I took this photo so I would remember.

I was looking through photographs on my phone that I’d taken last year when I stumbled upon this one. I distinctly remember taking it. I’d just got home from a café and I was feeling so sad. So lost, and lonely. I took this photo so I would remember. I wanted to remember how low I felt at that moment in time. How alone I felt, and how homesick I all of a sudden felt. (I stay in Cape Town but all my family are overseas and my in-laws are up in Durban.)

When I saw this photograph again, I hardly recognised the sad face looking back at me, yet I remembered instantly how I felt. I wanted to be able to give that person a huge hug, and to tell her it would be ok, and she would be ok. I wanted to be able to go back in time and give her a letter to tell her all about the woman she is now:

A letter to myself:

Hey Mama,

I see you there sitting at your table in the busy café with your newborn. You’re crying softly into your decaf cappuccino whilst your little one sleeps next to you. You’re hoping you can finish your coffee before she wakes and demands some lunch and the whole circus that that entails. You think no-one has noticed, but I have. I see you. I want to tell you a story, and I hope it will help you feel a little better, a little more human again, but most of all, I hope that it will help you feel a little less lonely.

Once upon a time there lived a woman who was pregnant. She was so excited about the impending arrival of her little one, and all her friends kept asking how she was feeling and inviting her for lunch and catch ups. Then on May 3rd 2016, that woman went into labour and out popped her daughter (we both know what actually happened there so I’ll just skip that part). Her friends came to visit one by one at the hospital and then at home, and she felt so completely in love with this new little person in her life. But then, gradually over a period of time, the visits became less, and the invites too, until one day she found herself in that café with her newborn, crying into her drink.

Loneliness is such a sad feeling, and you can often feel lost. You can be sitting in a café full of people, yet feel like you don’t exist. You crave adult conversation and will try to engage with anyone just so you can get your words out and feel less invisible: the waitress who is busy and politely returns your conversation; a car guard who’s eyes have already glazed over as you explain to him that you’re a new mama and how long it took you to finally get dressed and out the house; random people in the shop, in fact any adult really. Anyone who will listen. You spend your days waiting for your husband to come home, and then bombard him with words and sentences the minute he walks through the door. I know this, because I felt this.

I don’t want to tell you that it gets easier, because in reality it doesn’t. You just become much more efficient and capable, and you will grow in confidence each day. Slowly, but surely, you’ll begin to listen to your mama’s intuition and less to old wives tales and advice from well meaning friends and family. You’ll trust your gut and as you begin to grow in self confidence, the new you will begin to emerge. You will feel confident in feeding your babe out of the home, whether it’s mastering the art of freeing a boob, juggling a crying babe and flailing about with a blanket over her whilst not sweating for once; or by giving her the bottle and not being bothered by the stares. You’re feeding your child milk not poison, so don’t feel judged and as flustered as you are now.

You’ll begin to get out of the house more, even if it’s just a walk in the fresh air. You’ll join a mama group which the very thought of at the moment fills you with such anxiety. No you won’t be doing jazz hands and singing at the top of your voice, it’s really not that bad. What you will do though mama, is have a goal to get out of the house for. And some mornings you won’t make it, because your little one just won’t let you out of her sight for a second. You can’t even dip your toe in the shower without her waking and screaming at you for daring to be naked and not want to hold and feed her. You’ll feel frustrated and exasperated, but it’s not the end of the world, it’s ok. You can just go the next time. You’ll go and you will meet other mamas who are just as frazzled as you. Who are just as lonely, though no-one cares to admit it. And you’ll also meet mamas there who look like they have got it altogether with perfect hair and make up, whilst you’ve not even combed yours for the last 3 days, never mind even looked in a mirror. But you will meet all these different types of mamas, and you will talk and chat to them and gradually make friends with them and they will become your biggest network of support. Especially as you have no family close by.

Your hair will stop falling out. I promise you mama. Whilst at the moment you might feel like a Golden Retriever has nothing on your moulting, it will stop, and no, you won’t be bald. The night sweats? Oh gosh the night sweats. Legs out of the duvet because you’re melting, but now your legs are soaking, your sheets are soaking, your night clothes are soaking, so you put your legs back under the duvet because you’re cold, but ugh it’s damp under there now too. You get up, dry your body with a towel, lay a towel on your bed and change your night clothes. Those also stop, thankfully.

