Written by Annelie Powell

Voices

The loneliness of the new homebound mother

Annelie Powell recently became a mum, and her new life isn’t quite what she imagined.

Baby and mother feetI’ve recently become a new mum, and my world has changed.

Before having a small smiley/crying person permanently attached to me (I’m not even breastfeeding), I used to scoff at statements like that.

And the thing that has changed the most is…I’m lonely. Which is a sentence that’s scary to write, as it instantly makes me feel like I’m not succeeding at motherhood. Or at life. I mean it was all supposed to be coffee and new friends and breastfeeding away the five stone I gained. It isn’t though.

It’s very hard to get out of the house with a small baby, although you feel you must. Even when you do, it’s often alone. I didn’t do National Childbirth Trust, a course run on childbirth, but more widely known as the place you make friendships pre-birth, what with you all going through similar things at the same time. It’s a choice I regret, but I don’t know how I could have changed it: regret still doesn’t mean I could have found the £250. The NHS does offer an alternative, but they’re one-off classes that don’t lend themselves to making mates.

Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of mother and baby groups around for this postnatal time, but it takes some gumption to walk into a full group, when you’re incredibly sleep-deprived and say, “Hi, would you like to be my friend?” Unless you are really drunk. Or seven years old. The friendships I am slowly forming are incredibly important, but tricky to develop, especially when your baby naps at the point when you’re due to meet. All of which means I am often gut wrenchingly lonely, void of adult conversation in the day.

We need to support new mums more, and find a way through the alienation that accompanies the sleep deprivation, and this change has to come from women. I’ve been lucky enough to have had some incredible support from people, so thought I would share some of the best things people have done for me, for which I will be eternally grateful. Hopefully they may help anyone wondering what they can do for a friend who is a new mum.

Check in with them every week, via phone call or text, or even Facebook. Yes, you are busy, but don’t make them feel that because they are a mum you’ve lost interest in them. We will try in return not to say that nothing else matters apart from children and that when you have one you’ll understand. Other things do matter SO much. And we’d like to hear about them.

“Many of my exes liked to shout about when they’d had a good poo. Imagine if they’d grown a baby. They would tell their story with pride.”

Cash rich time poor? Get them a few hours of cleaning services as a baby shower gift. It won’t be insulting. They will need it. My best mate went one step further and kindly offered to get me a night nanny for an evening just so I could get a night’s sleep. I declined, but the gesture made me sob with love for about 30 minutes.

Take food when you visit. Even if the baby is six months old, chances are during the day your friend won’t have time to cook. Or eat. Take them something tasty they can stuff in their gob that has a vegetable in it. Their bodies will thank you for it. Cheese and spinach scones. Roasted sweet potatoes. Houmous and a cucumber. Anything that isn’t solely made out of chocolate. And don’t expect them to make you tea.

A friend of mine offered to babysit so my fella and I can go out. It’ll be my first night out without baby. We’ll probably talk about the baby and look at videos of the baby, but at least we’ll be out. This friend has rocketed to saviour position in friend hierarchy. She also taught me about nappy rash, to not stress about the health visitors, and that it’s totally normal to feel a bit mental. If you don’t feel mental, that’s when you should worry. (Cheers GH!)

Be prepared to listen to their birth story. Everyone likes a good tale, and many of my exes liked to shout about when they’d had a good poo. Imagine if they’d grown a baby. They would tell their story with pride. And rightly so. (Me? Well thanks for asking: 36 hours, waters broken, back to back, emergency c-section, six-pint blood loss, body not realising it had given birth, allergic reaction to morphine resulting in temporary paralysis. Healthy, jolly, smiley baby boy. Worth it.)

Most of all though, just be supportive. The woman who is posting a lot of baby photos on Facebook/on her mobile when out/putting her babe in front of an iPad might just need a bit of adult conversation rather than tutting at. That phone may well be her way into the outside world at the moment. If you see a new mum in a cafe, smile, ask her how she’s doing and tell her her baby looks happy and healthy – even if he or she has pooed his or her way up the neck of a babygrow and is screaming blue murder. And most importantly with new mums: give her a hug. And if she’s drinking: a bloody large glass of wine. She’ll fall over because she hasn’t drunk in nine months, but she’ll fall very gratefully.

PS: New dads. You are also amazing. All the above applies to you too.

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Written by Annelie Powell

Annelie Powell. Casts stuff. Currently on maternity leave, and lives in Peckham. WLTM other local mums.