New moms do so much to prepare for the coming of their bundle of joy. They have multiple appointments with several doctors, read books and take classes on parenting, buy new furniture and clothes for the baby, financially prepare for all the expenses, and so much more.
What few women are prepared for, however, is the loneliness that comes with motherhood, said licensed psychologist Guy Winch, Ph.D., in an article for Psychology Today. “While new mothers might feel extremely connected to their newborn, they often feel extremely disconnected from everyone else — including their spouse.”
Loneliness, which can already be so overwhelming, can be further complicated by a mom’s loss of identity, struggle to adjust to a new way of life, and the physical demands of caring for a newborn, said writer for RomperSamantha Darby.
What’s worrying, says Dr. Winch, is we don’t place the same importance on our psychological health as we do to our physical health. When we get a cut or bruise, our immediate response is to reach for ointment or an ice pack, but we don’t do the same for our emotional injuries like loneliness, rejection, failure, and guilt.
“Even though there are scientifically proven techniques we could use to treat these kinds of psychological injuries, we don't. It doesn't even occur to us that we should,” he said in a TED Talk.
Instead, the common response to these emotional injuries is to “ruminate,” explained the psychologist. Rumination in this context is when a person does very little to fight against the loneliness, rejection or failure. It’s when one, perhaps unconsciously, chooses to stay in a state of pain rather than apply “treatment.”
It’s understandable why we ruminate. “The problem is, the urge to ruminate can feel really strong and really important, so it's a difficult habit to stop,” said Dr. Winch. But, when we do catch ourselves wallowing, it’s important that we gather the strength to stop.
Psychological injuries, like physical ones, can impact one’s life in dramatic ways. It’s much like how a broken leg can disable a person and therefore need time and attention to heal. “Loneliness creates a deep psychological wound, one that distorts our perceptions and scrambles our thinking,” he said. It can blind moms from the care of loved ones. It makes it difficult to reach out to friends and family members. Over time, it can lead to depression.
Loneliness shouldn’t be ignored or made deeper through rumination. As Dr. Winch puts it, when you get a cut on your arm, you don’t reach for a knife and make the pain worse, you treat yourself. The same goes for "emotional injuries."
Make a stand against loneliness. Here are a few suggestions to do so:
1. Try your best to go out Hours on end with just you and your newborn can worsen loneliness. Escape your four walls and get out of the house. It can be daunting to leave the house with a baby at first, said Denise Lewis, a public health nurse who run programs for new moms, to Today’s Parent. It will be less so if you find places where other moms like to hang out with their kids or if you can invite a friend along.
2. Talk to your partner or, if you’re a single parent, with family members Simple solutions can help a mom feel less isolated. Video chat, which is readily accessible with apps like Messenger and Viber, is something Dr. Winch often suggests to new parents.
“You do not have to talk the entire time, but just seeing them go about their day or evening can make you feel like you are there with them, and that can take the edge off lonely feelings,” he said. Just watching your sister or best friend prepare dinner while you talk about the latest showbiz chismis can do wonders in lifting one’s mood.
3. Use social media to your advantage Though your social media feed can sometimes make you feel worse (mom and actress Bianca Gonzalez talks about how it can place intense pressure on parents to be perfect here), be smart and use Facebook to your advantage. Joining new parents’ groups can fight off loneliness, says Dr. Winch.
You’re more than welcome to join SmartParenting.com.ph’s Parent Chat and SP Village (on Facebook) community.