While I was pregnant, every other person seemed to tell me to ‘never turn down any offer of help.’ In the simmering heat of last summer, I think I gave each of those people a sideways look and a big halfway grin while nodding my head politely and thinking to myself, “Suuuure… don’t turn down any help? Whatever. I am a very capable, independent and resourceful person—I think I can handle one baby.”
What I didn’t realize was that “help” comes in many forms, all of which are some flavor of “awesome.” Sure, I have a freezer full of Alaskan salmon (thanks, Buddy!), green chile and frozen soup from my mom; my husband has a flexible work schedule that allows him to sometimes work from home. And, I’m taking the semester off from grad school, so I don’t have teaching or grading expectations to keep up with. All of these things have definitely helped me through the transition from pregnant person to new mom.
One thing I have found to be more important than I ever imagined has been my “mom friends.” This valuable resource was unlooked for initially; my husband says I have “hermit-like” tendencies: I have no trouble taking myself out to dinner, going to the movie theater by myself, spending 3+ hours happily running by myself (no iPod!), and I have spent weeks alone on backpacking trips.
But, hermitting away as usual in the early stages of my pregnancy, I realized that although the internet is a great resource, I needed some real, live women I could share my experiences with. Women whom I could ask the seemingly random or slightly embarrassing questions to, who would nod along if I suddenly burst into tears, or with whom I could sound off on whether what I was feeling, doing or eating was “normal.” Basically, someone who could empathize with what I was experiencing. Although it may have taken a few awkward “Sooooo, I see you’re pregnant. Check it out [points to large belly], so am I! You come here often? Wanna hang out? Fancy a date at the zoo?” pick up lines, these women became one of my greatest pregnancy – and now motherhood – resources.
Our questions have evolved with us: what our babies are (or are not) doing compared to peers, how another mom may be approaching changes in sleeping/nursing/illnesses/returning to certain activities/______________ (fill in the blank with parenting anything), remedies for sleeplessness, coping with body version 3.0, or if the emotions and thoughts we may be experiencing are truly as wacko as they sometimes seem. Sometimes I need a friend to vent my petty frustrations, after which I can move on peacefully. Or I need to unabashedly brag about how great my baby did holding her head up during tummy time, or how she slept 5 hours straight (a rare, treasured experience definitely warranting bragging about), or who will appreciate her totally matching, color-themed ensemble.
Most of all, I need these mom friends as people who will tell me that the sleep regression/first cold/fussiness from shots/milk duct infection/_____(fill in blank with scary/unpleasant thing) will pass, that I’m doing a fine job, that I am not failing as a mother. These mom friends will remind me that even though while I am lost in the abyss of sleep deprivation time seems to slow to a standstill, that “this too shall pass,” and can help me find humor in both myself and just about any situation.
While I would never have thought it a year ago, I am now the proud member of a new group of mom friends – and the best thing is that each mom seems to know another mom, and so my circle of friends continues to grow and diversify. I might have laughed at the idea of arranging mom dates a year ago in lieu of a solo brunch with my computer or a journal article; I now embrace trips to the zoo, playdates for crafts and baby jogger outings as opportunities to gain insight and perspective, to draw on the larger collective parenting wisdom, enjoy the humor of parenting situations and enjoy the strength of other moms.