give birth to healthy babies. The days were dark; the only thing that kept me strong was my faith. No one in my family had had twin NICU babies, so the struggle was hard. The loneliness made me feel clueless about the happiness said to come with being a mother.
I’ve since learned that no matter how hard the situation is, as a mother, you always do your best. If you have the strength to give birth, you can handle everything that comes along with it.
Don't compare or complain about what you face today; your faith will lead you out of turmoil. Those babies, once considered weak, are now the healthiest of girls. When I look back, I see myself battling hard to raise them. Today, they are beautiful, grown-up, seven-year-old princesses. My daughters are the only reason I never give up. Trust yourself. Be there even if you think you can't do it, because you will do it and you are doing it gracefully. Support every mom, whether is a WAHM or SAHM, black or white, fat or slim, breastfeeding or formula-feeding.
-Arti Yadav, Escape Writers
I struggled with loneliness because I'm the only person in my friend group who has children.
I struggled with eFriends, whom I had previously relied on but who are no longer there for me. When they wanted to go out and socialize with each other, I was often left out because they thought I wouldn't be able to come. So they wouldn't ask me, because they knew I would feel guilty.
Then I realized that, although I wasn’t invited out for coffee and dinner anymore, they are more than willing to come and have coffee and dinner at mine so I don't have to leave my little ones. Sometimes it just takes remembering to ask.
-Jade Wilson, Everyday Young Mum