Dear new mom,
I know, I know, there are so many open letters out there with so much (unasked for) advice, and that’s before all of the unrequested, undesired, and strident opinions pretending to be advice you’re given seemingly everywhere you go right now.
When you first have a baby, a lot of people will tell you that you HAVE to find your mom’s group, village, or tribe.
“Go looking for it.”
“You’re going to need people to talk to.”
“Maybe the hospital has one?”
“How about a church group?”
“Maybe an exercise class?” (If this suggestion is made in conjunction with any comments about bouncing back, getting your body back, or weight gain, you have my permission, nay, encouragement to throat punch the commenter.)
The thing is, they are right (except for anyone who comments about your postpartum body, but that’s a discussion for another time)—it is so very necessary for so many reasons. This is one of those rare pieces of unsolicited advice that is important and can make all of the difference in the world. So, I’m adding my voice to the chorus and breaking the no giving unsolicited advice vow I made when I was where you are now.
It’s necessary when you’ve been up all night, think you will never sleep again, and feel like between the baby, you, and your partner someone is always crying. You need to hear from someone who is a few weeks further along who can reassure you there will be a light at the end of the tunnel, and it won’t be an oncoming train. It’s necessary when you hit that afternoon or evening fuss-a-thon and need to talk or text with someone else who is just as frantic as you are and swap ideas. You’ll gain confidence when you are the mom who is further into the journey that is having a newborn, and you can offer advice as one who has been there.
You will need that village as you celebrate your triumphs, like an uninterrupted shower, successful feeding, and when you quietly say with your fingers crossed and knock on all the wood, that your baby slept for a decent stretch the night before.
These will be the people who will sit and marvel with you at these small creatures who are so amazing and will understand how the center of your world has shifted so suddenly and drastically.
Hacks will get passed around and you will be grateful. If you’re like me, you will also wonder why they don’t put the fact that onesies are designed to be pulled down and off the baby when needed on the front of the package in bold, underlined with glitter. You’ll fondly think of the member of your village who shared that information every time you clean up a poo-pocalypse and don’t have to figure out how to get the poopy onesie over your baby’s head.
Germs will flourish, and you’ll look to your mom friends to share your anxiety over the runny nose. There will be someone to listen and understand when you have the millionth debate with yourself over whether it really is just teething, a basic cold, or if it is time to go to the doctor.
It will continue to be necessary as you head toward the toddler and preschool years. These will be the people who understand you love your tiny human more than anything even though you’re cleaning the results of whipping off a diaper and running through it at nap time and fighting the urge to list them on your local yard-sale site.
When there is something you’ll fondly refer to years later as the great marker fiasco, they’ll offer advice from cleaning tips to which wine pairs best with any given disaster (the correct answer is whatever you have on hand). This will be done without judgment or questioning how the toddler found the markers in the first place. They totally get how these things happen, and you will probably have helped them through a minor flood situation caused by their child a few days earlier.
As little siblings enter the picture, you will need the meals, comfort, and advice, and you will enjoy helping your village in turn. They’ll marvel with you and share in your pride as you look at your firstborn with a tiny baby, and you’ll all wonder where the time has gone. You’ll support each other as you decide to add or not to add to your families. Sometimes nature, biology, or circumstances will make that decision for you. When the choice is taken out of your hands, these are the friends who will send you treats and love and will support you however they can when things don’t work the way you planned. The questions and challenges will change, but the very necessary and reassuring fact of your group will be there.
This village, however you come by it, will be incredibly important as life happens.
There are so many good and amazing things ahead for you, but not all days are good ones or easy ones. Hard times will come, marriage dynamics will change, losses will happen, dreams will have to change, and it will hurt. I don’t say this to you now to distress you but to prepare you. Your village will support each other through these times, and you will learn even more about who you are as a person and a parent. It is necessary to have a safe place to crowdsource information, vent, cry, and share whatever is on your mind and in your heart. You will have that.
Your baby(ies) will continue to grow, and your village might drift a little as time goes by. You might not get to see the moms, who you couldn’t imagine not seeing several times a week, for months or even years. That is hard, but when you do get to see them, know they’ll look at your gap-toothed, rumpled, rough-and-tumble 7-year-old and see the sweet, tiny baby you see in those cheeks that have almost completely lost their baby roundness. You will also still be able to see the tiny baby inside their big kid. You will all see the mothers you were as well as the mothers you are now. These people are now keepers of your child’s babyhood.
That’s not just necessary . . . it’s magical.
A mom who still needs her village