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"Sentenced to indefinite solitary confinement." Becoming a mum made me a terrible friend.

Motherhood made me a terrible friend. Or perhaps I should stop blaming external circumstances and take ownership of my actions.

I was a terrible friend.

There, you have it.

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When I became a mother, I became a lousy friend.

At 26, I was the first of my close friends to have a baby.

Before my 30th birthday, I was already a mother of two. When I got married, I had every intention of enjoying marital bliss and life as a young professional for a long time prior to even thinking about starting a family. 

But as luck — and life — would have it, I found myself strapped with the responsibilities of caring for a newborn exactly nine months after my wedding.

It was a Friday night when I finally took a pregnancy test. My increasingly aching breasts and late menstrual cycle had been causing me concern for a week, but I was still sure there was no possible way we could have conceived the one time we slipped up and didn’t use protection.

Surely, life couldn’t be that cruel.

Expecting the result to calm my fears and help me relax, I bought a pregnancy test just before heading to a friend’s house for pizza and brews. 

Needless to say, my original party plans quickly changed to a night at home complete with shock, anxiety, and lots of tears.

Just like that, two little pink lines had changed my life forever.

That was my first night of many sitting out the fun while my friends sat at the bar.

While everyone else’s lives carried on as usual, mine quickly became consumed with preparing for an infant. 

Before I knew it, I had traded late night cocktails and giggles with my gals for early evening ice cream and old episodes of Friends.

Alone.

Listen to Mamamia's parenting podcast, Me After You, discuss navigating friendships after giving birth. Post continues below.

The time I spent with my girlfriends became less and less.

Baby showers were novel and exciting amongst my circle at the time, and my childless friends flooded me with attention and gifts of adorable pink onesies and sleepers.

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But once the parties were over and the excitement of my daughter’s birth had worn thin, seeing or talking to my friends became a rare occasion.

The few times I ventured out of the house for social events during my pregnancy dwindled to zero once I had a newborn in tow.

No one came to me either.

Hanging out in a living room filled with squeaky baby toys where there was the constant worry about waking the baby wasn’t my single friends’ idea of a good time.

Motherhood had sentenced me to indefinite solitary confinement.

As the first of my social circle to have a child, I had no ready-built support system of mum friends equipped with sage parenting advice, strolling partners, and playdates.

Instead, while my co-workers left for happy hour, I was rushing home for dinner and bedtime routines. While my friends gathered over wine to gush about new relationships and cry over breakups, I was cleaning up baby poop and trying to soothe colic crying.

We were living completely different lives.

Once I turned down invitations to go out enough times, I stopped receiving them altogether.

Somewhere between feedings and diaper changes, I got left behind.

Parenting turned out to be much more overwhelming than I could have ever imagined.

For the first year of my daughter’s life, I barely left the house beyond going to work. By the time I had packed up an infant carrier and a diaper bag full of every potentially needed device, it would already be time for another feeding. 

My anxiety would be through the roof before we even walked out the door. My daughter was an especially needy and difficult baby, who rarely slept.

As it turned out, I was also an especially anxious first-time mum.

I was always awestruck to see those mothers who could just strap their babies to their hip like an extra appendage and carry them everywhere with ease. 

The ones who were so confident with their parenting that they could care for their infants and toddlers any time, any place.

That was not me.

Just a short trip to the grocery store predictably ended with a wailing baby and a mum in tears.

I began avoiding the hassle of having to take her anywhere whenever possible. 

At the time, I felt trapped in my house and chained to the responsibilities of parenthood. 

People used to reassure me that my kids would graduate from high school before I turned 45, while they would be into retirement age before their own children flew the coop.

But, I wasn’t reassured.

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The only thing I was sure about was that if I miraculously managed to make it to my kids’ 18th birthdays, I would be too exhausted to do anything after that.

I didn’t want to admit it, but I was envious of my friends’ freedom. 

Their time was their own, and mine was not.

There was rarely a time when I found myself able to focus on any adult conversation. It was years before my kids would leave me alone long enough to pee, much less have a quality conversation without interrupting. 

It seemed that as soon as the phone rang, there would immediately be crying or demands for juice coming from the next room.

After a while, I stopped picking up the phone.

And then, it stopped ringing altogether.

As our shared experiences decreased, so did our ability to relate to one another.

The times I did talk to my friends over the phone or try to go on a lunch date, I found I had nothing to talk about.

There were suddenly awkward silences when there used to be none.

When your days are filled with games of Peek-A-Boo and reading Curious George, there’s not much to report. 

No one wants to hear about your kid’s fingerpaint masterpiece or how many times she pooped in the potty that day. 

I was overwhelmed with the demands of parenthood and yearning adult connection. But, I had no idea how to bridge the gap.

At the time, I felt misunderstood and alone. I was sure no one living the free, single life could possibly understand the stress I felt caring for a being that was wholly dependent on me. I felt abandoned by my friends, but I wasn’t there for them either.

What I failed to see was that I had built my own cage of confinement.

What I failed to see was that my isolation was completely self-inflicted.

If I could give my younger self any advice, it would be to stress the importance of nurturing those adult relationships.

Staying connected with people is an important form of self-care.

And, now that the majority of my former friends have infants and toddlers, it’s evident that what I failed to recognise was that everything eventually comes full circle.

As life changes, people change, and while some friendships only survive a season, others last a lifetime.

Those that endure the test of time will inevitably meet again in similar life phases.

And when that happens, I want my best gals by my side.

This post originally appeared on Medium and has been republished with full permission. For more from Kelsey Jane, you can find her on Medium. 

Feature Image: Getty.

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