There is a saying: It takes a village to raise a child. As a new mother, I’m realizing more and more the importance of finding your village, your community.
As hard as people try, no one can prepare you ahead of time for motherhood. They can say, “sleep now because you’ll never sleep again,” all they want, but you just can’t really understand sleep deprivation until your little circadian rhythm-less darling arrives. As you are thrown into this whirlwind of parenting, it’s bewildering and fun and scary and new. And sometimes it feels like you’re the first one to ever have a baby—like there is no one else who has experienced what you are experiencing.
It’s a wonderful blessing to have your (much more experienced) parents to lean on for advice. But sometimes grandparents are too far removed from newborn parenting to really empathize with you. Maybe they remember the sleepless nights but don’t really remember the borderline psychosis caused by those round-the-clock feedings. Or maybe when they were raising you, there was no debate about letting your baby “cry it out” or whether to use a pacifier—or no worries about GMOs (genetically modified organisms).
New mamas out there, I can’t tell you how important it is to find your comrades, fellow mom friends who are right there in it with you, to share the joys and the pains with. When I’ve felt like I’m the only one, it’s these ladies who let me know I’m not alone. When I feel like I’m doing it all wrong, they’re there to let me know they did it too and everything turned out OK. They have made all the difference in how I’ve coped with the bad times and celebrated the good.
To be specific, it’s been especially great to have three types of mama friends: Those with babies who are a little older than yours, those with a baby close in age, and those with a baby that’s a little younger than yours.
My friend Julie’s sweet baby girl is about a year older than my little Graham. I am beyond grateful for having this lady in my life. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve texted and called her with questions and complaints, worries and more questions. She’s been there, done that, but she isn’t too far removed from it yet to have forgotten how everything really feels. She makes it all look easy and gives me hope that things will definitely get better when I need it. When I think I’m messing everything up, she lets me know that she did some of the same things and that it’s OK. Ladies, find this a-little-more-experienced-than-you mama friend to have in your life! You will look up to her and lean on her when you need it.
My cousin Suzanne’s precious baby girl is just a couple months older than my boy. We are on the same page about a lot of things, and sometimes it helps at 2 a.m. to think “Well, she’s probably up breastfeeding right now, too. … I’m not the only one going through this!” We’ve mourned the end of our maternity leaves together, complained about our wonderful babies who don’t sleep through the night together, and talked about breastfeeding struggles together. It helps to have this friend who you know is right there with you.
Finally, my dear friend Blakeley’s lovely little newborn baby girl is a few months younger than Graham. It’s fun to suddenly feel like I’m an experienced mama whenever she asks me for my opinion or advice on a baby subject. Also, when I’m mourning putting away the clothes that Graham has already outgrown, I can go see her adorable little one and get my newborn fix again. Finally, when she had those initial newborn struggles that we all go through, I felt grateful to know that I had already been through that and survived.
I have lots more mama friends that I didn’t mention, and I am SO grateful for all of them. Motherhood would have been a lonelier and much scarier road without them. Mamas, find your village! It really does take a village to raise a baby—and a new mama.