On Our Own

My daughter minutes after she was born (Image: Mandy Horetski)

It seems like everyone around me is pregnant or talking about getting pregnant. Before I went through a pregnancy, I thought that I wanted at least two kids. But then I had my daughter and went through a really rough first year with her. This made it clear to me that I didn’t really want to go through that again.

Now I love my daughter and I love being a mom. But that first year she was alive was rough. It was due in part to the fact that I had undiagnosed postpartum depression for 7 months. Also because I had been thrust into the role of stay at home mom because I had been laid off from my job the day before I had intended on going back to work.

My husband and I were talking about it recently and he said that one of the things that made those early days as parents so rough was that we were completely on our own. We had moved down to North Carolina from Michigan three years before our daughter was born because my husband got a good job down here. So we were 15 hours away for the majority of our family. We didn’t really have any local friends; in fact, the only local friends we had had moved away out of state just before our baby was born.

We did belong to a church and they brought us food after baby and I were home, but we weren’t super close to anyone at church. My awesome Browncoat friends pitched in to get us food as well, but they were all from SC and I found it hard to get down there for Browncoat events after my daughter was born.

The day after I got home from the hospital my husband had to go back to work and I was alone with this baby who, while adorable, cried a lot. In those early days, I cried a lot too. Now that she is three years old, life is better. We still don’t have many friends here, due in part to several good friends moving over the summer. So if we were to have another baby, we’d be on our own again. I really don’t want to go through that again so we have decided that we aren’t going to have anymore babies. There are other reasons but this one is a big one.

Did you have a support system when you were a new parent? Or where you on your own too?

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14 thoughts on “On Our Own

  1. I am lucky to have both sets of grandparents close by, though admittedly having my MIL close by comes with its drawbacks, as well. But I don’t have much else in the way of a support system– no real friends nearby, just passing aquaintancy relationships with people at work or church or Le Leche League, which is probably my own fault for being shy and socially awkward, but still…. Anyway, I always thought I wanted at least three kids myself, but after two I knew I couldn’t do it again either. I am so HAPPY my youngest is potty-training and I’m moving out of the baby-stage forever! I know lots of people get all sappy about babyhood and Enjoy it because they grow up fast or whatever, but I unsentimentally much prefer being the mom of preschoolers (as crazy as THAT gets)!

    1. I like the stage she is in now – being 3 she can talk in sentences and tell me what she wants. And it’s awesome to watch her play and learn.

  2. My son has never been easy to handle. As an infant he cried a lot and was inconsolable. As he got older, he’d have meltdowns. We’d say “his bottle is full” and he needed to release all the day’s tension. He doesn’t have the meltdowns now, but he is defiant and doesn’t listen. Most people will say that’s a four-year-old, but the boy has a will like no other (though he’s really cute too). After the first few months of no sleep, we decided not to have a second child. We’re older parents, and it’s probably for the best. I just worry about him being alone when we aren’t around anymore.

    But to answer the question, we were alone for the first several months, and then my mom moved in with us. She’s been a huge help (though sometimes we refer to her as our teenager because she can’t seem to pick up after herself). I don’t know what we would have done without her. The husband and I both work, usually not even in the same city as daycare. My mother retires this year, so we’ll have some additional help when my son is home sick.

  3. While my situation wasn’t quite as bad, I definitely sympathize. My daughter is six months old now. We live in connecticut, and our families are in NY. So not 15 hours away but not nearby enough to help much. And we have very few local friends, being NY transplants ourselves. I’m pretty sure I had/have ppd – I cried a lot in the beginning, and since then there have been good days and crying days. Like you I had plans for a big family until my girl arrived, and now I would have to have some major changes in my life before I’d consider a second child. I did go back to work a few days a week when she was four months old, and my mother (bless her) drives 2 hours to stay with us those days and watch the baby, so I am very grateful for that. Still, working full time (I’m working at home when not in the office) while being a mom is very stressful. I feel like in trying to do both I’m not doing either as well as I should be. I think we’re entering a phase/age now where I’m having more fun with my daughter – interacting with her more than just attending to her needs – and that is definitely helping. My friends with toddlers will think I’m nuts, but I can’t wait for her to talk so I know what she’s thinking!

  4. Pretty much on our own. My friends lived 45 minutes away or out of state and the community I had was at the university in the next town and there was only one couple I was really close to. They were great, but I was at the school as little as possible and at odd hours, so there wasn’t much interaction.And when I had time at home I was studying for exams and then writing a dissertation. I think about that time a lot. I knew I needed help and community, but as an introvert, I couldn’t make myself go to mommy groups or anything like that. We’d been attending a church, but weren’t members and hadn’t gotten to know anyone–except our geneticist, but that’s a different story–and they never seemed to notice when we just dropped out. Tough times.

    When I was expecting our second, I decided I couldn’t do that again and I wanted my daughter in church, so we started attending a different church and I’ve been slowly finding community through that, so it’s better, but I still don’t have any really close friends who are my age and stage and it’s still tough days sometimes, though much better since the 4-year-old is going to preschool and the 2-year-old has started talking.

  5. I had undiagnosed PPD with my first baby. He was also a handful and very colicky. I was very reluctant to have another, but we did decide to have baby #2. With the second baby I also had PPD, but I got help as soon as I started to have symptoms, and let me tell you, it was soooooo much better once I got some help (meds and counseling). I mean, night and day different. I am fortunate enough to have alot of support around me (friends and family all live in the same city), though in truth I still feel like they didn’t help me out that much. Apart from the occasional babysitting for a couple of hours (which I appreciated immensely) everyone had their own lives to lead and couldn’t help out as much as I would have liked. My husband was my greatest help, with childcare, cooking, cleaning etc.

