Motherhood Adrift: Failing at Friendship as a Mom of One

Being a mom of one means many different things.

It means having it easier in some ways and harder in others.

I met my friend Anne in prenatal yoga class when I was attempting to be the ultimate perfect pregnant woman. I was fit and ready and thought I would actually do yoga poses during labour because I was naïve and thought that there might be something else to birth besides blinding pain and exhaustion. Anne was four months ahead of me in terms of her pregnancy and she was genuine and easy to talk with – unassuming, kind, generous. Small cities can mean cliques and difficult making new friends, but Anne was open and ready to expand her friendships to include other soon-to-be mamas.

It is not an overstatement to say that Anne understands me in a way that other mothers don’t and takes to time to be compassionate about my pain around motherhood. Starting with our births, we had very different experiences of becoming mothers, but not so different that we couldn’t find common ground. Anne made motherhood look easy despite the fact that she shared her truth about how difficult it actually was. She made me feel like I could handle birth and a new baby.

Neither Anne nor I saw my postpartum depression and anxiety (PPD&A) coming. I figured since I’d had this relatively easy breezy pregnancy, everything would come up roses with the birth and all my motherhood skills that I’d learned from books which were at best, hypothetical, and at worst, misleading. Books cannot prepare you and that was one of the many hard truths I had to face as a new mother. I had a difficult birth and, combined with difficulty breastfeeding, I fell quickly down the rabbit hold of PPD&A.

I still remember clear as day when I finally got to see Anne again once I was medicated and in counseling and felt like I could see people without crying or losing my train of thought in the chaos of my own mind. We sat by the water, on a patch of grass, and I explained the unexplainable. And she understood. She made me feel heard and seen and the compassion that spilled out her eyes was everything. She gave me hope that I would be “normal’ again. That I was still me inside the hollow shell that I had become. She made me think that I might care about things again. That I might live again.

Our children are both four now and best friends – the kind of best friends that are absolute opposites and yet live for each other. Over a year ago, Anne had another baby. I was already drifting from her when she got pregnant. There was nothing intentional or malicious about my drift, there was something more protective in it. I couldn’t relate to wanting another baby or enjoying the baby and toddler years. It’s almost as though I didn’t want her to go through it again because I wasn’t going to. We’re good, I thought, all is good now, right? We survived, made it this far, let’s not mess up a good thing.

Honestly, and insanely, I am often horrified when someone wants to have another baby. Not for them of course, I am very happy, but it brings forth all the things I don’t want to feel – all the terror around newborns and sleep deprivation and honestly, deep bone-chilling sadness that accompanied my entrance into motherhood. It also makes me feel like I should want another for any other reason than trying to “get it right” the second time. It makes me sad. And it makes me alienate myself from others.

From Anne.

Some of it has to do with the fact that I have difficulty talking about the nitty gritty of the early days of motherhood. Some of it has to do with feeling left behind. Some of it has to do with comparisons, inadequacies, and resurfacing fears about not being the right kind of mother because the right kind of mother wants two children minimum, right?

I like the ease of sitting while my daughter and her son play. I like the feeling of being less frazzled and needed, clung to and depended on. It’s actually sometimes hard for me to see that, to hear about it, to support it because in many ways, it was my nightmare. So perhaps I wasn’t there the way I should have been for Anne simply because I couldn’t be. And it makes me sorry that PPD&A took a lot from me.

I sometimes comfort myself with the knowledge that one child will be easier because it will, for me. We all have to make choices that are right for us and allow us to live and breathe in the world a little easier. We owe something to our moms friends though. To those women who saw us through thick and thin. And that is understanding and love.

I am trying to work though my difficulty around infants and babies – exposure therapy if you will. I mean, I love them and they are wonderful, but if I think too hard about what they mean, and have mean, for me and to me, I get caught up and don’t want them near. A good friend and colleague recently had a baby and I did my very best to tell her what she wanted to know without too much advice or unnecessary information. I kept in touch every day for the first six weeks or so – the hardest time in my opinion. I felt useful and like part of a system that was lifting her up, buoying her into motherhood, her new life adventure.

I may have failed Anne, it’s true. It was perhaps too soon for me or maybe I was always just going to be unable to see our lives and our friendship with another baby in the mix. Whatever the reason, I have to forgive myself for allowing myself to drift into a safe space so that we could remain friends and I could retain my sanity.

Anne is the best kind of mom friend. She asks how you are doing and knows what is happening in your life. She genuinely empathizes and takes care with your feelings and experiences.

I am the mom that I am and continue to be because of my friendship with Anne. She lifts me up. She kept an eye on me even when I was falling.

We’ll get back there, to where we were.

Our children will grow up together and we will be older women someday soon. I see on a beautiful porch talking about our children’s choices and about how hopeful we are that we did – and are doing – everything right, just like we did at the beginning when we were both brand new moms, full of hope about motherhood and the future.