There are certain universal truths that all new parents understand: you will never finish your housework, every single hot drink will go cold before you and finish it, and, last but not least, you will lose some friends.
Not on purpose, but it will happen. Your friends without kids will go out at night and take spur-of-the-moment trips, while you need at least an hour’s notice to leave the house. Your friends with children of their own are already busy, and now you can’t just pop in and see them.
Losing friends as you get older is a fact of life anyway, but children speed up that process. But the friends you keep through the early years of parenting are vital. They are sources of advice and commiseration, last-minute babysitters and the people who will give you vital breaks away to recharge and find yourself again. Your friends may be fewer, but their importance increases.
But what if you don’t have friends going through what you are? What if there’s no one to relate to?
Being a new parent is one thing. A new parent with a disability is another thing entirely.It’s now eighteen months since the birth of my daughter, and every day is a new learning curve, even though you’d think I would be used to things by now! I’m still working out what I can and cannot do with my cerebral palsy and adapting. She gets bigger and heavier by the minute, so things get more difficult.
I have plenty of parent friends who can commiserate over sleepless nights, teething and all the other standard milestones, but what of the different challenges that I face? I don’t know anyone who shares the same issues, such as not being able to carry their baby up or downstairs. My friends, my family, my wife can listen and can empathise, but ultimately they have not been through this specific situation.
It’s lonely and isolating, going through something that no one else you know is experiencing. Community and shared experience is such an important part of the life of a new parent that, when it’s not there, you really feel it.
But then, everyone is going through their own journey, and likely every parent has their own specific battles to fight, even if you don’t know what they are. My situation might be unique — at least in my social circle — but every parent I know will experience something that I do not.
I can feel isolated, but I need not isolate myself. There are plenty of experiences that I can share with my fellow parents — and maybe, if I ever meet someone in the same situation as me, I can be the friend to them that I never had.