I am fiercely independent. I have found pride from a very early age in doing things on my own without the help of others. My mom said one of my first phrases as a youngster was “I can do it myself.” We live in a country where independence and self-reliance are highly valued, but as a new mother I have quickly learned, despite these cultural values and my own inclination towards independence, I can’t do it all on my own. I realized pretty early on the necessity of asking for help from others and finding a community of support to lean on through the early stages of motherhood.
When I ponder how my paternal grandmother raised four children (the first two of which were 10 months apart) with no running water for years, I am confounded. However, I quickly remember that they lived in a small farm community, and these communities were reliant on each other. Women helped women and families often lived right down the road from each other, as my families did. However, in today’s society it is very common to live far away from grandparents, aunts/uncles and extended families. As a new mom, it’s very easy to become isolated from communities of support when you are homebound with an infant.
I was lucky to have amazing in-laws that trekked several hours to help me out in that first harrowing month of motherhood. My sister-in-law even braved a snowstorm, her car getting stuck and hiking up to our home to come and help us care for our newborn son. Both my sister and mother-in-law swept in and made delicious meals, did laundry, and held my cooing infant, so I could sleep when my husband went back to work. I don’t know how I would have survived these first few weeks without them.
However, once the in-laws returned home and dad was back at work full-time, it became more difficult. As much as I love my little Lucas, being home all day without a break was exhausting and lonely. I felt isolated and couldn’t wait for my husband to return in the evening, so I would have an adult conversation.
Luckily, I connected with a group of pregnant ladies a few months ahead of me during my pregnancy. We began walking together weekly before the births of our babies, updating each other on baby movements, pregnancy woes and the excitement of the arrivals of our first little ones. I am so grateful to have developed these relationships during my pregnancy, because this group of Mamas has kept me sane in these first few months of motherhood.
Though it takes some coordination, we now get together every couple of weeks with our newborns. These ladies have become my village, my tribe. They are my sounding board for the craziness of new parenthood, questions, concerns and utter befuddlement of trying to figure this parenting thing out. I look forward to our get-togethers and always come away feeling calmer, more confident as a mother, and equipped with more resources and tools to use with my little one.
I am no expert, but here are some things I have learned in these first weeks of parenting:
- Ask for help. Don’t try to be a superhero! You can’t do it all! When people offer, take them up on it!
- Find a community of mothers to meet with regularity. Whether it’s a group from your birthing class, church or neighborhood, you will need this community of support to keep you sane. If you are having a hard time finding a group, take a Mama/baby swim class or some kind of early parenting class to connect with other Mamas.
- Remember to take care of yourself and take a little bit of time when you can snatch it for yourself. Whether this means getting up early to do yoga DVD, taking a walk with baby in the stroller, or putting dad on daycare duty so you can go run errands without baby, don’t forget to take time for yourself. You will come back and be more refreshed to be a better mom.
Although I am still very early in my journey of motherhood, I hope I can remember these tips as I continue to grow and learn during each stage of parenting. As I hear from more seasoned moms, every stage is different and has its own challenges. So the journey continues and I am ready for it now; with the support of others, step by step, I know I can make it.
Dear Baby Lucas,
I can’t believe you’re almost two months old. You have started smiling! When the small corners of your mouth widen and turn into that gleeful grin, it completely melts my heart. I swoon thinking something that I have done can make you so happy and bring you such joy!
You have also started cooing and gaaing and making little shrieks a lot. You are definitely being more communicative. I only wish I could decipher these darling baby communications.
The most incredible thing is that you know my and daddy’s voice. Your eyes grow wide and you turn your head when you hear us.
You also like to look at us very intently and study our faces. When you stare at me completely, so completely enraptured, my heart overflows with love. I grow teary at these moments. Still floored, I never knew I could love someone this much. I know you won’t always want to sit and stare adoringly into our faces, so I am trying to savor this time—every moment, every breath.
You have your vaccinations next week, and I must say I am petrified. I can’t bear the thought of you being stuck with a needle, or think of the possible risks. But I know it’s best for you, and really I think it will be much harder for me than you. I know we will get through it.
I pray daily that you continue to grow in strength, health, peace and love.