Brave Butterfly (Butterfly Series: Part 3)
“Just when the caterpillar thought “I am incapable of moving,” it became a butterfly.”- Annette Thomas
My biggest fear in the world is being alone. It really is. I think that is why I always wanted a strong, honest, and brutal friendship like the ladies in SATC (Sex and the City). Motherhood is lonely in the beginning… and well into the toddler stage. You aren’t invited to events with friends or family gatherings often. When you are, you usually have to say no because you need to take care of yourself, or it’s your child’s naptime, or perhaps you feel you can’t breastfeed in public.
I don’t think there is an amount of therapy that even begins to explain just how isolated a new mother is. If my therapist were to ever read this, I think we would have about a year or two worth of sessions just to break ground on it. I think it is why I avoid the topic with her at all costs.
I lost plenty of friends when I became a mother. Even some of the strongest bonds formed with friends from childhood were at risk, and some of those friendships have since ended. I felt as if no one understood the situation I was in, no one wanted to hear it, and even though I was in a dark place, my system of support had better things to do… and I was right.
When a person you love embarks on a journey, whether it’s a complex pregnancy, NICU journey, infant loss, or infertility (to name a few), having a good support system is key. Those friendships are often your reality check to the outside world, your shoulder to cry on in times of crisis, and your light in the tunneling darkness. So what exactly happens when those connections suddenly disappear? And why do they disappear? If not suddenly, what suddenly pushes them to abandon you in time of need?
I wish I could answer that, but I guess the only way I share any sort of knowledge would be to describe the events that led to my “friends” abandoning me. For the purpose of this discussion, I am definitely using the word, “abandon” because that is exactly how it felt, and that is how it played out.
I was wrapped up in my own world, in and out of the hospital, and once Mark came I found myself completely wrapped around him and his needs. After I was cleared at my 6-week postpartum check-up, we went back to work. My days were long and my nights pass by in the blink of an eye. I would wake up and go to the NICU. From the NICU, we would travel all the way to work. As soon as our workday was over, we would go home and let our dog outside and give him his dinner, and then back to the NICU we went. We’d wake up early in the morning and do it all again. It takes a lot out of you.
Strike One: I was too wrapped up in myself.
Of course, as any new mom would agree, the first few months of your baby is a learning curve. Throw all of the mommy and me books away- your child will likely follow the book to a T for the first few months. It also means you will be spending every single night and day getting to know them learning your child, and establishing a routine. For those who have medically complex children, this is the same, but you also have to take time to learn their specific needs for each diagnosis. But the point is, your child becomes all-encompassing.
In my case, I felt the need to share everything with my friends. This means I vented on the worst days and when people felt the need to question my decisions or choices when it came to my son, I took to the offensive. I would shoot back with snide comments and remarks. Perhaps even with some rude comments (which was 100% wrong of me to do, I can admit that).
Strike Two: I had a bad attitude and was often negative.
Their lack of understanding and my frustration weren’t the greatest combination. I just wanted someone to understand what I was going through. I wanted them to understand my emotions, the fear, the pain I was experiencing. I would never want someone to experience what I have, but I also wanted to feel heard. I wanted to feel listened to. Instead, my messages would often go unread, or read… just not responded to. I would cry for help, and no one would reach out. These were my friends… why was I feeling like I had none? Why did I feel like I was the topic of conversation in a group chat I wasn’t part of (which I later found out, I was the topic). I felt isolated from even my own friends. The ones who I thought were going to be aunts to my son, the girls whose weddings I’ve been in, the ones who I sat up all night with as they cried over their exes, family drama, and school/work problems.
Strike Three: I expected “me” from other people.
I am so fortunate for the friends who saved me when I was at my lowest. Let me clarify, new friends and old ones who managed to save me. I found friends who listened to me. They took their time to understand me. They stopped what they were doing and checked on me. They love my son like their own. They love me for me. They didn’t make me feel like I was being questioned. They’ve come over to my house and helped me with dishes, laundry. They helped me get baby vomit off my clothes, and would even hold Mark while I showered to get the remaining bit of vomit off of me.
I felt like no one understood me in general sure. But it was only amplified soon after I became a mother… especially as a new mom. It was overwhelming and understanding went right out the door. I never expected people to stop their lives for me. I know the world doesn’t revolve around me and it wasn’t something I ever expected from my other, old friends. This is why I am so glad that I have a few great friends who are just amazing. They listen to understand, not to question and criticize. My friends today are ambitious, loving, and kind mothers who are resilient and strong in ways I could never be. Their love for my son and my family is actually more than anything I could ever ask.
Silverlining: Motherhood weans out the people of the season and brings out the truest friends for a reason.