You’re tired, oh so tired. You feel like you’ll never sleep properly ever again. I hate to tell you this mama, but you will never sleep as soundly as you did before, but you will have nights of uninterrupted sleep. For you, they only started some 15 months later, and they’re still hit and miss too, but you learn to cope. You will learn all about what great things are happening in your tiny babe’s brain, how she’s learning to move her hands, to hold her own head, to make her legs move, and then to master rolling, sitting, crawling and walking. In 1 year your little babe will grow from a tiny newborn who can’t yet focus, into a toddler who can think, and begin to talk. Who can sit and crawl and begin trying to walk. A whole mouth of teeth need to move down from her jaw and erupt through her gums. Is it any wonder her sleep is interrupted? You’ll learn all this alongside her, holding her hand as she does, and only then will you begin to understand why both of your sleep is all over the place. You will gradually begin to think differently and to have so much more patience.

You see mama, you were given this child for a reason. To help you to become the woman you are today from where I am writing you this letter. A much more patient, kind, fun loving person than I was 17 months ago. So don’t be so sad, look up and be prepared for the beginning of the new and improved version of yourself. You’re doing great, be gentle on yourself, and one day soon, you won’t feel so lonely sitting in a café. You’ll see a mama just like you now, who needs this letter just as much as you do. I’ll leave you with this photo, I took this morning. Nothing special, but look at the difference. You’re smiling with your eyes and that means your soul is happy. You’ve got this mama, I promise you.

Love Samantha
xx

Samantha Capewell

Author Samantha Capewell

Sam is a new mama to precious little Olivia Rose. Learning as she goes and from the shared experiences of others; constantly looking for ways to be the best mother she can be. A part time runner who loves to cook, and very glad to be living in Cape Town where the best wine in the world is made.

More posts by Samantha Capewell

Join the discussion 58 Comments

  • Pia De Freitas says:

    LOVE LOVE THIS!!! This is exactly how I felt with my first born. He is 5 years old today and I just had my second one 6 months ago. I also do not have my family here and you feel so so alone when you don’t have your mom close by…

  • Judy says:

    Those first months unexpectedly hard…and so very lonely…I wonder if any of us would believe a letter from our future self in that moment.Here’s to doing it all over again knowing it will be unbearably hard but rewarding beyond what you can dream…

    • Samantha says:

      So true Judy, it’s hard to see that there is a light at the end of the tunnel sometimes. I hope my post can help at least 1 mama to see that there is. Thank you for your comment xx

  • Terry says:

    Jeepers, you have me with tear-filled eyes at my desk 🙂
    I also moved to Cape Town two years ago and my little Olivia is now 13 months.
    Thank you for this x

  • Donné says:

    So spot on! Lots of calls and good wishes in the first week or two and then everyone back into their normal busyness and there you are …. alone. Exactly where I’m at right now with an almost 7 week old. Thankfully much much easier the second time around knowing the hairloss will stop, the weight will come off and before you can blink things will be different again.

  • Janine says:

    Thank you so much for sharing. I suffered from post natal depression and nothing can describe the feeling – that’s why I decided to talk about it. It felt like a release and also empowering once I uttered it. My husband didn’t understand what I was going through but the solice I found in other mamma’s eyes helped me so much. I felt that this is a part of mamma-hood that I didn’t hear about often enough. You were so clever to take that pic because now you can look back and see how far you have come and how strong you are! Best wishes for your journey!

    • Samantha says:

      Ah thank you for sharing Janine. You’re right, the guys just don’t get it. I think for the most part because all they want to do is to fix it, and this is something they can’t fix. I’m glad you were able to talk about your post natal depression x

  • Vicky says:

    We also moved to Cape Town two years and 6 months ago, leaving the hole family behind, it can get quite lonely at times having no one around and no little once to play with our little Danielle which is now 23 months.

