Feeling lonely and isolated is probably not something you expected to feel when you pictured being home with your baby -- but for many people, feeling lonely and isolated in the postpartum period is exactly how they feel. The days can seem endless as you watch the hours tick by..."How is it only 9am? It seems like I've been awake forever...there are still so many hours until my partner gets home..."
The winter months can make this feeling even more intense, since even the idea of packing up a baby in warm clothes to venture outside can be extremely daunting. So -- what can you do to make it through the day?
Have a routine -- and by 'routine', I mean in the very loosest sense of the word. Get up, feed your baby, have your breakfast and coffee, go outside even if it's just for a few minutes, have lunch, relax/watch a show/have a cup of tea/call a friend when your baby naps, afternoon activity, etc. Your routine will be different than someone else, and it will most definitely change as your baby's feeding and sleeping patterns change, but having a loose plan for the day will help give your days some rhythm instead of the hours endlessly stretching ahead of you. If you feel extra ambitious you could even register for a mom-and-baby program or go to an EarlyON centre to help give some structure to your week - but start small if this feels like too much.
Make a list of safe, predictable places where you can go, or things that you can do when need to get out of the house. When you're feeing cooped up from being in your house but also feeling overwhelmed about where to go with your baby, it can be helpful to have a list of predictable destinations or activities. Moments when you're feeling anxious or overwhelmed are not great times for making decisions, problem solving, or brainstorming, so tray making this list ahead of time and keep it in your phone, or even better, post is somewhere for you to see - the fridge or inside a kitchen cupboard. Some ideas might be:
Go to the grocery store for a couple of things -- not a full on meal-plan + grocery shop...I'm talking, bananas and some tea
Go for an indoor stroller walk at the mall
Grab a fancy drive-thru coffee and then go for a drive listening to music, an a udiobook, or apodcast
Pop your baby into a carrier and go for a short walk around the block. Pro tip - in the winter put your baby on underneath your winter jacket, so that when your baby falls asleep in the carrier, you can come home, take your jacket off, and keep the carrier on so your baby keeps sleeping.
Seek out a change of scenery. Do you have a friend or family member where you can go for a couple of hours where you're comfortable feeding and changing your baby, and just being yourself? Have them on your list to call when you need to get out of the house.
Phone a friend. Not just text, but have an actual conversation on the phone with words. This can be surprisingly life-giving because it helps you realize that you're not actually alone in the world when it feels like you are.
Don't be afraid of winter. Yes it's cold. Yes there's snow. But we can do this! And mostly it comes down to everyone being warm enough. In the deep winter, I can't recommend snow pants enough. And for the times when the weather is still cold, but not quite freezing enough to justify a full-on snowsuit, I love my splash pants. I know this sounds kind of dorky, but honestly, having a windbreaker layer to throw on over jeans or leggings makes being outside a million times more enjoyable. Also, wear a hat. And for your baby, layering them up underneath their snowsuit then having a hat, fold-over sleeves for mittens, hood, and blanket will keep them toasty warm. You can also add a stroller cover to block the wind.
Find your "...Is This Normal? Friend. This is someone who you trust and who ideally has a baby around the same age or a little older than yours. Someone who you can text to ask all of your "...is this normal?" questions too. Instead of scrolling through endless blogs and online articles, have a go-to person who you can go to for questions and advice.
Schedule help. Instead of waiting until you are feeling overwhelmed, can you access your support network for regular help or visits? Can a friend come over on their day off for a couple of hours? Can you mother-in-law bring you over dinner every Tuesday? Can your aunt come by on Wednesdays from 10-12 to hang out with your baby while you run an errand? Scheduling this help before you need it is a great way to maintain your support network and is way easier than trying to problem-solve and get yourself out of a place where everything has become too much.
So, I'm not going to say that doing these things will completely eliminate the feelings of loneliness or isolation -- because they do creep in. But knowing this and having some strategies prepared can definitely help get over that hump of feeling cooped up in your house through the winter with only a tiny - possibly screaming - human to keep you company.