As a new mother I was stubborn. I thought I could do it all. I wanted to be Ms. Independent. I was comfortable in this role for so long, why wouldn't it apply to Motherhood? I soon found out that it is tough and really lonely trying to do things on my own. Yes, Hubby was there and was supportive and helpful, but I still felt very alone in my journey. I didn't have any friends going through the same thing and Hubby's friends clearly didn't understand. I felt like no one understood me, but then again, I never gave them a chance to. I didn't want to burden my friends with my life struggles and daily happenings as a mom on maternity leave.
I certainly had the "baby blues" in the first few weeks and would cry at the drop of a hat. Man, it was tough. It was something I hadn't really prepared myself for. I had read so much about how to birth naturally and tackle breastfeeding, I didn't take recovery and healing myself seriously enough. Mentally and emotionally, that is. Physical recovery came easily for me.
I soon realized that I needed to get out of the house and meet other mothers and make new friends that "got me". It was a struggle, but I met new friends and had playgroups and Mommy and Baby classes to look forward to. I am proud of myself for throwing myself out there. Hubby was surprised by my new confidence. I was always so shy and awkward when meeting new people. Not then - my sanity depended on it.
Here's the thing. There is a huge lack of support for new mothers out there. I think people don't want to pry or feel uncomfortable asking questions. They assume you are over the moon joyful when you come home with baby. And as a new mother you try your best to look that way. Truth is, it can be overwhelming and mixed messages are constantly being thrown your way. It's hard to shut negative stories out and just follow your gut. You feel like you have no idea what you are doing so you just keep trying what you think might be working. You need to be mentally tough to persevere through struggles like lack of sleep and breastfeeding.
Usually the first thing people ask you is how the baby is sleeping. They nod and agree that, yes, lack of sleep sucks. They ask you how often baby is nursing or if the baby is a "good baby". And that is usually where it ends. I remember just waiting for someone to ask me a more detailed question just so I could dive into all the insecurities I had and just let it all out. I needed a release. I needed to talk about it. But other than a few phone calls to my Mom and some good cries to Hubby, I mostly kept it all pent up inside. Smiling along. Ms. Independent.
So I've been through all that. I know how it feels. And that is why I feel like it is my duty to reach out and support new mothers. To truly listen to them. To ask them questions. To engage with them. To support them in the right decision for their family.
Here's another thing. It is hard reaching out. You don't want to overstep boundaries. You don't want to sound like you think you know it all. Maybe that person will be offended that you think they don't know what they are doing? Maybe that person will think of you as just another person with opinions? Maybe that person won't listen or won't return your email?
It is really hard making yourself so vulnerable. What do you say? Sometimes it was just nice for me to hear that other mother's have gone through the same thing and that I was not alone. This is what I base my discussions with a new mother on. I can usually find a similarity in how they are feeling to how I felt and give them an example of how I got through it.
I've had a few discussions this year with a handful of different friends that are new mothers. Some struggling with breastfeeding, some struggling with babies with exhausting sleep habits, some going through teething phases, some going through the last trimester of pregnancy and dealing with all sorts of apprehensions about birth and life as a new mother. And for the most part, I wouldn't have known if I didn't ask. I wouldn't have been able to lend support. I wouldn't have been able to help them if I didn't reach out. It makes me sad to think that otherwise they would have all these thoughts going on in their head (much like I did) with no one to bounce them off of. But it also makes me happy. Happy that my emails or phone calls were well received. Happy that I was a, even if tiny, part in helping them get through something. Happy to help ease their mind. Proud to be there for them now and again if they ever need support. This is my way of giving back and paying forward.