    • Samantha says:

      Ahhh Vicky, it’s hard to leave your family behind, and I personally felt it so much more once I became a mama. Have you tried Adventure Club for some outings for you and Danielle? X

  • Victoria says:

    Thank you for being so real. Needed to hear this 💓

  • Sam says:

    Great post Samantha, good to know we all go through the same struggles time and again. My little one is 7 months now and its been both amazing and challenging. Looking forward to those uninterrupted nights of sleep. Best Sam

  • Andrea says:

    I feel like this letter was written to me. I will be sure to save it so that I can read it again on those lonely and challenging days. Thank you so much for your heart for mamas and babes, you’re making a difference x

    • Samantha says:

      Ahh Andrea, that makes me happy to read. Those lonely days can sometimes seem so overwhelming, but you do come out the other side, and you’ll soon be the one giving advice or a friendly smile to a new mama xx

  • Jacqui says:

    Sam is one of the real good apples out there 🙂 a stead fast friend and a true beautiful soul who is always honest and questioning life.
    She’s ready to offer up help, a kind word or gesture at the drop of a hat. People gravitate towards her and she lets them in but is somewhat discerning making you feel really special and blessed when she calls you her (special) friend and makes you part of her inner circle.
    I met Sam through our running club, quickly noticing her English accent, pretty, open face and of course her cool, pulled together persona.
    We soon just clicked and in a short space of time the two of us just started going on runs together. Much has filled both our lives since our trots around Newlands & Rondebosch and the odd Spur Tail Run Series. One of the numerous gorgeous memories I have of the two of us was when we were powering up the hills of these Spur trail races. As the next race rolled in each weekend my pregnant belly grew and so did Sam’s patience! She didn’t moan or run off on those races, we navigated the hills with good power walking and music pumping through our ipods (oh wait I can’t forget the trillion wee stops she was forced to take and “be my eyes” for passerbyers) as my bladder was the size of a peanut for almost 9 months!). Sam made me feel so supported and loved through this and most of my pregnancy – having her have my back up a hill or splashing through an aqua aerobics class was epic and the best person to call my wing women. The only sadness I have is that I could not properly be there for her when she was growing Liv in her belly. My family and I moved to Jhb and well we do our best to stay in close touch and be supportive but the small day to day stitches get missed and that really sucks. Sam(ule) I hope you know how much you are appreciated and loved and I have seen you taking on motherhood so incredibly, you are an inspiration to not only me but now many mothers out there and your authenticity is so valuable and needed by such a Mamma tribe. Thank you for helping me be a better Mom, wife and friend. I miss you in my and Jemma’s life. I know how blessed we are to have you a skype/call/whatsapp away. My goodness I’m a good judge of character, sourcing the ‘good’ apples from the dodgy ones lol and how lucky is Jemma who get’s to call you her (fairy) godmother. Now promise to keep taking pictures and notes xxx We love you.

    • Samantha says:

      Oh my word, what a beautiful comment. I’m the one drizzlng now!!! Thank you so much, I can’t tell you how you make my heart happy. You’re a true friend, and I miss you so much x

  • Bianca Thomas says:

    Thank you for being so open and honest! The best thing I have read in a long while 🙂

  • Ayesha says:

    This. Mama to a little boy thats not yet a week old and third time around mommy but I still need this reminder. Thank you 💙

  • mum says:

    That is exactly how I felt after having you my dear daughter but six months after you were born I was pregnant again with your sister then 2 months after she was born I was pregnant with your brother. So by the time you were 2 yrs 3 months your brother David was born with Katrina being born in the middle. I had 3 children under the age of 2 1/4 years. Very much alone even with neighbours all around me. I was crawling up the walls. I went to the doctors where he wouldn’t put me on medication for my depression but talked to me each week. Till one day I walked in there with a happy face and he and I both knew life was getting better. It does get better, it’s all part of living. I wish I was there to be with you and your sister, Katrina to help with the kids. I miss you all very much. But I’m happy here in Texas and hopefully in a couple of years I’ll be able to come over and visit you and see my little grand daughter. I’m flying over to the UK next year for a week. It’s not long but it’s the first time I’ve been back for 13 years. Even though I don’t hear much from you, you are always in my thoughts.

