People told me there would be all-nighters. I was informed that when my milk came in, my breasts would feel like bags filled with rocks. I knew I would bleed for days after giving birth and my belly would be like jelly for, well, forever. Everyone told us to eat out as much as possible, go on a babymoon, go to the movies — all of which we did. I felt as prepared as I could for something I had never done before, but I knew it would be incredible, challenging, and altogether life-changing. Everyone told me what to expect, and, of course, I read that book cover to cover. But the one thing no one ever told me was how lonely I would be.
Why doesn’t anyone talk about how lonely motherhood is?
I didn’t feel the loneliness right away. Between texting birth facts to friends, neighbors dropping by for a quick visit, and family managing the fridge and meals, I didn’t have time to feel anything but overwhelmed. The loneliness didn’t settle in until about week 6. It wasn’t until my husband went back to work and my baby boy stopped sleeping effortlessly on my chest that the small sting of loneliness slowly appeared. It was surprising because I was prepared for everything but this feeling. A baby was supposed to complete me and fulfill my womanhood. The ache of loneliness felt wrong. I felt guilty. I found myself bouncing my baby (for the 100th hour) back to sleep and weeping. I couldn’t tell anyone I was so terribly lonely. For goodness’ sake, I was a mother.
I see our loneliness at playgrounds when our eyes connect and then quickly look down, shame and solidarity saying, “We understand.” I see it as we walk aimlessly around Target. I see it in the hustle and hurry of gathering groceries from cart to car. I see it at preschool pick-up with a baby on our hips and a toddler in hand. I see it in finger tips pressed to phone screens. We look for something to fill our loneliness. We look for something to take the ache away. Loneliness sits on the counter of our everyday lives, right next to our baby monitor and breast pump. There it is, staring right back at us and judging our mothering skills. So often we try to resolve our loneliness with a quick fix. We use social media, wine, online shopping, schedules, a paycheck, or food to fill our deep-down dissatisfaction.
But loneliness isn’t something you solve. Loneliness becomes the light leading us back to Jesus.
Maybe no one told us about the loneliness in motherhood because motherhood doesn’t bring about loneliness; it just exposes it. We can’t check off a list, decorate our home, perform for friends, or spend hours prepping the perfect dinner like we once did before our unpredictable baby was born. Before children, we could manage our loneliness effortlessly. But now our loneliness leaks out everywhere. We can’t control it, push it away, or cover it up any longer. God purges us through motherhood. He brings up and turns over who we are and reshapes us into women who love radically and without condition. Through loneliness, God reveals to us all the ways we depended on our capacities instead of His grace. Our loneliness isn’t lost on God; it’s a means to form us into Christlikeness. He is bending and breaking our character into deeper trust upon His forever love.
What I wish someone told me before having a baby was that God is in the undercurrent of my loneliness. God cracks open and chips away at our core to bring about a beautiful undoing within us. God, in His severe kindness, stirs up the very soil of our souls and starts something new.
God is not only using us to raise our babies, but He is also, in fact, raising us — raising us by bringing up the loneliness that was always buried beneath our ability to produce, control, and perform. And in dark rooms we rock our little ones to sleep, and loneliness repeatedly rocks us. A loneliness that if we let rise and rests on our lips with others can lead us to true friendship. A loneliness that if lifted in prayer can lead us to the love of Jesus. Love is scripting a new story within us through motherhood through the breaking, the challenging, the sacrificing, and, yes, the loneliness. God is growing you into a new creation. You may not understand it today, but trust that the Divine is doing an artful work within you.
Take heart, dear one. Expect that you will be lonely through your motherhood journey. Loneliness isn’t to be feared, pushed aside, or pressed under. Invite it out. Feel its ferocious appetite and the ways you’re tempted to fill your hole with anything and everything but God. Let love meet you in the middle of your vulnerable void. The void that Christ knows full well. The void of darkness where Christ breathed slow, heaving, dying breaths. The void that vacuumed all of life from His punctured lungs and limp body. The place where all the world’s weight of loneliness pressed Him to pray, “Why, God, have You forsaken Me?” Meet Christ right there, right where He is always meeting you — arms stretched wide, chest open, love mercifully exposed, welcoming you into a loneliness He fully understands. Your loneliness finds company with Christ, and it leads us back to love and always back to Jesus.