The Unexpected Loneliness of Motherhood

Photo by Oleksandr Pidvalnyi

When I first became pregnant, it was a shock. With a diagnosis of endometriosis, family members who had experienced multiple miscarriages, and being over the age of 35, I had braced myself for months of trying, the potential for a miscarriage of my own, and even the possibility of needing reproductive assistance.

But what actually happened is that I got pregnant very easily. Genetic testing and the anatomy scan both came back normal, and overall my pregnancy went very smoothly.

On May 10, 2022, I gave birth to a healthy baby boy that my husband and I named Oliver.

One month after Oliver was born, I returned to work, seeing clients for therapy via telehealth. Even as I was buried in the steep learning curve of motherhood, I was happy to see clients, with whom I had built solid relationships, and found our sessions to be a welcomed reprieve from the 3-hour eat, sleep, play cycle of newborn life.

I remember going to a birthday party 12 days after Oliver was born and telling friends that the transition to motherhood was easier than I thought it would be. My husband and I were working well as a team, my parents were over often to help (and were caring for Oliver while I was at said party), and Oliver was generally a sweet and happy baby.

But as the months wore on, and I settled deeper into this new role as mother, a sense of feeling “off” crept in. And when the feeling didn’t go away, off to therapy I went.

Feeding My Son

Shortly after starting therapy, I put a word to what I had been feeling: lonely. This word not only blindsided me but also cut me deeply.

How could I possibly feel lonely?

I have a warm, supportive relationship with my husband, am very close to my parents, and have a great network of friends, many of whom are mothers themselves. Not to mention that I had just become a mother, a role I had felt ready for and wanted very much. I was dumbfounded.

Determined to understand, I explored possible causes with my therapist.

“How’s feeding going?” she asked.

“Well,” I replied. “Oliver isn’t able to breastfeed for a sustained period of time, so I’m pumping 6 times a day.”

“That sounds really lonely,” my therapist replied.

I was silent for a moment, thinking. “Yes,” I said, sadly. “Yes, it is.”

Prior to getting pregnant, I hadn’t considered just how challenging breastfeeding is for many moms. While I felt knowledgeable about growing a healthy baby and informed about how to care for a newborn, I hadn’t done any research or taken any classes on breastfeeding. I was completely clueless and felt like, even though my pregnancy was very different from my mother’s experience, somehow I would mirror her breastfeeding experience and nurse my child for the first couple years of his life with complete joy and ease.

When Oliver immediately latched at the hospital and seemed to be nursing successfully, I went home feeling confident that Oliver and I were set up for breastfeeding success.

However, at his first pediatrician appointment, we learned that he had lost about 9% of his body weight.

“You have to get his weight up,” the doctor said with urgency, looking concerned and insisting that we return in two days for Oliver to be weighed again.

In the coming weeks, we learned that I had low milk supply and Oliver had a mild tongue tie. After working with several lactation consultants and taking supplements to up my milk supply, we realized that Oliver’s feeding wouldn’t get better without a frenotomy.

At two months old, Oliver had a frenotomy but unfortunately feeding didn’t improve. I felt devastated by the realization that breastfeeding my son wouldn’t be as straightforward as it had initially seemed.

Still, I was determined to provide him with as much breast milk as I could. So I pumped 6 times a day until Oliver was 7 months old.

Only after I started therapy, and later, when I stopped pumping, did I realize the toll pumping took on my mental health and how incredibly lonely I had felt hooked up to a breast pump multiple times a day while someone else cared for my child.

Change in Pace

Wrapping my head around the loneliness of pumping was easier than coming to terms with the loneliness I felt when I was with my child. As anyone who had had a child or cared for one, you know that infants don’t interact much in those first several months. They pretty much just take, take, take.

While I was previously used to fast-paced days interacting with clients, now I was deep in the trenches of feeding, pumping, changing diapers, and hanging out with a human whose ability to interact was sometimes not more than brief eye contact and, if I was lucky, a smile.

Frankly, the days felt boring and draining at the same time. Even as a therapist who is well-aware of the benefits of normalizing one’s own experience, I desperately wished that I didn’t feel the way I did. I so badly wanted to love those slow, blurry days of early motherhood.

But I didn’t.

What’s Helped

While I don’t have it all figured out yet (who does when it comes to parenthood?!), a few things have helped.

First, starting therapy was the best thing I did for myself. (Yes, therapists see therapists too!) Devoting an hour each week to understanding this new role of mothering has been life-giving and life-changing. I’ve found it incredibly helpful to have a neutral sounding board to work through this transition with.

Second, I started thinking about how my son was experiencing our moments together. I came across the poem “All I See Is You” by Jess Urlichs and felt transformed by this heartwarming depiction of how Oliver was viewing our early days together.

Shifting from how I was struggling through those moments to how Oliver was thriving in those moments was monumental for me. I realized just how much my own perspective and mindset set the tone for my days with Oliver, and homing in how impactful these “small” moments were for him in feeling loved, safe, and connected was huge.

Third, I doubled-down on the things that filled up my mental, emotional, and spiritual cup. I planned outings with friends each week. I booked pilates classes at a studio (instead of working out at home). And I started writing again.

While self-care is essential for all of us, I’ve found that it’s even more crucial in motherhood. Mothers (and fathers and caregivers of all kinds) give so much of themselves to their children that carving out the time to recharge and replenish our own spirit is beyond necessary.

I’d love to say that my transition to motherhood was completely easeful and a beautiful compilation of sweet moments with my child. But, honestly, it’s been a mix of emotions, many positive but also many that have challenged me greatly.

I’m understanding that this is the reality for every parent out there. Even those who get pregnant easily, those who have smooth pregnancies, and those who have healthy children — that doesn’t mean challenges don’t exist. They’re present in unique ways for all of us, and only when we meet ourselves in the truth of them, can we begin to figure out our own pathway through.



Writer, licensed therapist, and boy mom. Making people feel less alone in their struggles and offering tools for change. To work with her, visit

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Darcie Brown

Writer, licensed therapist, and boy mom. Making people feel less alone in their struggles and offering tools for change. To work with her, visit