Grieving my old life, five years later

It’s been about six months since my last post. I have a lot of factors I can blame – work, family commitments, mom life… but at the end of the day, I know I just didn’t do enough to prioritize writing. I’ve really missed it.

I’ve been going through a bit of a hard time over the last few months. I’ve been feeling down, overwhelmed, and at times very lonely. The weird thing about my loneliness, though, is that I’ve never had so many friends as I do now, at this point in my life. I have met a lot of amazing women since I became a mom and I maintain a pretty social life with my toddler and with friends and family on weekends.

My loneliness isn’t one that’s obvious from the outside. My loneliness creeps up on me in the middle of the week, on a rainy Tuesday morning while my daughter is napping. I still miss my mom desperately.

My grief has changed lately and while I still long for her on the milestones and the special days, I miss her the most on a rainy day like this one, when it’s just me and my little girl at home.

Last week was especially difficult. I was feeling a lot of depression, anxiety, and a constant feeling of being overwhelmed. I couldn’t turn my mind off – a constant stream of everything I had to get done, all the groceries that had to get bought, all the people I had to get back to, everything I needed to do for my business. I’ve heard some people refer to the “mental load of motherhood,” and I am thinking maybe this is what they mean. Ever since my mom passed away, I have been having increased anxiety in my life. Lately though, it’s gotten to the point where the smallest things will stress me out in such an intense way that my day-do-day life is being affected.

I decided to seek out a counselor. I don’t know where to begin, as I’ve never seen a professional to address any of my issues with. I am scared to let myself be open and vulnerable, but I know I need something or someone, a safe third party that is neutral. It’s been five years since my mom died, but some days I feel like I haven’t made any progress in my grief journey.

I don’t know if other people feel this way, like some days feel like the first day without their loved one?

I want to be a better mom and wife and I want to feel better for my baby girl and my husband. I want to find a way to start living for my new family and take some of the focus off of what I have lost. Even with all the blessings that have come my way over the last five years, I still find myself grieving my old life.

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Mom Friends

I’ve always been a girls’ girl. I love having close female friendships, some of which I’ve been lucky enough to have since childhood. I’ve always valued sharing, venting, crying, and laughing freely with a trusted circle of confidantes. My circle has always been somewhat small yet flexible, finding that the older I got, the less time and energy I could dedicate to non-true friendships.

The friendship dynamic in your life undergoes a huge transformation when you become a mother. You still love and miss your pre-baby friends, but a part of you yearns to be surrounded by others who are going through what you are going through. After the dust settles and the first couple of crazy, tearful, love-filled, exhausting months of motherhood are behind you, you kind of re-emerge. I felt like a hibernating bear, waking up from its long winter sleep, shaking off the dust, and opening its eyes again.I felt my strength slowly return; My baby was growing and thriving and I was ready to be me again. I started to miss the social interactions from my old life – simple things, like going for a quick coffee with a co-worker or a phone call with a friend on my lunch break. I knew I couldn’t have those things again in the same way, so I looked for new versions of them.

As a new mom, you are stuck in a strange limbo, an in-between space between your old self and your future self. Your old friends are all busy with non-baby things, and yet the thought of putting yourself out there and making the effort to meet new people is daunting and scary. You are still fragile; You are still healing, vulnerable, and trying to make sense of all this newness. The friends you have that are moms with older kids are already out of this space – they are usually back in the workplace or have somehow resumed their pre-baby activities.

I found that in the past, a friendship in my life was created from a unique combination of shared values, background, sense of humour, etc. Now, however, when I meet a new mom or exchange a quick smile with a fellow stroller-pushing woman on the street, I feel an instant connection. I don’t ask for much – if you are nice, I want to be friends.  This doesn’t mean I discount non-moms as potential new friends, it just means that there is a very special and very rare connection a woman feels towards another woman who has just gone through the same life-altering event as she has.

I understand now why so many of my mother’s good friends were ones she had met when my brother was a baby and little boy. My mom was an immigrant, new to Canada and uprooted from her family and friends. I understand now how my shy, soft-spoken mother formed such strong, connected friendships with a few special women she met at the playground, at the beach, and at preschool.

I get it now – why women need mom friends. I used to think of this as a sad rejection of a woman’s old life, friendships, and lifestyle, but it’s not like that at all. It stems not from a need to remove the old and replace it with the new, but from the need to be understood. A new mother is so fragile. She is so focused and dedicated on her little one that her life temporarily becomes not her own. There is something so freeing and so beautifully simple about having someone to talk to about things like breastfeeding, pacifiers, and baby poops. A sisterhood is created – an understanding that she knows what it’s like. 

 

 

Not having enough time to eat is a thing.

As a new mom, I would say that the biggest lifestyle change for me has been the complete disappearance of any “me time“. And by “me time” I don’t mean indulging in some kind of fabulous pampering like a massage or manicure, I mean anything that is not directly related to my baby’s needs. Long, hot showers – I miss you!

In true new mom style, I anxiously wait for my husband to get home every weekday so I can hand him the baby and disappear for a few minutes. The problem isn’t that I am not given the opportunity for “me time” anymore, but that “me time” isn’t the same anymore. I hurry in the shower in case my baby gets hungry. I skip painting my nails in case my baby needs me to hold her. My every decision is carefully thought out and balanced with my baby girl’s needs.

 I have become one of those women, those new moms who I was sure were exaggerating when they said that they did not even have time to eat! There you have it – not having enough time to eat is a thing!

I was thinking about the day I went into labour three and a half months ago. I was sitting on the couch watching some guilty pleasure reality TV when my water broke. The flashback of me, in all of my nine-months pregnant glory, lounging on the couch makes me smile. It feels like another lifetime ago. My daughter was not here napping sweetly beside be, but in my belly. Our living room wasn’t messy and cluttered, but quiet and tidy. But the craziest thing of all? I was watching TV! For hours! Alone at home! In the middle of the day! Who does that!? I did. And people without babies I guess.

Will “me time” ever return? Probably, but it will never be the same again. Will I ever have two hours that are mine and mine alone? Probably, but the way I choose to spend them will be different. I cherish being my daughter’s mother. I am blessed and honoured to have this little  girl depend on me. 

When my anxiety about the future creeps in and I feel overwhelmed at the thought that my life is no longer my own, that thought actually ends up being the thing that comforts me. Life’s different now, but good different.