After a particularly stressful school run last week, combined with hourly overnight feeding my 6 month old and a horrendous sinus infection, it’s fair to say I was feeling a bit rubbish. As I pulled onto the driveway, I relished the silence coming from the back seat...finally asleep! While embracing the temporary pause in my usually chaotic day, I noticed a car pull up at the house opposite. The lady inside has recently birthed her third baby, and was being visited by her mum, laden with copious shopping bags bringing supplies for the family. I recalled earlier that her father had been at the house picking up the eldest child for her first week at school as I frantically scrambled to load the car with an ambling and chatty five year old with no sense of urgency and I felt a stab of the green-eyed monster. My ailing brain whirred, ‘Does she realise how lucky she is?’.....
As I sat later while boy 2 (our nickname for our little boy, Ira) finally napped, I mused as to why I felt such resentment at the morning’s events. It boiled down to jealousy. I found myself aggrieved at the support that the lady was given, that I craved at that time, while feeling so poorly. My friends and family live over an hour away, and a feeling of loneliness swept over me. My neighbour had a strong, supportive network and community surrounding her, ensuring family life continued to run smoothly, while allowing her to absorb and enjoy every moment of her baby’s early life. It got me thinking about the idea of postnatal support for women.
The African proverb ‘It takes a village to raise a child’ is based on the idea that childrearing is a shared responsibility between a community, where all play a role in both supporting the family and child. Historically, a new family would be central to both the close and extended family’s community, not only geographically, but they would be on hand to provide support, top tips or even just an extra pair of hands (always appreciated with a small baby!). Nowadays, young families are more likely to live extended distances from other family members, and the current culture of long working hours and later retirement means that new mothers can feel isolated, lonely and overwhelmed by motherhood, not only as a new mother, but in an expanding family as well. I had not considered this when deciding to start a family, while living over 100 miles away from our ‘village’.
For most people, moving back to family isn’t a practical consideration, nor a desire for some. So perhaps it is time for us to consider how it may be best for women, during pregnancy, to consider how they might create their own village around them. It may be asking for support from friends, neighbours or even colleagues, as most will be itching to help in any way possible (in exchange for a few cuddles here and there!). Antenatal groups, birth preparation or exercise classes can be a great way of meeting other expectant families that can become part of your future ‘village’, who you can meet up with once you are ready to leave your nest to explore the world with your new little family.
For myself, as a new family of four, I am having to learn to ask for support and build my own new community, especially as a mother of two starting up a new business! This week I stepped out of my comfort zone and asked a new friend to help with childcare so I can attend a conference next week, and you know, she was more than happy to help, taking a huge amount of worry and stress off!
So, during your pregnancy and while you have a young family, think about your community and those around you that can provide support, advice and encouragement (and the odd shopping bag!) in the times that your family may need it, and embrace asking for help from your village. Asking for support where it is needed is far from a sign of weakness, but of strength. Your village will have your back. I can only hope that through Surfing Births I can become part of others’ villages to provide any kind of support needed, just to be able to say to all the mothers that may read this; expectant, new or experienced...
“You got this Mamma, you’re doing an amazing job. What can I do to help?”