Self Inflicted Isolation.

I was talking with a friend, via email, yesterday about how having a new born can leave one feeling isolated and at times, very very lonely. It was interesting to hear another experience, which while different to mine, was in some ways very very similar.

I realize, with hindsight, as you do, that my feelings of isolation were partly my own fault. I’d made a choice, somewhere during our infertility journey so isolate myself from my fertile friends. At some point, it became too painful for me to participate in baby showers, to attend get togethers and have nothing to contribute to the conversations that inadvertently, always were about children and babies. I withdrew from those friendships and surrounded myself in the infertility community. Forming close IRL bonds with many of the women I met along the way.

This choice often made me nervous, I often wondered how things would turn out when they’d all had their babies and I was still waiting in the starting blocks of motherhood. I’d been “left behind” so many times in the past, that I had all but accepted that it would be no different in the future. I’d watch as each one of these IF friends became pregnant and moved on with their families. And then what would I do? Withdraw from them to? Then what? Then I’d have no friends.

I never, in my wildest imaginings, thought that I’d race right past everyone and over the finish line and be the first of our groups to become a mother. It simply did not seem possible. And then one or two of them got pregnant and I waited, with baited breath for the relationships to fizzle out. Of course, the one thing I hadn’t banked on happened. I went from trying to come to terms with my 7th miscarriage, to hearing we’d been selected to holding a new born baby.

And that’s where my self-created isolation started. Suddenly, there I was in a type of isolation of my own creation. I had no friends with babies. And the friends that were closest to me started slowly, at first, withdrawing. Suddenly, I was no longer invited to birthday celebrations, no more invitations to get togethers, no more invites for Saturday morning breakfasts. And I had no one to turn to.

I also had no friends who were experienced mothers. No one to turn to for advice. No one to assure me that everything would be ok in the end, no one to tell me that my anxiety as a new mom was normal, that I would adjust to my new role and that everything would be alright in the end.

I think this is where a lot of my “survivor’s guilt” came from. Had I been the last in the group to have had a baby it probably would have been different. But I wasn’t the last. I was the first and it all happened so head spinningly fast that no one, my self included, had a chance to mentally prepare for how my life would change. It was suddenly difficult to spend time with my friends, to see the pain in their eyes & feel my guilt at that pain for one thing and to have them completley not understand what I was going through, or to have my silence misinterpreted as uncaring, when it was more a matter of trying to keep my own head above water as I struggled through the 60 days and with trying to make the transition to motherhood, all of which increased my feelings of isolation.

I wish I’d had somebody going through this with me. One of the most exciting times during my 6th pregnancy was discovering that 2 of my friends were also pregnant and we were all due within 2 weeks of each other. I remember being so excited by the prospect of having 2 other friends in similar situations, encouraging and supporting each other, play dates together. That would have gone a long way in helping me cope in the early days, but I didn’t have that.

Instead, aside from the support I received online, I was pretty much scared and very very alone, not to mention hurting from how isolated I felt.

It’s one of the things I look forward to the second time around. Having the confidence in my ability as a mother. Not feeling so completley overwhelmed and out of my depth with no one to turn to. This time, I’ll have myself and my quiet confidence in myself, not to mention the mommy friends I’ve made over the past 20 months, who will, hopefully, be there to carry me through when the going gets rough.

I think my message with this blog posting is simply that we should not arm ourselves to cope only with our current situation, but to prepare for what the future may hold too. I was so focused on the here and now during my IF journey that I never thought ahead and prepared for the day that my turn would come, that notion seemed inconceivable.

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  • Reply Sue Stuart

    It’s sad that we put these things on ourselves isn’t it! I isolated myself from the few Fertilicare meetups (moms with babes) after Katy was born, as what I was reading was how wonderful motherhood was for them and how well things were going, and I felt like such a failure because I found it damn hard! And that Katy wouldn’t sleep when I expected her to. Or wouldn’t drink as much as I expected. And any number of other things, that only later I found out that hey, I’m not the only one struggling here. I know you’ve blogged several times about the topic. We are our own worst enemies sometimes :).

    August 3, 2011 at 2:12 pm
  • Reply jenny

    One thing I have learnt in the toughest four years I have ever experienced – through motherhood and a cheating hubby – never say never. Don’t judge (yourself or others) until you have been there.

    August 3, 2011 at 2:39 pm
  • Reply jenny

    And even then actually don’t judge. Maybe never judging is the way to inner peace but it has to start with ourselves – we are our worst judge and really need to cut ourselves some slack.

    August 3, 2011 at 2:44 pm
  • Reply waiting4amiracle

    Very thoughtful post. In a way …yes, I do isolate myself from pregnant friends and I only deal with what I can deal with at this moment. Most of my fertile friends are long gone. They moved on, but I don’t feel it was because of my actions, I fell that it was because they didn’t know how to deal with ME. What to say or not say around me. When to invite me or not, and so the not inviting me just became easier and they moved on. In hindsight these friends were there for a short season and weren’t real friends. I hope the friends that are still around will understand and bear with me. So in saying that I feel that some isolation is ok depending on the situation.

    I do know what you are trying to say though. I can only imagine how scary the first couple of months must have been. Its so great that you have some great mommy friends now. And I am sure they will be around for some time.


    August 3, 2011 at 3:16 pm
  • Reply To Love Bella

    I think that it’s only natural to have isolated yourself from friends with babies in the beginning – I certainly did the same. Eventually only ‘hung out’ with the guys around the fire at gatherings, because I could no longer contribute to the conversations the girls were having; and it also hurt too much.
    When we got our call to say we’d been selected, I also battled with a bit of guilt. I had got to see so many women on the forum who were “more deserving”, and here I was, pipping them at the post. I also wondered how they would feel towards me, thinking back to my more bitter and resentful days. Not that I would’ve blamed them, as I’ve been there before and know those feelings all too well.
    It felt safer for me to just remove myself completely.
    I’m just so happy now to have met someone like you, who knows and gets the adoption journey. Goodness knows it’s a whole new kettle of fish.
    I am very thankful for the FC friends who I am still able to follow via blogs.

    August 4, 2011 at 7:09 am
  • Reply Mash

    AND! Not to isolate ourselves. I didn’t really isolate myself so much due to infertility, but more after my dad’s death. I just couldn’t listen to people complain about arbitrary every day things, I couldn’t be in their company. I wanted to take their heads off. Three years down the line, I’m coming up for air… and suddenly realising how I’ve cut myself off. Cut myself off from people with children, happily married couples, people with more money than us… just cut myself off. I now have to eat humble pie and reinvent my social life. I now have to make an effort to be with people who aren’t like me, and to whom I cannot relate in any way whatsoever. Because… that’s life!

    August 4, 2011 at 11:12 am
  • Reply Trish

    Exactly Sharon and very well said. I totally isolated myself and lost my friends and social life. It conflicts me when I think that although I did learn and benefit from the struggles of IF, those friendships are not fixable (I am too hurt by their behaviour and they by mine and it is done) but we would fit in so well now….if only I had thought that far ahead and Infertility had not pushed that divide between us. I had to start from scratch but really a long shared history with old friends takes a long time to create again with new friends. Worse are the family situations (with siblings in-laws etc) that we cannot just move away from like the old failed friendships.
    And you are right, the 2nd time around will be better I promise. Pinky swear!

    August 5, 2011 at 10:07 am
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