Social Isolation as a New Mum

“Exhausted and overwhelmed, new parents need to rest, need support and need to be easy on themselves.”

I can remember when my first daughter was born in the year 2007. She was born towards the end of January. It was my first winter in the United Kingdom. I remember holding her in my arms, wrapped up snug as a bug in a rug, in a white blanket. I was being pushed in a wheelchair by an NHS nurse who worked at The Royal Berkshire Hospital. I could remember the two double-wide doors opening as we left the hospital room and being pushed towards what would be my room for the next couple of days.

I could see and feel a sliver slash of bright light that shone right in my eyes that pushed in between the two double-wide doors. I could remember feeling as if this were the greatest thing I ever accomplished in my life, the only thing that I was proud of doing, and that I would protect this little bundle in my arms no matter what. I didn’t feel overwhelmed, but blessed by the grace of God that at that moment I pushed a human being out of my vagina that took a whole 22 hours; thought I peed my pants when I sneezed and the afterbirth came rushing out, the feeling of judgement when I called the nurse and said ‘I think there is something wrong’ only to find out that all of that was normal; and, alas standing there vulnerable and cautious while a frustrated nurse cleaned me up by wiping the blood off my legs and body.

But, all that didn’t matter. All the fine details of the birth were overshadowed by the feeling of amazement. The feeling of awesomeness. The endorphins kicked in and mama tiger was created. I knew that from that moment, I had a purpose. Nothing was going to get in the way.

After a few days, my beautiful baby and I settled in nicely together. I preferred sleeping in her room as it was easier to feed her and it was easier for me to fall asleep in the single bed next to her. I had no clue that I babies get up every hour to feed. Well, this was new news to me. How did I miss this memo? I carried on like it was my business- well it is my job. A job that I am dedicated to and I choose to do. Although I admit, I definitely socially isolated my husband at the time. All the attention I gave to him fell by the wayside (thought that word was waste-side? hm?). But, I carried on with the motherly duties that I thought I had to do. One of those duties was to join the NCT and the mother groups.

So, this was a very interesting concept for me. I didn’t really ‘get in’ to any of the motherly groups because it was ‘too late’ to join or at least that is what my husband at the time told me. I had no one. I was socially isolated being the only American. My family was in America. I only recently arrived in the United Kingdom and really didn’t have a good support system. I was on my own in a small British Quentescential village where most of the women had very chalky colored skin and never said hello in passing.

These mothers were always pushing their babies in these large prams while they were laying on their backs. Often, the mothers couldn’t even see their babies’ faces. I later found out that these large prams were called Silver Cross Prams and it was a very English thing to do. Well, I wasn’t English. And, actually those prams looked heavier then hell. How did those mothers move around the corners of the sidewalks like that? I thought they must have the most muscular arms.

Socially isolating myself from being different, I carried my baby in my arms, in sashes, in carriers, and of course later when she got too heavy around age 2 I did use a pushchair but it was forward-facing so she always knew which way she was going…an independent, modern girl.

When my daughter and I would go to these mother groups I felt socially isolated. It seemed that MY baby was the only baby that cried. We would sit in these uncomfortable, awkward circles- all new mums. I used to think ‘what in the hell am I doing here?’ ‘why am I here?’ and ‘is someone going to say something?’ These circles were always subdued. The mums looked like they were all in control. But then there was me and my baby. Every time I sat down, every time I stood still, every time it was quiet… my daughter would wake up and cry! Oh no, I thought. Why aren’t there babies crying?

I could see the glares. I could feel the glares! Control your baby! The woman in charge would say ‘well, it looks like your baby is colic’, ‘don’t worry, it will pass.’

Well, I thought to myself. Firstly…WTF is colic. Secondly, I thought…and, what will pass? I had no clue what she was talking about. But, to be fair. I didn’t care. I didn’t like how the eyes of the other mothers glared at me like some sort of radio-active poisonous rays shooting out from their pupils. I did not need their negative vibes. It was that day I decided that it’s just going to be my daughter and myself from now on. I was going to take her to the park on my own, I was going to carry her around to the coffee shop on my own, and play with her in our lovely large garden on my own. And, to be fair… it was the best time of my life. I loved our time together, just her and I.

We would blare ‘The Clash’ outside our windows while I held her and danced. We would take naps together, she would watch me mop the floors, cook and plant flowers in the garden. I loved social isolating with her! But you see. Here is the kicker. This was something ‘I chose to do’. I wasn’t forced into social isolation. I wasn’t told I had to stay indoors and if I didn’t I would get some weird deadly virus such as the one going around at the moment. You didn’t see my daughter and myself with gang-banger handkeirchifs around our nose and mouth to protects us from the world around us. It was my choice.

BUT WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU DON’T CHOOSE SOCIAL ISOLATION?

Many of us at the moment are stuck indoors. The government has told us to social isolate because there is a dangerous virus called the Coronavirus (COVID-19). We don’t know a lot about this virus. That is why it is so scary. We know that it can spread like a virus through bodily fluids; however, we don’t know much more than that. This fear of the ‘unknown’ is nerve-racking, heightens anxiety, and frankly…is totally scary.

