About two months after the birth of my daughter, I realized some people I’d been sharing my life with prior to her birth were no longer as present. It’s a shocking realization that some relationships you’ve valued and exposed your life to couldn’t weather the winds of change. It’s hard to see people walk away when they’ve seen your heart and know your story in intimate ways.
I think it would be easy to say that Rory having Down Syndrome was the root cause of the deterioration of these relationships. Just chalk it up to, “they are horrible people who don’t want to be part of your new story.” It would be easy to say your pain made them uncomfortable and you no longer were playing the role they had you fill in their lives. Yes, it would be easy to blame them for their lack of interest in such a tender time. But the truth is, they aren’t horrible, and this truth does not make your pain over the loss of this relationship any less valid.
You are no longer on the same trajectory. Change is hard. I get it, sister, everything’s changing. Losing friendships as a mother is a hard pill to swallow. It feels like affirmation your life is indeed never going to be the same.
What I want every mom to understand is that you are evolving. Your life is being realigned so you can be the best possible version of yourself. Just as our body hurts when we work to make a physical change, so will our soul as it becomes stronger in a time of emotional growth. Fighting the change makes it worse. Refusing to accept the path we are sometimes forced to walk only makes the weight 10 times heavier.
I can tell you these things from experience. I fought hard to fit my old life into my new more times than I can count.
I clung to what was ripped away – like a fast and quick removal of a Band-Aid. I slowly pulled back the sticky fabric of my old life, feeling all the unnecessary pain of resistance.
I didn’t surrender, I didn’t trust, and I didn’t feel I had value waiting for me underneath the protection of my old identity and the routines and associations that came with it.
Reflecting on this experience, I can now see these feelings are not unique to being a special needs parent. I had much of the same growing pains and life-changing losses following the birth of my son. Owen, too, shifted my life, redirecting my plan and purpose just as my daughter, Rory, had. My friend circle was refined in the same way. Things I had been committed to in the past fell away with all the same feelings of loss as they did this time around.
Becoming a mother forces us to be better and do better in the areas of life that matter most. The refinement of self that takes place and will continue for our life is hard but beautiful. When you feel lonely or forgotten, stay committed to the larger picture.
Know you welcomed this interruption with such hopefulness and joyful anticipation. That focus went out before the arrival of your child making a way for you. The changes you are experiencing are the prerequisite for the manifestation of the life you envision to become a reality. Stay committed to building that life, stay hopeful. Welcome in the season you find yourself in with a graceful surrender of what was, so you can experience what is and will be.
Keep your eyes peeled for the relationships that are will offer support and are aligned with your new sense of self. Often times we can become consumed with what is different and lose focus on the relationships and routines that are still standing.
Know people, opportunities and personal self-identity outside of mothering will come back around. Sooner than you think. It’s a beautiful ride loving someone the way you love a child. I would lose my life a million times over to be a mother. Here are a few steps that helped me when my relationships were changing.
Your feelings are valid.
We often seek validation of our hurts and hang-ups from the people and circumstance that cause them. Rarely will you get this. You do not need someone to acknowledge your pain for it to be real or to move past it.
You have value.
Coming from a career and a bustling social life, motherhood left me feeling I’d lost my value. This is where the whole alignment thing comes into play. I’m on a very different path.
Realizing that old path no longer brought value to my life made it matter a whole lot less than I wasn’t bringing value to it or the people I shared my life with at the time. We can not attach our value to people, careers, how we look and so on. It takes a lot of work but knowing you are loved regardless of what you do, who you know or what you look like is key.
There is something powerful about speaking our thoughts out loud. It could be prayer, meditation, or self-talk – just take the time to speak your feelings. I would often run to others to share my current emotional strain. Looking back, this was often to seek validation, fueling whatever I was feeling at the moment. If you want to let it go, speak to yourself privately, sit in silence, and release the feelings.
Ultimately, forgiveness of self, of others, and the struggles we face is the only way to arrive at a place of peace.
Be honest about what you need.
Motherhood is hard and long. You can not abandon yourself in these years. It can be all-consuming loving a little one, but you must stay fiercely loyal to yourself. If all you have is a small moment between tasks take it, or better yet ask for the help you need.
When we deprive ourselves of enjoying a cup of coffee alone, a good night’s rest, or silence for too long we will lose sight of the joys found in motherhood. It’s not selfish to take the time you need to ensure you have a clear view of your blessings. When mothering feels like a constant interruption, it’s time to commit to making self-care a priority.
Remember the dream.
My hope is I will foster a close family who comes home to one another, supports each other, and loves unconditionally. I picture us sitting around a table in our backyard with string lights laughing, telling stories, and my grown children feeling like their family is their refuge in the world.
I hold on to these images when my toddler is overly demanding or my 14-month-old is up all night. When I’m about to break, I pull myself back to the place I hope to arrive. When I’m feeling low because of the loss of a relationship and old routines, I focus on the truth that our family legacy is more important than momentary satisfaction.
You’re not alone, stop acting like you are.
Everyone deals with feelings of loneliness in a season of change. I remember looking at my husband with envy after his two weeks off following the birth of our children. His life had a two-week blip, then back to the comfortable routine he went. Five years into motherhood, I still have days that I feel this way. After Rory was born, this was a big hang up for me. I left my job for good, taking on the daily responsibility of caring for a child with special needs.
In the thick of self-pity, it felt like everyone went back to their old life as I was sitting in the heaviness, forced out of the life I knew. Guess what? I was right – only because I wasn’t telling others what I needed.
I was carrying the burden on my shoulders alone instead of allowing them to carry it with me. I was protecting them from the fear, responsibility, and sadness that came with the requirements of her current and future care.
Tell people what you need. If you have feelings of envy towards your partner for having time away, tell them you need the time out of the home. If you feel your friends stopped coming by, tell them you need them. Allow people the opportunity to step into the change with you. Don’t transition in isolation, this is truly what leads to relationship loss the most.