It was mid-morning on a balmy spring day. My husband was out of town. My crying, miserable, colicky, 2-week-old son was awake from his slumber and sounded like he was in agony, or terrified, or just pissed. How the hell was I supposed to know? And after two weeks of sleepless misery, of trying to figure out how this whole breastfeeding thing worked, of wondering what I had done to endure this wrath and suffering, I put the baby in his car seat and went for a drive.
I read somewhere that driving soothed the baby, mimicked the womb. Plus it would get me out of the house and distract me from pacing the lonely hallways while I tore my hair out and cried wistfully, wondering what kind of mother couldn't appease her own child. So I drove around aimlessly, waiting for the wails to subside, praying for the energy to get through this.
That's when my sister-in-law called. She had stopped by the house unexpectedly to visit with the baby and was wondering if I needed anything. I was annoyed. As if I don't have enough to stress about already, now I have to deal with unannounced guests? But I drove home anyway, somewhat relieved by the distraction.
As soon as I pulled in the driveway, my sister-in-law saw my tear-streaked faced, heard the baby's cries, and swooped in to help. She embraced me before unbuckling my son from his car seat to snuggle him, bouncing him in her arms while she told me to go upstairs and lie down. Dumbfounded, I looked at her with eyes filled with newfound hope and eternal gratitude. And then I took a nap.
Everyone says it takes a village. They are right. When it comes to villages, in the two years since I've become a mother I have created a fortified community that could withstand barbarian attacks and famines alike. My village is rock solid. But it didn't start out that way. I was the typical naïve fool going into my pregnancy. I'm not just another fumbling "Teen Mom" on MTV. I'm a successful, 30-something professional. How hard can it be? Oh, sweet karma.
Raising a child isn't about your professional background. You baby doesn't care about advanced degrees or the subject of your thesis. It's not about age, net worth, or social status. It's about love, safety, feeding, sleep, and wiping bums. Sometimes it's up to mom or dad to provide these necessities. But not all of them, and not always. You will learn fast that you aren't going to win any superwoman awards by not asking for help. No one is standing on the sidelines waiting to see how long you can stretch before finally breaking down and begging for another set of hands. People are eager to be part of your village; you just need to let them know when you are ready.
The village is more than relatives who live nearby. It's the friends who want to help. It's the church that welcomes babies and offers daycare. It's the library that holds toddler time every Wednesday. It's the coffee shop that proudly welcomes breastfeeding.
It took me two years, postpartum depression, countless buckets of tears, and a lot of asking for help to build my village. It took making new friends, losing some old friends, reaching out to the community, researching mom groups, and finding support systems to build my village.
Aside from a comfortable home and supportive partner, the village is a critical component to achieving balance and staying sane. I give thanks to my village every day.
Do not underestimate the village. Seek it out. My sister-in-law taught me an important lesson on that hopeless spring morning. People are there, they want you to succeed, and they will help you in every way they can. It takes a village, and I can't think of a better place to raise my child.