Thursday 9 July 2020

New Motherhood and Friendships

“New motherhood often affects old friendships, without intention.
They’re caught up with demanding responsibilities and tasks. They rely on sharing information with each other, to get through this jolting start to parenthood. It’s not uncommon that friends without children get neglected.” 

I read this exactly a week before I went into labor with Liam - Yup, literally almost 4 ½ years ago - and I remember saving the link on my phone and  thinking to myself, “I won’t be like this, I’ll make sure I keep making an effort and won’t let this new journey affect me.” So I saved it. Thinking it was a good mantra of sorts to hold on to - “Don’t let this change you,”

But in looking back, my relationships had changed even before Liam was born. 

None of my friends had kids. They didn’t understand pregnancy, hormones and the anxieties and stress of new motherhood. Sure they were supportive and excited, but they couldn’t fully grasp how I was feeling. While they were off having amazing celebrations for their “Dirty Thirty” birthdays, mine (which occurred when I was 6 months pregnant) just involved a quiet family dinner. While they were off at summer cottages and all-inclusive vacations - I was at home, sicker then I had ever been in my entire life and taking medication for severe morning sickness. The few times I was included in plans, I either became the designated driver or went home feeling this weird disconnect.

Obviously now I see the reason for the disconnect. Just as they didn’t understand pregnancy and everything I was dealing with, I couldn’t really relate to all their current issues. I had been married for 5 years at this point – I didn’t know how frustrating dating sites had become. How awful it felt to have countless bad dates and to have to start back at square one. And in other areas where they were finding joy and fulfillment (living in their own homes, finding career fulfillment) I couldn’t relate to that as I was still living with my parents and working a job that I hadn’t ever wanted or envisioned for myself. Basically the highs and lows of my life didn’t match up with the highs and lows of their lives.

This isn’t a reflection on my friends – I have some amazing friends. It just became very obvious that we were suddenly at different points in our lives. And now with having 4 years of reflection and clarity – I see that a lot of it had more to do with my own mental state of feeling overwhelmed and anxious about this new life journey then their purposely doing anything to cause it.

But the bottom line was – expectant motherhood and motherhood did change those relationships.

I won’t lie - it was a hard time. And those first few months of new motherhood were even more isolating. The sleepless nights, the hospital visits for breastfeeding support, the worries, the fears, the hormones, the body changes – it’s a lot. I remember taking Liam one of his early appointments with my family doctor and bursting into tears about something insignificant. I was just overwhelmed, exhausted and anxious.

Liam and I - 5 days into Motherhood. 
Friends who would visit got to come and snuggle a baby for an hour or so – but then they left. Everyone knows, baby snuggles are amazing. You have this tiny little human, snugged all up in your arms, sleeping peacefully as you gaze down at his or her perfect little face. I loved the baby snuggles. But the massive poop explosions, projectile vomiting, pain of breastfeeding, having to track formula/breast milk amounts & times as well as record the numbers of poops and pees is not amazing. A screaming baby is also not amazing. The lack of sleep – broken due to all the previously mentioned screaming and feeding – is really not amazing. So my friends didn’t really get the complete picture of my life beyond those super amazing baby cuddles.

But other moms did. Suddenly the people I started seeing most frequently were my new friends… the friends I made who had children.

Mommy and me baby groups were truly a godsend for me – as was my mentor teacher (MT) from teachers college. I had spent 6 months in my MT’s grade 6 classroom five years prior to this, and we got along well and stayed in touch. Her daughter was born a month into my pregnancy, so she was who I initially reached out to. Over the next 8 months she was so helpful with pregnancy/baby advice, useful information, and product recommendations – basically anything an unprepared soon-to-be-mom needed to know, came from her. She lent me her bassinette, a bouncy seat, passed along gender-neutral clothing – she was incredible. Knowing now just how overwhelmed I really was about it all – I can tell you she was a godsend and an amazing friend. I am so grateful that I was placed in her classroom all those years ago, became she became an important part of my life when I really needed someone. So thank you Bernadette.

The mommy and me groups are also something I am so thankful for. I started going to them when Liam was about 4 months old – right around the time he was vaccinated. I have always been a social person, but I initially had to step outside my comfort zone with these groups. It was hard at first – especially the time spent sitting around in a circle singing ridiculous baby songs - but the connections became vital. From these groups I met mom friends – women I would see weekly. Once our kids aged out of the groups, we hung out at play places, farms, the zoo, swimming lessons. From those places we met other moms – and then I did some of that all over again 3 years later when Katie was born (mind you not as much as I would have liked to as it is harder when there is another child at home). I still see some of those moms even now 4 years later despite some of us having gone back to work, moved to other towns, had a second – or third – kid. I couldn’t recite any of their phone numbers off of memory and I generally only know their birthdays when Facebook reminds me – but they became the friends I saw most. The friends who I could relate to and who could relate to me. The friends I could ask parenting questions to and be reassured I wasn’t making a mess of this whole being a mom thing.

So that article was true. My friendships did change. But so did I. It was naive of me not to realize that change was inevitable. I have always been someone who resisted change. My Kindergarten teacher saw it way back when I was 5 years old – when I cried on the first and last day of school – she told my mother she had a feeling I would always be someone who didn’t do well with change. She wasn’t wrong. I don’t do well with change, but once the change is upon me I do adapt. And I have adapted.

My life now has a great mix of new and old friends and friends with and without kids.

I still have most of the friends I had pre-kids – and in some cases my friendships with them are stronger then ever. Now that my kids are older, it is easier for me to leave them for a girl’s night. Sure, some of those friendships have changed or ended, but that is the natural progression of life and 2020 Chantal is much more adaptable and understanding of that, then 2016 Chantal was.

Sometimes change is for the good – and while the initial journey wasn’t easy – I am so grateful for those changes. And I am so grateful for all the amazing friends I am fortunate to have in my life – both the old and new.

2020 may not be shaping up to be the easiest year – or the best – but it helps when I focus on what I am grateful for and all the blessing I do have in my life – and my friendships are plentiful.

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