  • Nanette Louw says:

    Wow Samantha, I just bawled my eyes out! My little one is 10 months old, and it’s definitely not what I thought it would be! I lost my dad two months before my little one was born, couldn’t go into labour resulting in a C-section, couldn’t properly breastfeed so had to supplement with formula which made me feel like the biggest failure ever, only had my mom with me for one week after the birth as they live in Nelspruit… and to top it all off, my baby had reflux and colic. Most days I couldn’t get up to go to the loo, let alone go for a coffee. Due to all of this I had very bad depression, which thankfully my hubby picked up on as I was in serious denial! My first outing I had to take with my little one I sat crying in the car because I was scared to death he would start crying again! But now I look back, almost a year later, and thank God that I made it this far. So thank you, thank you, thank you!!! Your letter made me remember I am still a human!

    • Samantha says:

      Oh my gosh Nanette, what a story. I’m glad my story resonated with you, and you’re right, it’s amazing how far we’ve come. At the time you can’t seem to see how others seem to have got it so together whilst you’re simply sinking. Thank you for your comment xx

  • Kim says:

    This is exactly how I felt, particularly with my firstborn, even though I was fortunate enough to have my parents in the same city.
    3 years and 2 more babies later, I’m sitting here, pinned to the bed by my two-week-old who won’t let me put him down. It gets easier with subsequent babies as you know that things will get better (like the hair loss and the velcro-baby tendencies!), but it’s so easy to forget the loneliness, which happens even when you’re surrounded by your 2 exuberant toddlers and a crying-feeding-pooing-sleeping newborn.
    It’s easy to forget that yearning for adult conversation and wanting, needing, a change of scenery from your house. Today I walked just 200m up the road with my baby in the Noonoo Pie for a weigh-in at the pharmacy. That simple half-hour outing made me feel alive again. I talked to the clinic sister and the cashier and some random customer who made the error of looking vaguely in my direction, telling them all about my baby and his age and name and his weight gain and all about his big sisters. They probably thought I was bonkers, but it cheered me up 🙂
    Anyway, thanks for so succinctly describing the lives of a new mom (or old mom of a new baby), and reminding us that it really does get better. And just because you’re having a hard time doesn’t mean you’re a bad mom or love your child(ren) any less.

    • Samantha says:

      It’s amazing just how a change of scenery can help lift your mood a little, even for just half an hour. Your comment about the random customer made me chuckle, as I also was like that too (and to be honest, some days I still am!).
      You’re absolutely not a bad mama, it takes a lot to admit to struggling and asking for help, and once you do, you almost wonder why you hadn’t done so earlier! But like you say, us mamas have a hard time in asking for help for risk of being seen as not coping. Thank you for your comment, and all the best with your little ones xx

  • Shanna says:

    Thank you for sharing this. With my first I felt like this, a lot of the time. Even with all of my family nearby. We got off to a late start with children, so all my friends had children who were older already and were so busy with their own lives. Then when my littlest was born, coincidently on the same day as your little one, I decided I needed to put myself out there and make this easier on myself. We have a lovely clinic in East London that hosts a tea once a week and a talk, for new moms. I slowly made new friends and joined the cloth nappy community. Having a support base with like minded people is very important. It has been my saving grace.

    • Samantha says:

      I was chatting to another mama this very morning about how her friends had also all had their babes a lot earlier than her, and she too felt so lonely.
      It’s nice to have something to have to get out of the house for, heck, to even have to get dressed for! I’m so glad you’ve found your tribe Shanna. Thank you for your comment x

  • Marilyn says:

    My baby is 4 months old now! I really needed this letter! You have made my day sooooo much better. Thank you xxx

    • Samantha says:

      Ahhh Marilyn, you’re so very welcome. I’m glad you found some (I hope) comfort in it. Thank you for your comment xx

  • Kathya Smith says:

    Nice read Samantha and yes we were going through the same experience at the same time… my daughter was born on May 5th. I see her now at 17 months all busy bee and I could jot be prouder of what I have achieved.
    Motherhood is not for sisis.
    Well done mama!

