I had a baby, it got complicated, it got messy, it got stressful. I didn’t go to Mars, I didn’t pick up some disgusting flesh eating bacteria. I had a baby, and while she is a complex one, I’ll admit that I did not expect to feel the isolation which I feel some days.
Having a baby changes a person. I remember years ago being told that one day we would have a baby, and when that day came we would lose friends. At the time I was told it would be a case of us losing ‘non baby’ friends who would be unable to understand the input that a new baby takes. Fast forward several years later and here we are, left wondering, in the wake of the traumatic birth of our baby, where are all the friends?
This question has reared itself on several occasions between all us new mommies, particularly I feel, amongst parents to new babies who arrived here through unplanned circumstances, early arrivals, outrageously early arrivals, via stressful deliveries, emergency procedures, life threatening illnesses.
More often than not these babies are referred to as ‘special needs’ babies, or ‘special needs’ children when they are older. Personally I find the term ‘special needs’ offensive. It implies that society has deemed something to be wrong with our children when there is nothing wrong other than that they are different to the norm. I refer to my daughter as ‘high needs’ if I really have to label her. There is nothing wrong with her, she is as nature and life intended, she is perfect in her every form, shape and action, she merely does things a little differently to what society understands or deems to be normal. But more on my high needs darling a little later. Let’s get back on topic shall we?!
One thing that I have noticed on more than on occasion and something that has been mentioned by all mommies which I’ve spoken with, is the exclusion zone. We are excluded from many things which we were privy to before our blessings were born. While I’m certain this exclusion is for all intents and purposes done in our ‘best interests’ let me speak up and be the one to tell you, it sucks, stop it. Allow us the opportunity, at the very least, to decide if we want to be excluded from 90% of the activities that our former life would have allowed us to participate in. One mom spoke up about being excluded from a best friends wedding and upon confronting the bridezilla was told that everyone had decided that she wouldn’t want to be involved since she was busy with her baby. Parties that you would have loved to attend come and go without an invite and you are just too polite and ashamed to ask just what it was that you did to offend the host into excluding you intentionally. 9 out of 10 times I’ve come to realise that it is the assumption that a new parent, particularly one to a high needs baby, wouldn’t want to attend so the curtesy of extending the invitation is thrown out of the window. Our fates are sealed for us, on our behalves, the tribe voted, we lost.
I can understand then why the life and times of a high needs carer and parents can become so lonely and isolated, why we find ourselves gravitating more and more with likeminded souls who understand our quirks and way of life, who understand that yes, you sent me a whatsapp and yes you’ve seen the two blue ticks and yes blasted hell I’m not answering you immediately so clearly I must not interested in you, but the truth is that I’ll probably reply at 3am, when everyone and the dog is sound asleep and snoring and I’ve had a moment to process the day that I just managed to survive by a ball hair, you’ll read it and either forget I replied, or be pissed because I took so long, but you didn’t realise that the day was spent dealing with some crisis or other.
Friends come and go throughout our lives, seasons change, priorities change, friends change. It would be naïve to believe that we would never meet and bond with new people, or run out of relatable compatibilities with old friends, but understand that the exclusion zone, while mostly well intended, is a great source of friend breakups. Allow us the opportunity to decide for ourselves if we want to attend your birthday, wedding, baby shower or divorce party, chances are we are dying to attend and will do everything in our power to make that happen. We too crave a bit of our old lives and friends to keep us from feeling completely alien and unwelcome in our own bodies and lives.
And while we’re on the topic, please, please ask if you can visit, we’re not always able to leave our homes, but that doesn’t mean we are lepers who lurk in dark closets hiding from the world, granted, we’ll probably be in our pyjamas, hair probably washed a week ago, used coffee cups are gathering in small congregations on scattered surfaces throughout our home, but know that just your request to visit is appreciated more than you will ever know. We might delay that visit, or postpone it because shit hit the fan that morning, but that doesn’t mean we don’t want to see you ever again, we just need to reschedule. Ask us how our babies are doing, they are our worlds, even if you think they resemble something from one of the Chucky movies. One day in the not too distant future we’re going to get a break, a day off where nothing goes wrong and one which we are able to use constructively to visit our friends, only we won’t know we’ve still got friends because the vast majority of you decided for us that you didn’t want to be a burden and so you kept your distance so effectively that we no longer know what you look like, or what your voice sounds like and we turn to each other for moral support and you turn to your friends for moral support because that friend with the new baby is being such a bitch and doesn’t call anymore.
Look, don’t get us wrong, we aren’t perfect, we aren’t saints, you will invite us to functions, and occasionally we will be so bombed that we will forget to respond, rest assured, we aren’t ignoring you, perhaps send a friendly reminder to the exhausted mom who is struggling to remember where she forgot the last luke warm cup of coffee she made, let alone to reply to your rsvp. Offer to come load a heap of washing while we sip on a hot cup of coffee, probably the first hot cup we’ll have had that week, trust me, that will score you monster brownie points.
Don’t be that friend, don’t forget about us, we haven’t forgotten about you, we just take a little longer to get back to you and one day our babies won’t need us as much and hopefully you and I are still in touch and we can finally do something together outside of our pyjamas, with clean brushed hair, ironed clothing, outside our homes. One day the haze before us will clear and the scenery will likely have changed so dramatically that we won’t recognize our old surroundings that left us in our hours of need, we’ll have chosen a new course and you’ll be left telling all your friends that ‘she changed when she had a baby’ and you know what, we did, but was that such a bad thing? And while we’re on that topic, did you ever bother to get to know the new us? Or were you too busy excluding us from your lives to ‘lessen the burden’ on our already hectic new lives and routines that you missed meeting and getting to know the ‘new us’ that the little people we procreated has turned us into.