It Takes a Village, People

By Ann Grauer

Sarah (all names have been changed) gets up early in the morning to the sounds of her newborn, who is looking for food and a fresh diaper. Her partner, Dave, is going about his usual routine of showering, eating breakfast, holding baby Emma so that mom can go to the bathroom, etc. Then, Dave is headed to work and won’t return until about 10 hours later in the day.

Sarah and baby Emma are alone. Her mom had come to help for the first couple of weeks, while Dave was off work. Sarah appreciated both of them so much, but the help ended abruptly and now she is trying to find her way through each day. She loves her daughter, but misses her old life. And her friends all seem to think she is on vacation—Wish someone would tell me to take a few weeks off. What do you do all day? We should have lunch. Most of the day she is just trying to figure out what her new role is. She isn’t completely sure that she feels like a mother but she does not feel like her old self, either.

Becoming a mother is an all-encompassing transition. Half the time we aren’t sure we have a clue what we are doing. It is hard to spend your entire day working to care for a tiny human being and not be certain that you are doing it right. Most of us are used to hearing at work, at least occasionally, Good work! or Thanks for your help on that project–I couldn’t have done it without you. In the middle of new motherhood it can feel like there is a lot to do and little positive feedback.

We are social beings. We need others. And, yes, introverts—I am talking to you, too. Parenting is bigger than any job. It is life. And without other mothers to connect with along the way it can seem daunting.

Some will find their posse of moms online. Thank goodness we have the internet! The ability to connect with other moms at all hours of the day and night—when it’s 2 AM your time, it is 2 PM somewhere else on the plant.  For its immediacy, the internet cannot be beat in the heat of the moment.

But it is not enough. We need fact-to-face, mother-to-mother real talk. In person meet ups with other mothers add a layer of local support and connection that online can never quite fulfill.  A few moms, whether a formal group or just an informal get together, can give solace to one another.

Having facilitated moms groups for more than 24 years I have seen the relief that comes from a new mama bravely coming in to an established group. She may have been nervous when she first walked in, but by the time she leaves she has laughed, cried, been spit up on and offered tips by her new tribe. None of them is a recognized expert, except with their own child. But they can offer her something that the so-called experts can’t: genuine recognition that they are in this together. A similar experience that only becomes shared when each reaches out and dares to connect.

Let’s hear it for the real experts—the mamas who are there for one another. Without your people it can get awfully lonely out there.

Ann Grauer is celebrating her 30th year working with expectant and new families. She and her husband, Mark, live in Milwaukee with their long haired dachshund, Howie. Learn more on her website, nurturingdouladreams.com