  • Bernice says:

    Wow I am in tears now after reading this. Really touched my heart. I was 6 months pregnant when my finace passed away. Going through the last few months alone was very hard. I had friends coming and going but yet I felt alone. Everyday I hear people say it would get easier but no it doesn’t, with time you will start living with it and make the best of it. My little one is now 3 months old and he is my whole world. I would do anything for him. The thing that makes me so sad is the fact that he will never know his father and I am the one that needs to tell him and go through that pain again. His fathers best friend hasn’t even met him yet and he was the one that made a promise if something would ever happen he would always be there but up untill today nothing. A picture says a thousand words. For now I will keep onto memories and all the pictures.

    • Samantha says:

      Bernice, thank you for your comment and sharing part of your story. I can’t even begin to imagine how tough this last 6/7 months have been for you.
      Your fiancé will always be with you both; in your son’s laugh and smiles and the twinkle in his eyes. You’re doing an amazing job raising that little boy alone, and whilst I don’t doubt it will be hard to explain to him where his daddy is one day, he will have you there to hold his hand and dry his tears mama. Sending you so much love and strength. Please feel free to join our Facebook group (if you’re not already), you’ll find a whole village of mamas there who can offer support, chatter and a friendly face should you ever need xxxx

  • Claire says:

    Wow Samantha, this really hit home.
    I too felt like this, I too took a photo of myself crying in the early stages with my colic baby and said to myself that I would never want to have another child.
    10 months down the line (not pregnant again, hahaha), but I have the most beautiful, funny, strong willed baby girl, who sleeps through for the past 2 months and although tests me at times, I wouldn’t want it any other way!
    This has been the most challenging yet most rewarding experience in my life!
    thanks again for a well written article that many new Moms can relate to.
    xx

    • Samantha says:

      Thank you for your comment Claire. It sounds like you’re raising a sassy, confident little girl there, well done, we need more of them in this world I think. Xx

  • Alison says:

    hi Sam, I read your post and totally related.. especially to the part of waiting for husband to come home!
    I wanted to tell you, my little girl is now 6 year and its totally different. The first 3 year they are all -consuming, intense etc. But it DOES get easier. From 4 years she became a breeze, no more tantrums.. and was in school in the mornings. They become more independent and not so overly emotional. I LOVE every day with her now (I know you love your child!). All I want to say is when you enrol her for a few mornings in a play school (from 2,5 is usually when they start for 2-3 mornings a week). You will have TIME TO YOURSELF. and will meet the other Moms, we used to meet every Friday morning for coffee (just a few of us) – it made life enjoyable again, and we all related – al with the sameness of motherhood and kids the same age. Just hang in there, enjoy the good moments.. and bear the horrible ones!! Once they start school (every day) you will probably be so HAPPY! and if you get some part-time work, will feel part of the outside world again. All the best!! love Ai

    • Samantha says:

      Ahh Alison,
      Thank you for your comment. Yours is like a letter to me from the future which is wonderful to read too! Xx

  • Mushoeda says:

    I feel like like that now, you try and keep your cool my baby fell asleep BF on my arms. I was jus told right this instant now go lay him down I sed i don’t mind coz his ok and I’m ok. The voice that knows it all “let him cry if he wakes” I’m told baby senses my feelings but I think he knows mommy trying to be strong for him through all the critism. As if breastfeeding is not hard enough. His dad works odd hours so when he peaceful I get my sanity. I jus wanna go home, but when im home I feel that loneliness. I just pray that daddy hours get better cause his my only safety net. That helps. To top it off baby has special needs and yes so far he doesn’t show signs of mental abnormalities but I believe its that extra care and “unnecessary spoilt” that making his growth better. They just see a Normal baby but its my constant smell,heartbeat,feed and touch that helps with baby stress levels to make him develop. I dnt mind struggling but I need someone to listen to me properly.

    Thanks for reminding that we will mature to understand our lil ones

    • Samantha says:

      Hi Mushoeda,
      Thank you for sharing your story. As your babe’s mama you ultimately know best, so listen to your gut, as hard as that can be when others are criticising. You sound like you’re doing an amazing job with your little one, and you can never spoil him by holding him close too much. Food spoils, babies don’t 🙂 xx

  • Estelle says:

    I can so relate with waiting for my husband to come home. I have newborn triplets and from Monday to Friday it’s me 24/7 at home. I would love to even go to a coffee shop but with 3 newborns I don’t leave the house at all. On weekends my husband lets me go to pick n pay or Baby City to buy a few things just so I can get out of the house. I know women have had triplets before but I look at triplets moms with new eyes. It’s hard. Every 3 hours feeding 3 babies. I know it will get better, I’m just trying to get to December as they will be a bit bigger. I’m also trying to appreciate the little things with them as they will only be babies once.

