… and the biggest piece of advice I have for all new mothers.
Motherhood — it can break you, tear your heart open, and then build you all over again from the ground up — the person you were before someone you no longer know so well.
Each journey into motherhood is different, depending on a number of things. How you were raised, your personal life, your friendships, the demeanour of you baby and how much you sleep, to name a few. But no matter who you are or where you come from, I have no doubt that since you welcomed your bundle of joy into the world, you have probably struggled with your identity at one time or another — who you were before just a teeny tiny flame and who you are becoming, erupting like a volcano. You can try stumbling through this new identity alone, many of us do in this society. But, if there is one little bit of wisdom I can pass along, it is this. Find your people. Your pour your heart out, hold you while you’re rocking back and forth in tears, kind of people. Because, you will crash and burn while on this journey. Maybe once, maybe a few times, or maybe every day depending on how sleep deprived you are, and without your people, you simply will not thrive.
I plummeted into the depths of motherhood in the spring of 2018. A seemingly strange time perhaps, given that my daughter was 2.5 and my son had just turned one. Why did it take me so long, you may be thinking. I wondered the same thing at the time, until I finally figured out that it was probably because I was finally getting more than two consecutive hours of sleep a night for the first time in fourteen months. I couldn’t explain what was happening to me, but I felt this momentous shift. I felt like I was suddenly peeled open and my heart was laying in the palm of my hands.
My first year with my second born was something else. I got pregnant with my son when Vi was just eight months old. I was barely dipping my toes into the waters of motherhood, while simulataneously welcoming another baby into the mix. There I was with two young children just a mere 18 months apart — a deer in the headlights.
It was both the busiest, most exhausting job I had ever done, but yet, so very isolating. I spent countless hours in the basement with my baby boy strapped into the ergo, trying to keep him quiet (which was difficult as he was a very fussy baby), so that my toddler could nap. It was in the depths of my home that I began to delve into the realization that I wasn’t the same person I was just a mere three years ago. How could I be?
I began assessing my life, the people that had come gone, and things I had been through. I felt like my whole life was bubbling over the surface and I didn’t know who to turn to. One of my closest friends had gone back to work after her maternity leave and I spent the majority of my time at home, alone, talking to instagram. I didn’t see it then, but I was deeply yearning for connection. I was searching for who I was before I had kids, surely she must still be in there?! I found myself daydreaming about my life before children and how easy those days now seemed — which then lead to guilt because I thought that made me unappreciative. I have learned since these guilt-stricken days, that this is not the case. You can sigh over your life before children and love being a mother, all at the same time. Before you begin to build this new life and let go of the one before children, you may find yourself in a season I like to call the “in-between.”
Amongst the cherry blossoms and longer sunnier days, I was firmly planted in this season. I was tired. So very tired. I was alone most of my days with no local family to lean on and too full of pride to ask for help. With my Dad in the middle of a cancer battle, I felt like I couldn’t possibly express my ‘trivial’ struggles. How selfish could I possibly be to not be a pillar of strength for my family? Old friendships, the ones I would have turned to in the past, were slipping away as we entered different seasons of our lives, and I didn’t know who to turn to. My husband who has always been wonderfully entangled in my life, right there when I need him, was still there, but I yearned for something that only sisterhood could offer.
I broke. I fell into a million pieces right into the arms of my husband on a Saturday evening, debilitated by anxiety and shame. It was that night as I lay in bed, my own arms wrapped around myself like a straight jacket, that I knew something had to give. So, I made the decision to surrender. I mean truly surrender, to this new life and build again from a foundation based on different priorities. Over the span of a few months, with profound intention, I found myself amongst a handful of mothers in my community. I began to spend time with these women and in the midst of all the chaos, a few of them began to grow into deep friendships. It is in these few friendships that I lay my soul.
So, when new or soon to be moms ask me what they should do to best prepare for motherhood — my advice isn’t to stock up on onesies or bottles — it is to make sure that if she doesn’t have a community already, to build one. We are not meant to go at this alone. We are genetically wired for relationships and connection. If I can carry anything out of the depths of those tiresome afternoons in my basement, it is that motherhood is so much sweeter (and sane) when you venture through it alongside other women. Find your people… you’re going to need them.