(You see what I did here? I totally crack myself up…)
“It takes nothing to join the crowd. It takes everything to stand alone.” Hans F. Hansen
We live in a time where we celebrate the individual. Where we, especially as Americans, pride ourselves in the DIY mindset. And if you’re crafty enough and entrepreneurial enough, you might just be able to move through this world on your own merits without the help of anyone else around you (although I wouldn’t encourage it!)
There’s no room for this mindset when it comes to pregnancy, birth and especially parenting. We’ve all heard the familiar phrase, “It takes a village to raise a child.” But I would expand on that and say, “It takes a village to raise a family.”
All too many of us move away from home when we reach young adulthood. There are job opportunities, lovers, or exciting adventures that woo us away from our families of origin. And when we settle in our new and distant homes, we don’t really consider the two plane trips to get there very far – until we have a baby. Suddenly, all we really want is to be nestled in among those we love, soaking up their wisdom about how to do this thing – raise a baby, become good parents, start our new little family.
Phone calls, Skype, long emails and texts certainly help to bridge that distance, but what about the day to day? Everything about this experience of parenthood is new and challenging. We know there are resources where we live to help us through this transition. But why are we so reluctant to join? What is it that makes us remain isolated in our new parenthood? I’m sorry, the internet can connect us on many levels, but as new parents, we really need physical connection with others who have gone through or are going through the same things we are.
Most communities have New Mom Groups (What about New Dad Groups? Another blog post!) I work for one hospital system that names their postpartum groups, Baby & Me, which I think is much more welcoming to partners, and not exclusively focused on just the birth Mommas. At my reunions, I ask my couples how many of them have gone to check out one of these groups. I’m always amazed at how many haven’t.
These groups can be such a wonderful way to reintroduce yourself and your new little family into the world. Most of them are fully prepared to accept newborns – in fact, it can be your very first outing with your baby. You could go in your PJs and not yet showered and there will be no judgement. How come? Because the other new parents in the group, the ones who look all put together and ready to go? They remember when they were exactly where you are now.
They remember the truly sleepless nights and the challenges of getting breastfeeding down. They remember their own anxieties about being good parents. They remember recognizing that their Baby Blues were not easing up and how hard it was to ask for help with postpartum depression or another mood disorder. They remember the days of questioning, “Who’s great idea was it to have a baby, anyway?” They remember having the same arguments with their partners about: sex, finances, who was doing more work.
Most importantly, they remembered the first day that they decided it wasn’t okay to do this parenting thing alone anymore.
They remember what a pain in the butt it was to get the baby all bundled up and out to the car, and they remember thinking it wasn’t worth it and they should just stay home, and they remember the traffic was crazy that day and they were already 20 minutes late.
But they also remember how it felt to have someone welcome them into the circle. How warm and inviting these faces seemed, how eager they were to encourage and support. They remember that once they got settled in, it was the first time that they felt able to take a full and complete breath. They felt safe and included, a part of a village.
This parenting journey is one of the best life adventures you could ever go on. But it is hard. In some ways it will get easier, but you’ll always benefit from creating your own tribe – your village – that will surround you, lift you up when you have fallen down, and celebrate all of your successes with you along the way.
A bit of advice for the yet to be initiated: identify who will be the members of your parenting tribe – now. And understand that for a while, it might not be your current circle of friends. If they’re not yet on this journey, they’ll not be able to best support you in this way. Don’t give up on them, just look deeper.
Join a Baby & Me group, the sooner the better. You might not need to come every week, you might find that you discover some incredible tribe members within this group and splinter off on your own. All of this is fine – there’s no right or wrong to it. But, please do this – create your own parenting village. It will be one of the best decisions you’ll ever make as a new parent.
And one day soon, you will be the Mom or Dad sitting in the circle, eyes shining and eager, ready to welcome those who’ve decided to join you in this parenting adventure.
After you had your baby, did you join a new parents group? Why? Why Not? What was your experience?