Finding your very own Mom Tribe is essential. Mom Tribe membership will give you unlimited access to texted Amazon product link suggestions to solve whatever issue the baby is currently struggling with, virtual friendships in private Facebook Mom groups full of women that will instantly reply to your baby’s butt rash photo posted at 3 AM, even stranger moms in grocery stores who recognize you as one of the tribe, and will take it upon themselves to adjust your uncomfortable Ergo carrier without a hint of judgment. Sounds nice, doesn’t it? It’s all yours for the taking if you’re brave enough to put yourself out there and ask for help.
We all need a variety of mom friends in our lives. The ones with babies of the exact same age, so we can compare milestones with one another over a cup of lukewarm coffee and dispose a poopy diaper right in their kitchen garbage, because they’re in the exact same spot. We need the moms who have older children to tell us how much easier it’s going to get. And we need the ones with younger children, so we can see how far we’ve come when we can confidently offer them that reassurance.
I want you to know that even if I haven’t shared the same exact struggle as you, I get it. All of us other moms get it in a way that nobody else can. I assure you that you’re going to be okay. It’s okay if you aren’t okay right now. You’re going to get through this. You’re going to emerge from this phase and be better because of it. Kinder. More honest. More grateful. Be patient with yourself, and find yourself a mom tribe you can lean on, even if it’s in an online community. We weren’t meant to go through this alone.
Not every mom suffers from postpartum depression or anxiety, though it seems like with more awareness lately, we’re seeing more women coming forward with those stories than ever. But no matter what, even for a mom who is feeling good physically, who’s getting decent sleep, who’s got the breastfeeding thing down pat- we’re all struggling in some capacity. The feelings come in waves. We’re nervous when our partners return to work, we’re worried about the baby’s sleeping or eating, we are terrified to look at our vaginas after we give birth. We’re scared to have sex again- scared that it’ll hurt. We’re not making enough milk. Or we make too much, and it’s not the joyous experience that people seem to assume it would be. We’re proud of ourselves the first time we make it to the pediatrician and back home without any help, but it was also exhausting and terrifying and the baby screamed the entire car ride and we wanted to climb out of our skin. We love the baby, of course we love the baby, but we’re annoyed to have to be stuck in the living room all day staring at the dishes piling up in the sink while we nurse and swaddle and shush and rock. Only other moms, women who have been there, can see through the barriers that we instinctively set up between ourselves and the outside world. They know when we’re robotically announcing “I’m doing great!” but we’re feeling anything but.
When I first had Grayson I joined a weekly nursing circle, run by an incredible lactation consultant right in my little city. Nursing circle was my one scheduled weekly outing with the baby, the only time we got out beyond the confines of our house and yard, and looking back, it felt like it took approximately 9 hours to prepare for. But once we got there, it was safe. It was a place where our babies could nurse and scream and fuss and spit up and we were in good company. These women listen to me express how much of a failure I felt like, having a hard time providing for my baby nutritionally (that’ll be its’ own blog post) and they’d reassure me that he was gaining, just slowly- he was alert and happy and SO cute. It was such a huge help to make new friends who I didn’t know except for their mom/baby experiences. That was what was relevant at the time, and it was all I had the energy for. When I’d meet up for “playdates” (babies basically ignore each other for at least a year, let’s be real) with either of these friends, we’d spend most of the time analyzing our babies together, comparing notes, but in a healthy way- it was a joy to be around non-judgmental people who were just learning how to be parents just like I was. The babies all grew bigger. They started smiling. We each blossomed into our own version of momhood, individuals with one crucial thing in common that bonded us in a unique way, despite being total strangers until our babies had come into this world.
I can distinctly remember when one of my new mom friends sobbed before returning to work after her maternity leave. She opened up vulnerably about her fears- about pumping, about daycare, about how she’d feel being away from her baby for the first time. I was confronted with the feeling of guilt when I realized how relieved I was to be staying home with Gray and didn’t “have to” return to work. A few months later, I was surprised to find myself on the phone with my sister, confiding that I was now feeling a little bit jealous of the moms that “got” to go to work, to have a cup of uninterrupted coffee, to put on heels and check their emails and converse with other adults about something other than babies. And my sister got it. She told me that I wasn’t a terrible person to have those feelings. That yes, I was lucky, but yes, there were sacrifices. I started to realize that every mom’s experiences can be both challenges and blessings at the exact same time. Veteran moms, isn’t that the case with all things motherhood? It’s so hard, and it’s so good. And through opening up to one another, sharing and letting one another vent and be real, we start to adjust to this new reality with comfort.
I had a friend who dropped off delicious healthy homemade muffins on my doorstep that I could freeze and take out of the freezer to thaw, to ensure that I was getting proper nutrients while devoting ever fiber of my being to feeding the baby, not myself. A friend I’d hardly seen since high school drove all the way to my house to deliver an essential oil, a diffuser and some eucalyptus balm to help Gray breathe when she saw me post on a local Facebook Mom group that he had his first cold. My sister and mother would come over and just rock Gray in their arms and let me take a shower or a nap.
What I know now is that all moms need a tribe. I know that not all moms are as lucky as I am to have the support that I did, so I now make special efforts to go out of my way to be that mom friend to others. I send pregnant moms a list of my essential registry items and WHY I liked a particular one, to try and help them evaluate whether they might like it (because before you have a baby, how in the world could you know?). I send my new baby gifts with an insistence that I will not accept a thank you card from a new mother. But what I find that most moms appreciate the most is just listening, and reassuring them that it’s supposed to be this hard, and they’re going to get through it. Most babies will roll off the bed or couch at some point, and they’ll be okay. Most moms break down and cry, at least once, while trying everything to soothe and calm the screaming baby in the middle of the night. Most moms screw up or compromise ourselves, a little, every day. We raise our voices in frustration at our toddlers or we feed them food that isn’t remotely healthy, because we just want the whining to stop or to get something in those empty bellies. We forget that we did the laundry and leave wet clothes in the washing machine overnight. We slack on the thank you cards for all the baby gifts. We feel lonely. We miss our old lives. We fear we don’t compare to other moms, ones that seem to do more baby activities than we do, who seem so together and unfazed by parenthood when we see their glowing skin and untired eyes taunting us on social media. It’s all normal.
If you can go out of your way to help another mom in some small, kind way, I urge you to just do it. Do the thing she won’t ask you to do. Don’t ask her if she needs groceries- text her from the grocery store and say, “I’m stopping by to drop off some groceries. Is there anything you need while I’m here?”. Tell her you’re dropping it off on the porch, so there’s no need to put a bra on or clean up the living room. Order her a nosefrida if her baby has a cold and Prime it right to her house, even if she says she thinks it sounds gross. Make her a freezer meal even if she says she’s got it covered. Go out of your way for her- she will appreciate it.
Are you a member of a Mom Tribe? You’re welcome to be a part of mine! Follow me on instagram at @togetherishmom.