Finding Your Village
You’ve had your baby, welcomed all of the visitors and friends who want to meet the newest addition, and eaten all of the food you’d prepared and stored in the freezer. You have survived the first week or two of motherhood, cried countless tears as your hormones regulate, and said goodbye to your significant other as they rejoin the work force. Now, you find yourself alone (well, sort of) on the couch, in a quiet house, with the tiniest little thing that has ever ruled your world. Now what?
It can be quite daunting, those first moments when you realize it’s really up to you (and whatever support person or network you have in place) to care for this little being. You may be having some existential moments, asking yourself, who am I now? I know I did. I remember just sitting there, staring at this little person who wouldn’t leave my breast, and thinking just that. I certainly didn’t feel like the same person, who just two weeks ago, was (very) pregnant, and now, I’m someone’s mom. Someone’s whole world. It’s really, and truly, a baffling experience. If you haven’t had that feeling yet, you’re likely reading this because you’re expecting and soon will.
Now that you’ve questioned your entire meaning and purpose in life, where do you go from there? Well, you just go. Really, it’s that simple. Just go. I read COUNTLESS new parenting blogs, articles on the best latch, what creams to use on baby (or not to use), how to hold her, how to make sure she fell asleep at the breast or bottle, how to make sure she didn’t, when to wake her, when to put her down (and many that boasted the importance of putting her down often; this was especially frustrating since she understandably didn’t seem to like it much). I read about how much sleep to expect from her, and on and on and on. It was maddening, really.
The amount of information available to new parents can be completely overwhelming and it certainly baffles our grandparents who had nothing to go on other than instinct. You’re surrounded by all of this information at your fingertips, yet potentially feel more alone than you ever imagined. This is where I suggest to you forego the books, the articles, and the blogs. They aren’t what you need right now. There’s time in the future for that (a tip: don’t read the sleep stuff until way into the second half of the first year. It all changes too rapidly to worry about right now. Sleep will come eventually, I promise.).
What you should do is work on finding your village. Find the other parents who are in the thick of it just like you. CONNECT. Really connect. Identify your community, or create it if it doesn’t exist yet, and make plans. Spend real-life time with others who can relate to exactly where you are and what you’re doing in this very specific time in your life. Facebook has become an amazing networking locale for meeting and establishing some amazing friendships for new parents. When I was a first-time mom, sitting on my couch, nursing for most of my day, I made some of my closest friends. Remember the joke, “there’s an app for that?” Well, I’ve realized the latest phenomenon is that “there’s a group for that!” Literally, almost every topic has plenty of group options for you to find and connect with others in a virtual reality. But, that’s just the first step, it’s imperative that once we make these connections virtually, we follow through with the relationships in real life, especially as new parents. It can be quite lonely otherwise. There are plenty of local meet-ups happening in almost every neighborhood, and on that note, almost every neighborhood has its own Facebook page (or Meetup group etc.). These can happen during the week or weekend, for stay-at-home moms and working moms alike, so seek out the local community and meet like-minded parents. Then make plans in person.
It’s this community that I now go to on a regular basis to check in on what’s normal, rant when my days are just tougher than I imagined, cry to when I just need someone to hear me, and make plans with when I need to spend some time with other people who just get it. They’re in the thick of it, just like me, and we can commiserate, or boast, or cry or do whatever we feel like together. I once read an article about how the women you meet at your first moms’ group are unforgettable. Even if you all grow apart, you’ll never forget the times you spent doing all of what I just mentioned, together with your newest little people. And, it’s worth noting that maybe you don’t find your people right away, but keep reaching out and you will. Finding a group of moms (or dads because there are groups for you, too) who you can count on to be there is priceless. Trust me, when you’re up for what seems like the 18th time in the middle of the night and just need to know you’re not alone, you’ll be grateful you have your community. Some might even become like family. That’s exactly how we were meant to parent because it takes a village.
If you are looking to connect with other moms and families in the Baltimore community, here are some links to get you started:
Search Meetup.com for your neighborhood and you’re likely to find many other parents.
Looking for a group just for dads? This is a new local group that is growing.
Mother Goose on the Loose is a great, free early literacy program that happens at libraries all around the country. Click the link to find the closest weekly group to you.
And of course, there’s Facebook. Most of us have already succumb to this, but if you haven’t, it definitely provides an easy way to make connections. Baltimore Birth, Babies & Breastfeeding is a diverse group of moms and dads supporting each other in a nonjudgmental community. Join, ask questions, and connect. We’d love to have you.