I had my 16 week midwife appointment the other day. Leading up to it, I had played the whole thing out in my head several times. The bit where she asks “and how has your mood been?” and I casually lie “Oh fine” and we move swiftly on to checking my wee or blood pressure.
Except it didn’t happen like that. When asked how my mood had been lately, I felt my eyes fill with tears and my face get hot. “Up and down” I replied. And then I broke down. I sobbed as I blurted out about how I am struggling to cope with feelings of isolation and loneliness. How I don’t have any support network. How I hate living in this town. How I tell my husband every. single. day but he just doesn’t get it. How I have no idea how I’m going to cope with two children.
The midwife passed me a tissue and looked at me sympathetically. She then asked if I took Jasmine to toddler groups to which I told her “yes, most weeks we’ll go to them”. My heart sank because baby and toddler groups are not the answer I’m looking for. In the last two years since having Jasmine I feel like I have given those groups a ‘good go’ – we’ve done baby sign, baby massage, visited the play sessions at the local children’s centres, sang hymns at toddler church groups (I’m very much an atheist), met fellow mums off the internet for cups of tea. I can, hand on heart, say that I have tried to ‘put myself out there’ and make connections with people. But, for whatever reason, it just didn’t really happen.
I made a couple of mum friends when Jasmine was a baby who I saw regularly but as soon as they returned to full-time work I stopped hearing from them. That’s OK, I get that. I’m busy, they’re busy – life goes on. I probably didn’t make as much effort to get in touch either. I felt guilty for even asking to take up any of their ‘free time’.
But honestly? I’m now at the point where I’m bored of trying. I’m tired of trying to make conversations with strangers. I’m fed up of hoping and wishing people might just like me enough to want to hang out sometime. It’s exhausting trying to build up a support network from scratch. And after 3 years of trying (that’s how long I’ll have lived here in July), I have nothing to show for it. NOTHING. I’m embarrassed by that and I feel like a total failure. People move to different parts of the country all of the time and they seem to make it work. They make connections. Why haven’t I? It’s a question I ask myself a lot.
The problem is, I don’t think I’m ever going to find what I’m looking for at toddler groups. They’re great for Jasmine and that’s why we still go to them. But going to toddler groups won’t stop me from feeling isolated and lonely.
What I need is support. Not small talk from other mums about toddler tantrums and potty training every Thursday morning over a cup of tea and some stale biscuits. That’s no more stimulating than talking to the Tesco delivery man about the weather (which is often the only adult conversation, other than with my husband, that I have all week). I need more than that. So much more.
I need people around me who love me. I need genuine connections with people who like me for being me. Not for being mum to someone who is the same age as their own child. Does that make sense? I want my old friends. The ones I’ve known for years – the ones that came before motherhood. But I feel so far away from them.
I want to move back to Bristol and it’s just not going to happen anytime soon – if at all.
I feel trapped here. Completely and utterly trapped.
I don’t want to look back on these early years of motherhood and remember nothing but how sad and lonely I was. But I fear that could end up being the case if things continue the way they are now.
Jasmine’s just woken up from her nap and is throwing things out of her cot so I need to go and be ‘mum’ again now. I wish I could say I feel better for writing this but I don’t. I’m still no closer to finding a way of making things better for myself and my mental health. I just know that going to ‘Rhyme time’ isn’t going to solve these issues. And I only wish people would stop suggesting that it would.