3.31.2011

mamas, introverts & community

After becoming a mother, I found myself in unexpected need of community, yet the least capable I’ve ever been of building and maintaining that community.  P1030138
At first I floated through my days trying to reconcile me need for and lack of sleep. I received emails and calls from friends wanting to see me (and of course the offspring) but my exhaustion and the constant needs of baby, coupled with her absolute disdain for car rides, made it near impossible to travel for visits. When people came to me, I spent my time nursing, changing diapers, and rocking the Pie to sleep rather than holding a conversation.

My friendships lived in fragments.

Even for an introvert, the days stacked on days of being alone with a baby became too much. I felt disconnected, isolated, consumed by motherhood. My friendships faltered or occurred in 3-minute spurts. I cried to the mountain man that I was lonely, yet never had any time alone. When I felt that what I needed most was time to myself, I would find more peace in community than in solitary time.

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I felt like I would have given anything in those early months to sink into the couch at the end of the day and read a book – that I held with both hands – and enjoy a glass of wine, uninterrupted. I would give anything most days for an hour of relaxed alone time, when I’m not trying to accomplish a thousand things or meet the needs of others.

And at the same time, I had an unfulfilled need to enjoy the company of friends. And the benefits of being around people were greater than the benefit of any alone time I had, because there would never be truly free alone time. There is always something that should be getting done. Time alone is too easily absorbed by tasks and guilt.

In cultures more community-oriented than our own, there is little to no postpartum depression. Mamas are supported, encouraged, comforted, and given a break. PPD thrives on isolation; even as an introvert I found myself in great need of community.

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I had to establish a community for myself. I decided that writing about my experiences, inviting others into my conversation with myself, would be a start. It was a one-way conversation, but I could write during moments that wouldn’t be effective socially. I could express things I couldn’t say out loud, and welcome other moms to find a shared experience, or to start a conversation.

I haven’t yet found the perfect balance for maintaining friendships. I am frustrated with my inability to make firm plans, to be present with my friends, to enjoy an uninterrupted conversation over coffee. It sometimes feels like I live on the periphery of my own life. But I hope that by writing about it I make having the conversation OK. I hope that I am creating a sense of shared experience. I hope that my need to find community is also building community. The fact that you are reading is creating community for me.

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Community is necessary for new moms, even when the friendships are fragmented, incomplete, messy, and built on postcard interactions.

2 comments:

  1. I've been reading on my ipad while nursing lately, and haven't been able to comment because for some reason it doesn't want to show me the word verification! Silly machine.

    I've wanted to say how much I relate to this (this post and the post about the rock camp especially--I feel like part of my life purpose is to mentor young women). The thing about being an introvert who needs alone time AND contact can be difficult to describe. I'm a very social introvert, and this shift has been challenging for me, much the way being in a private practice can challenge me. I long for community, but with enough space to feel my self.

    xo

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  2. so interesting that you said "social introvert" - I have always had a need to be around people, but I then need a lot of "down time" to re-charge. However, people often don't believe that I'm an introvert, because I can be outgoing when I'm in a social situation that's good for me. I'm not shy, just introverted. I'm finding that even the small bits of social interaction I used to have before babe are sorely missed - they seemed small and insignificant at the time but now that they're gone they've left a hole that is so hard to fill between naps and feedings and diapers. I feel like blogging has been a first step for me in creating that needed community for myself but in a way that matches my current capacity for interaction... which is slim to none. Thanks so much for reading æ!

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