Reclaiming me: Balancing social life with parenthood

By Heather Woods

It occurred to me once my daughter was born, just how reclusive I’d become during my pregnancy. Pregnancy hadn’t been easy for me. In fact just getting pregnant was a mission in itself, given all the emotions of an IVF journey. So once I got home from the hospital and adjusted to my new life, I could see how the balance of social versus family life had shifted dramatically and exactly how little contact I’d had with my closest friends over the past 12 months or so. I then felt like the worst friend in the world.

My morning sickness was mostly responsible, as I was so incredibly ill all the time, plus the bigger my belly got the less comfortable and more awkward I felt. Now I know what you’re thinking, “whinge, whinge, we all go through that when pregnant.” Fair call. And that’s why I felt the need to make it public. Pregnancy, for some, is no joyous adventure. For some of us it is an almost unbearable experience, and for a select few it means they won’t ever try for more children, simply to avoid being pregnant. Pregnancy is often falsely glamorized and it’s easy to fall into the trap of assuming your own pregnancy will see you glowing in the good way (ie not from sweat), you’ll have the cutest little pot belly and a pain-free labour. I’d love to meet a woman who has had that pregnancy and congratulate her.

I’ve always been the type of person that can quite easily be on their own, go to restaurants or fly solo at the cinema, but I’d never spent that little time with my friends. I found I was finding ways of not going out unless absolutely necessary, delaying message responses until rsvp deadlines had passed or simply not responding in some cases. It just wasn’t me.

You can imagine my excitement, the first night I was able to go out sans-baby. It was a friend’s birthday dinner and I’d become comfortable enough to organize a babysitter. It would only be a brief adventure out considering I was limited by the choice of wanting to breastfeed only at that point, but still, we were going out! Hubby and I dressed up and made our way to the restaurant and for the 2 hours we were there I felt human again! Over time, similar adventures out saw me slowly but surely reclaim the former me, and rejoin the human race, despite now having a mini-me in tow.

I realized that it was never going to be just me again, but I could still find the time to have one-on-one time with my girlfriends and balance out the baby-talk with the adult-talk. Even if my daughter was with me, I was still very much committed to the catch-up and no longer looking for a way out. And the more confident I became in my abilities as a mum, the more I was actually beginning to organize the events myself! This all might sound crazy if you’re a mum who managed to slide into parenthood with ease and had no real transitional issues. But for those of us who didn’t, it’s a bloody big step trying to maintain some sort of independence whilst being a good mum.

In retrospect I wish I simply had have told my friends exactly how crappy I was feeling, and that it wasn’t because of them that I was being evasive. I guess it’s just how I dealt with it. We’re now in full flight and the social calendar is back on track thankfully, as I definitely couldn’t live without my nearest and dearest. Hopefully, second time around I’ll be a little more prepared for what to expect and can pre-empt the overall experience, not hide away waiting for it all to end.

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