    Thanks for the letter

    • Samantha says:

      Flip Estelle, and I thought it was tough with one newborn, I can’t even begin to imagine having 3 of them!! I take my hat off to you.

      They’re so small for such a short period and honestly at the time you’re wishing them to just get a bit bigger, but time is such a thief. As tough as it is for you now, you’ll look back at this time fondly and amazed at yourself and how you did manage and cope with not one tiny human, but three. Well done mama, you’re doing great things xxx

    • Jessica says:

      :O wow! I take my hat off to you!

  • Jessica says:

    Wow, how beautifully written and so so true. I thought it was just me – crying into my shirt and quickly putting a smile on my face whenever anyone glanced over at me and my new baby. Thank you for perfectly describing those first few months… my little guy is 3 months old and although I still struggle some days or moments, it truly does get better. Whenever I want to throw in the towel (or in this case burp cloth) I take a deeeeeeeep breath and remind myself it’s just a moment in time, right now.

    • Samantha says:

      Ahh Jessica, thank you for your comment. You’re doing a great job mama, it is tough, but you will come through it and you too will look back this time next year and wonder how on earth you managed!!

  • Natasha says:

    This is beautifully written and wow my goodness can I relate. My family are also not here and dealing with a newborn broke all of my boundaries and thoughts of control. As you rightfully said it was a learning curve for both of us. Thanks for this article. It also feels ages ago now since I now have a two year old but I see that picture and can relate completely. Lots of hugs.

  • Tarryn says:

    This is so beautiful. Thank you for your open raw honesty. I totally get it so thanl you fit connecting all us mamas. I find I’m in a similar but slightly different boat. I truly enjoyed up to the first 8 or 10 months and think i was just so entrenched in my new little world that i didnt give myself room to think further. I was also blessed with a calm easy going baby… albeit a non slept from 6 months. He’s now 15 months and already into the tantrums and moods of a toddler and i now find myself feeling low, tearful and overwhelmed more often that not. I feel like I’m failing at motherhood because of the seeming decline from a happy baby to a toddler who cries mostly when at home and desperatelt seeks constant one on one attention. Does anyone else feel like this?

    • Lee-Ann Bezuidenhout says:

      I also feel like you most days.. My little guy is now 19months and such a challenge.. He is so very different from my first born who is almost 8 that I sometimes wonder if they are related. Most days I feel completely overwhelmed. He is clingy.. A picky eater and overall just ‘otherwise’.. I love him dearly but ya I feel you momma!

    • Samantha says:

      Hey Tarryn,
      My little one is now also a toddler and we too are experiencing a whole new level of tantrums and tears. I read such a good book which has helped understand her a lot better and realise that she’s just trying to process big feelings with an underdeveloped brain. I changed my mindset, and as often as it is still so frustrating and overwhelming when she is seemingly tantruming over nothing at all, when I think of why she is having the meltdown rather than the actual meltdown itself, then it helps me to help her and as a result, we don’t have as many. Don’t get me wrong, I still have days where I want to shout at her for being so unreasonable, but then I take a breath and a moment. The worst thing is to ignore them as you’re teaching them that you only want to be near them when they’re having a good day, when in reality we all have bad days and bad moods. Best of luck xx

      • Bianca says:

        Hi Samantha,
        Please can you post the name of the book that you mentioned.
        I am also struggling at the moment with constant tantrums and tears from my almost 2 year old daughter. I am also 5 months pregnant so I think my patience is just not what it used to be but hopefully this book will help 🙂

        • Samantha says:

          Of course. It’s called “no drama discipline” it’s a very gentle but effective book.
          The word discipline in the title is a little misleading as it suggests punishment which this book isn’t about, but it explains the title in there.

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