The transformation that takes place when a mother gives birth is such a wonder. As soon as my first daughter was born, I was briefly allowed to hold her on my chest, before they whisked her away to the other side of the room to be cleaned up, weighed and measured. In reality, she probably was no more than ten feet away, but in my new mama’s perspective, they might as well have taken her across the world.
I’ll never forget how the distance between us literally hurt after carrying her in me for nine months. She was my daughter, my baby, and I needed her close to me. In that moment nothing else mattered but my daughter being back in my arms. If I would have had the strength, I would have climbed out of that hospital bed to claim her back. I remember being beyond frustrated that my body was too worn out to do what my heart longed to do. It wasn’t a rational feeling, but when is a mother’s feelings for her children ever rational? I could barely stand the wait, and was so relieved when she was returned to me. I’ll never forget the way her big cat-shaped eyes stared at me, and the way her pretty pink lips opened in a slight little pout. Without prompting from the nurses, my little one latched on to have her first feeding. Not even ten minutes old, the two of us began to create this world that was known to only her and I.
Hours later, we both were awake as the sun began drifting into the hospital room. I held her close, as her long, tiny fingers clasped tightly onto my thumb. She was mine, and I was hers. I couldn’t imagine sharing her with anyone, and even begrudged sharing her with her daddy.
My introduction to motherhood was a seamless one. Bella and I quickly found our own little pattern. She was a relatively easy and happy baby who shared my love for long walks and a rigid schedule. She also loved people. Our little world quickly expanded to include her obsession for her Daddy, her auntie, and everyone and anyone else that smiled in her direction. Being an introvert, her social nature fascinated me. Bashfully, I will admit now, it even made me a bit jealous that she was so ready and willing to reach her arms out to someone else but me.
But more so, growing up I was very self-sufficient, so I naturally prided myself in being able to handle things on my own. I viewed motherhood as no different. With the exception of her Daddy’s much needed aid, I felt like I could give her everything she needed.
And we could do it alone.
Or so I thought. I became pregnant with our second when she was nine months old. Not only was I violently ill during this pregnancy, we were also living overseas. Overnight, mine and Bella’s world turned upside down. Simple tasks like laundry became an all day, impossible task. I was homesick, navigating culture shock, lonely, hungry (always hungry), weak, and tired. Motherhood was not what I expected it to be. Somedays were so extremely hard that I wondered how I could possibly make it through another day. And just for the record, there was no Starbucks in a 1000 mile radius to comfort my sleep deprived self.
This is when I began to discover the beauty of a village. On days where I was completely at my end, one of Bella’s many admirers would knock on our door and take her away so I could recoup and take a nap. Or another friend would offer to finish the laundry or mop the floor. At first it was extremely hard to let her go and let others into my vulnerability, but I soon realized how good these tiny breaks were. Not just for me, but for her as well. She came home happy, and I was rejuvenated. I realized that year how much joy was to be found within a community, and began the journey of embracing those around me. Essentially, I began the search of my village.
Since then, I have had countless examples of how a village is a something I NEED to mother well. I spent several years of my younger mothering days living very close to my best friend. We would spend hours together in each others houses watching our kids grow and run circles around us. We would cook together, clean together, cry together, and laugh together. It was loud, messy and absolutely beautiful. In those days of diapers, sippy cups, and 2am pukefests, she was my village. And I was hers.
My village since then has grown and multiplied over the years.
My village is friends that are just a text message away. They are friends that are always willing to drop their schedules to meet me for a Starbucks break. They are my village that have seen my messy, seen my worst, and have met me in it. They have embraced me as I am, encouraged me where I was at, and loved me through it all. They have seen me cry ugly tears into many a Starbucks, passed the tissues, and tightly hugged me. They have refused to let me mother alone, and instead, chose to mother along side of me. They have unashamedly wormed their lovely way into this introverted Mama’s life and have taught me that together we are stronger. For them I am grateful.
My village includes grandparents, aunties and uncles, teachers, and friends who tirelessly love on me, my husband and my children. They encourage us in every way possible, easing the burden but adding to the joy that is parenting. They have cheered us on as we have packed boxes and moved countless times, over oceans and back even. They have celebrated our wins, and mourned our losses. They have held our hands as dreams diminished and died, and have been our rallies as we pursued new ones.
We even had a friend last summer who filled a financial gap so that my little dancer could continue to slip ballet shoes on. It was a desire that we couldn’t fulfill at the time, but our village generously stepped in. So today she dances and shines. Every time I catch a glimpse of her tightly wound bun and black leotard, I have to choke back tears because I am sweetly reminded of how we need each other. I am so thankful for those who loved. And loved. And loved.
I hope in return that I love those mothers in my village well too. What I didn’t know that morning, when my daughter’s finger first clasped mine, was that she would be raised by many hands. Hands that I love. Hands that I welcome. Hands that nurture. Hands that support. Hands that teach. Beautiful hands that belong to my village.
My encouragement to new mothers out there? Find your village and embrace it. Don’t try to go it alone. If you don’t have family near you, there are so many online groups, local community programs and resources to get to know other moms. Find them and search your village out. Because us moms need our villages. We need each other.