There are people who still have to go to work such as the medical doctors on the front line, mental health practitioners on the front line such as my self who still have to support looked after people and then you have the delivery drivers, grocery store workers, farm shops and other people who are trying to help support the community. It is a very tricky time for the whole world globally.

But, what about the new mums, or mums-to-be who with heightened anxiety do not have the support or are anxious about having the medical support if needed? What about the mums who need to go into the hospital for a scheduled C-section, the new mum who still needs a 6-week checkup? The new mum who is pushing her baby on the streets with this heavy fog of the unknown? Where will I get my diapers? How will I find formula if everyone is panic buying? Who will I speak to when I am lonely, on my own, tired, frustrated, confused, angry, sad…What if I am a single parent?

There are so many natural unknowns when you are a new mum. However, these natural unknowns added to the

Every mum should be able to make the choice whether she wants to stay home and self isolate or be with family when she wants to. And, to be forced to self-isolate must feel quite scary.

The reason why these thoughts came to my mind today is because earlier this morning when I was taking my ‘one’ a day walk down the street to the corner shop to get some juice I saw a new mum walking so quickly with her child down the street. It was like watching her walk in a state of panic. I felt deep compassion for her. I am not saying that when I had my daughter at that age it was glitz and glory, but I do remember holding my chin up towards the sky with my eyes closed, the sun kissing my cheeks, and having an overwhelming feeling of a huge excitement in my chest pouring out with love. I didn’t have my head buried below my turtle neck, breathing from the top of my chest, thinking to myself I need to get this walk in, I hope I am safe, I hope my baby is safe, what am I going to do for the rest of the day with just us two?

If I had to put my feet in new mum’s shoes today, I would probably feel quite scared and hopeless at times. But, if you are a new mum reading this or at least skimming through…you don’t need to hold onto this ominous, dark, stifling cloud of anxiety that’s lurking outside every time you walk out the door.

WHAT CAN I DO WITH MY NEWBORN BABY WHEN I AM SOCIAL ISOLATED?

Let’s start with the basics.

  1. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/services-support-for-parents/ (read the NHS guidelines- make sure you’ve dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s).
  2. come up with a good self-care routine- I wish I knew this 14 years ago!

    -morning feed & face mask time

    -morning nap & morning meditation for mum (or nap)

    -cuddling/hugging/dancing time (listen to the music you want to- the kind that used to make you feel good when you were doing keg stands with your boyfriend on the side! you don’t need to make yourself crazy by listening to baby music. Babies only want to see their mom happy!)

    -lunchtime for baby & mum- eat healthy things together- I used to do a lot of cooking and preparing foods because I had so much time on my hands and I was on my own. Try to enjoy it, write things down in a book that you’ve made together, make it special, this is a special time even though you are knackered!

    -nap time again! whoohoo! I do love a nap…let baby sleep next to you safely in his/her cot/basket. You can read, watch a movie in bed, chat to a friend, call your mom, call your dad, call your grandparents, call your partner, cuddle with your pet, call your therapist, water the plants… whatever it is… do something relaxing. You are going to need your energy for the years to come!

    2 hours later…. (if you are lucky) if not… improv!

    -a little play, singing, and body massage for baby & mum. Mum can rub oil on her face, your trapezoid muscles (squeeze them!), arms, legs, paint your nails, your toes- this is beauty time!

    -snack time again? whoohoo! stay hydrated! apples and carrots! Write in your journal. You can feed baby while you are doing this. If you have a toddler… well…yoga moves! Check the link out below:

    https://www.babycentre.co.uk/a1011515/2-month-old-baby-games-third-week
    -baby & mum yoga online!
    -art- get some finger paints and do handprints and footprints of baby- frame them!
    -read out loud! https://amzn.to/2UkgDK6
    -make sure I am getting all the vitamins I need! https://amzn.to/2QNzNpN
    -dinner time (is it 6pm yet? I am so tired!)- what will you and your partner have to eat? eat as a family. If you are on your own… eat in a different room. If it’s nice outside, eat outside.

    -Bedtime wind down… where did I put my lavender? you can bath with baby if you are on your own they have safety tubs for baby or…you can give baby a wet wipe rub down if that is what is required. One thing about self-care is that we do not put pressure on ourselves to be the best or do the best. We do what we can.

    -Rest. Mum. You need to rest. Even if it’s being still. Guided meditation. Talking to people on the phone or online. You are not alone. You may feel lonely and stressed sometimes, but you are never alone. There is always someone at the other end of the phone. And, there is so much support out there if you need it. I can help too! Maybe there are people on your street where you live where you can reach out to and let them know you are on your own or you are having a difficult time with all of this stuff going on. It’s okay to ask for help. #onlinetherapyhelps

If you want to learn more… please get in touch!

How do you manage your mental health?