  6. My kids are 12 and 11, I’m still depressed, and I still have no one. I wish I could say it got better for me, and it did A LITTLE, but no one wants to help once the babies aren’t little any more.

  7. Yup, been there, cried through that. It’s the primary reason we moved back to my hometown. I have a few friends still in town, and a fair bit of family. Of course, that means that I have been called on to help them quite a bit, too. But it’s reciprocated, so it’s cool.

  8. I also planned on having two but, now that I have my 9 mo. old daughter, I cringe at the thought of another. I was diagnosed with PPD two months after I returned to work and it was only caught because I hit a breaking point and threatened divorce to my husband. He knew me well enough to know that this behavior was bizarre and called my doctor that very day.

    Though I am medicated, just having a name–a diagnosis–for these emotions has helped tremendously. It still gets hard sometimes even though I have a fairly solid support system. My mom takes care of Jo when I’m at work but that also means that she won’t rush to babysat when I need a date or a night to be stupid or carefree. My husband is always on-call so I can’t rely on him to watch Jo if I go for an evening out with the girls. I love my little girl to pieces but, if you asked if I was anywhere near ready for another, I’ll just laugh at you.

  9. We were living in California and all of our family was in Oklahoma when our first child was born. My mom came out for two weeks and my mom in law did the same. Thankfully, our daughter was an “easy” baby. We had some close friends that were able to help too. We ended up moving back to OK when she was 8 months old. That was a tough time though because hubby gave up a tech job that paid very well and we moved in with family for a year. I ended up going back to work. Our second child has been much more challenging. He cried a lot and would not sleep. He would not ride in the car without screaming. As soon as he was in that car seat, he would wail. Turned out he had silent reflux and once we got him on medicine things got much better. I was pretty withdrawn there in the beginning. He has definitely been our challenging child. He is 18 months now and we are all doing great. My hubby and I have times where we think, let’s have a third, but then we remind ourselves what the first 8 months was like with our son. 🙂 I think we are done with two.

  10. I’ve gone through some similar things as other posters above. My husband had to go back to work the next day after the baby came. I had no experience with babies at all, never actually held one until the kiddo came. My mom lives more than 2 hours away – the only good thing about my husband working a lot (7 days a week at times, hes in the video game industry), i would go to my moms place for a week at a time when I was off on leave.

    The other issue was that the baby was born pretty sick and had a major surgery at 7 months old – again, hubby had to go back to work the next day after that, so I spent a lot of time at home alone with a pretty sick kid before and post-operation. I wasn’t able to go out, or have visitors for the first 8 months, because if she got sick with a normal kid-bug, it could kill her so i was in quarantine as well except for direct family. Mostly the days went through a blur at that point.

    After the surgery, she mended and is pretty much normal now (well, as normal as any 2 1/2 can be). I went back to work, shes in school, and prior to leave I was in a tech job (technical writing, tech training, trade shows, managing the tech support group); came back, was guaranteed a job… but now i’m in what basically amounts to customer service escalations (ie. getting yelled at all day). Its a job, which i’m thankful for in this economy – but as far away from my career path as its possible to be at this point.

  11. Reading this post feels like an entry from my own diary (if I had the time and energy to keep one). I had also always wanted (at least) two children and, having been an au pair twice and working in nurseries while studying part-time, I thought I knew what to expect.

    Man, was I in for a surprise. Already the night after I gave birth (I had to stay in the hospital for observation), my baby refused to sleep in the crib next to my bed and screamed her lungs out whenever she was removed from my breast (much to chagrin to the other mothers/babies sleeping in the ward). Turned out our little girl was a “high-need” baby and things like being able to eat/shower/go to the toilet by yourself became a real luxury.

    I live in Europe and my family live in southern Africa. The in-laws are scattered through-out Europe, the closest ones being about 2 hours away (alas, we don’t have a car). We have close friends, but none who live very close and even the closest ones work full time and have their own lives to live.

    Now its 13 months later, my Google Reader seems permanently stuck on 1000+ unread articles (my starred items (to read) have an even higher count), I’ve literally not had a full night’s sleep since she’s been born, my house is in a constant state of chaos (no housekeepers here) and I’ve not had much time for any of my hobbies (playing piano, writing, gaming, cooking).

    One big positive is that I can use the lessons I’ve learnt from this past year to help my two younger sisters when they have have babies of their own one day.

    1. *hugs* Hopefully it will get better for you! That first 18 months was so hard for me because she wasn’t sleeping through the night. Now that’s 3, she sleeps through the night and I have my evenings back.

  12. I’m a couple days late to the conversation now, but I did want to drop in and say that you weren’t alone in your circumstances. All our new grandparents were 3-4 hours away when #1 was born, and were 6-8 hours away for #2 and #3.

    When #1 came, I was not a happy camper. We had him earlier than we had planned, at a point where I gave up the career I’d been working toward for 8 years. We were the first in our circle of friends to have a child, and all the church families were on their second and third child, so when my husband had to go in to work on the same day my mom left, I looked at this baby and said, “Now. It is down to you, and it is down to me.” And wondered what I was supposed to do. I had no clue and no support. And my favorite aunt died 10 weeks later.

    Between that and the normal crazy hormones being exacerbated by birth control pills… I was not happy. It took years for me to claw back to a level head and contented heart.

    Actually, that is one of the reasons I am so happy about the GeekMom blog. There were so few geeky moms in my world 10 years ago, I am glad to know I’m not alone in this. 🙂

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