Overcoming the Isolation of Motherhood
After 3 months in the NICU and CICU, and 5 months at home keeping my baby protected from the outside world, I knew I needed to get social again. We had become isolated in our own little world. I felt a strong desire to connect with other moms and I knew my baby needed to interact with other kids too. He was getting stronger and the time had come. I decided to join a local mommy and me workout group. I was excited about making new friends and finding a few more “villagers” for my “village.”
I made it to the first class full of enthusiasm. The instructor was welcoming and invited me to introduce myself and my son at the beginning of the class. However, not long into the class, I noticed that it wasn’t going to be so easy. I had spent so many months tucked away that interacting didn’t come naturally. I felt strained making simple conversation with the other moms. I had become extremely introverted.
I felt out of place and unable to relate to the conversations about every day parenting. I was still attending weekly doctor visits with my son, for various things. If it wasn’t the cardiologist, it was the pediatrician, the neurologist, or the gastroenterologist. I was so grateful that we were even able to attend a mommy and me class together, but I harbored an anxiety that I couldn’t shake.
As the other babies crawled around the grass, putting the occasional handfuls of dirt in their mouths, I kept my son tucked safely in the stroller. At the end of the class, all the babies played with shared toys on some mats in the middle. I nervously placed my son in this area too. But, when the little ones innocently began swapping pacifiers and sippy cups, I felt my blood pressure rising and my heart pounding in my chest.
You see, for several months I had to scrub my arms and hands for at least 2 full minutes and put on a gown before I could enter my son’s room. A nurse once harshly scolded me for forgetting to take off my wedding ring before entering the NICU, as it holds germs that would not be removed by soap. I developed a phobia that still lingers a little, 3 years later. The truth is, we had left the NICU, but the NICU never left us.
For over a year I continued going to the class, but did not make any lasting friendships. When I looked at the other moms, all I could see was how different our experiences were. I started skipping a class here and there, until I stopped going altogether.
Looking back now, I realize that although I wanted to connect with other moms at that time, I was still very raw from the wounds of a difficult pregnancy and beginning for my son. I know that I was recovering from trauma, mentally, physically, and emotionally and it was incredibly hard.
A few years have passed since this first attempt and I have been able to connect and make new mommy friends. Here’s what I’ve learned:
· I once let differences cloud my vision, my ability to see common ground. I’ve learned that we all have things in common, although it may not be easy to see at first. While our struggles may be different, we all struggle with something or the other and we can learn from each other and offer support.
· Larger groups may not be for me. I’ve learned that I do better one-on-one or in small groups. I now attend an amazing and small workout group for moms. I truly enjoy it and have connected deeply with the moms in the group.
· Nothing happens if effort isn’t made. I’ve learned that I must step out of my shell. No one will come in and drag me out. I have started inviting moms that I meet to come to my workout group, to go for a coffee or smoothie, or to go on play dates. Many people will say no, but some say yes. I’m really starting to enjoy new friendships because I’ve put myself out there just a little bit.
· We’re lucky to live in a time where technology allows us to keep in touch with people all over the world. I’ve put some effort into rekindling old friendships, by reaching out on social media or Whatsapp. It has definitely been worth it to reconnect with people who truly care about my wellbeing.
· I’ve also learned that true friends stand the test of time. Through it all, my very best friend, who lives many, many miles away, has continued to be a great support to me. Although we don’t see each other in person, she’s always there for me when I need a friend to talk to. I appreciate our friendship more than she could ever know.
Last Friday as I enjoyed a coffee date with a new friend from my son’s pre-k class, I thought about how far I’ve come. I know that connecting with others is an important part of my wellness journey and I’m well on my way. One day at a time, one step at a time.
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