It’s staggering really that even in the midst of the baby fug, some unassailable truths just come screaming at you. That in those dark, confusing days some things just seem really, really clear.
For me, it was about the absolute, primal need to surround myself with other mothers, of all ages. I had never understood how important these women would be – I didn’t care who they were, how they’d parented, when they’d parented, whether they had boys, girls, twins or what. I just wanted to surround myself in the comforting bubble of women who simply and profoundly understood this crazy time. And knew what I was going through without me even having to say it.
Fathers are all well and good – but – (and I know R won’t mind when I say this) – they are next to useless when you are overwhelmed, terrified, regretful, tired and in a state of shock. They just want to fix it. Except nothing’s broken, it’s just parenting. The only, only way out, is through.
And the only thing that is comforting is the words of other mothers saying: “Yup, me too, same here.” Or: “Oh don’t worry about that, we did that for months…” Or: “Sure. I have no plans. I’ll be over in five minutes and I don’t need to leave till this evening.” Or: “You’re doing a great job. Here, have some more wine.” Without these women – my mother, my aunts, family friends, the vicar, old school friends, the checkout ladies in Waitrose – I would have been sunk.
Of course, until I had my baby, I didn’t know how important these women would be. I was under the impression that my very modern husband was all I would need to get me through.
I found an email the other day, that I wrote to a pregnant friend when Munchkin was about three or four weeks old. Looking back it’s amazing that, in the midst of all that new baby madness, I had the clarity to write the following words to her. Because, now with a year and half’s distance, I wouldn’t say anything different. It is, for me, the great truth about motherhood – we cannot do it alone. We need these women around. It really really does take a village to raise a child.
“I would certainly say that having a mother (or another woman who knows about babies and who you trust) around a fair bit will be invaluable. And also really nice and reassuring for you. Your other half might not get that concept in the same way as you, and that’s normal too, just go with it, but make sure you are getting what you need too. There’s a real sisterhood sense when you’ve had a baby, women really rally round for each other and I have found it incredibly helpful and touching. Fathers/men sort of go into masculine/caveman overdrive when their babies are born (“I must protect my offspring and its mother, and I can provide for them”) and see anyone else helping as a challenge to that, when, in reality, they are somewhat ill-equipped to help new mothers learn how to deal with newborn babies. Simply because they’re even more clueless than you! It’s important for them to have bonding time, and make sure that the baby knows who they are etc, but don’t be afraid to let women in, you’ll be amazed how much you need their first-hand experience. And their reassurance. I can’t tell you how lovely it has been to hear from friends saying: “Oh I felt like that, or my baby did that, it’s totally normal.” And also, lastly – trust your instinct – there really is a really clear mother’s instinct that men simply don’t have, and therefore can’t quite comprehend, but you will know each day more and more how to look after your baby. So trust yourself too.”
So – to all those lovely women who were there for me – who drove me around after my C-Section, who turned up early for coffee, who sent me well-timed emails with thoughtful advice, who told me not to worry, or held my hand, or held my baby, or laughed with me, or cried with me, who didn’t pretend it was all going to be ok, and who reassured me that it all eventually would be. Thank you. I could not have done it without you.