There’s a few things I need you to know before I begin.
I was in labor for three hours with my third child. Besides a few initial squawks upon arrival, she never cried the entire time we were in the hospital. Her first night, she slept a glorious four hours in a row.
I need you to know these things, because it’s important to note that not everything was terrible those first few months. With such a smooth beginning, I wasn’t expecting everything to fall apart. But a few days later it did, and I found myself trust-falling into my community.
My postpartum string of bad luck started with a slow recovery. The cramping and bleeding refused to slow down for weeks. With a hernia to boot, I could barely walk for weeks after delivery. Even lifting the car seat proved to be too much.
Ten days after delivery, I developed a bad ear infection that would last well over a month through multiple rounds of antibiotics and several different types of ear drops. I also got not one, but two stomach bugs, the latter of which landed me in urgent care with an IV hooked to my arm. At one point in the postpartum haze, I even shattered my iPhone.
The crowning moment, however, was when we totaled the minivan we had just bought before it even made it home to our driveway. A few days later, we all came down with colds – even the newborn – and I prayed that was our rock bottom.
At some point in this string of unfortunate events, I realized we couldn’t do this on our own. I decided that I would say “yes” to any offer of help that came my way. My mom had already agreed to stay with us for the first several weeks after the baby was born. When she offered to take the kids in the morning and let my husband and I go back to sleep, the answer was a resounding "yes."
We gladly devoured meals that were dropped on our doorstep. When a friend texted to say “do you need anything?” I asked if they could pick up a gallon of milk the next time they were at the store, or swing by and entertain my older kids for an hour. One friend even delivered my ballot to the courthouse on Election Day.
Shifting a few everyday tasks to other’s plates helped reduce my mental load tremendously. But as grateful as I was to receive the help, I felt uncomfortable admitting we needed it. In other times of stress, I had always met “Let me know if you need anything” with a “Thanks, but we’re doing good!” I worried I was inconveniencing my friends and family by actually accepting their offers of assistance. Our friends, however, seemed genuine in their desire to lend a hand.
It would have been easy enough to shut the door, feed the kids nothing but frozen fish sticks, and post cute baby pictures on Facebook that would make it look like everything was going wonderfully. But I knew pretending would only make things more difficult in the long run.
The months after my first two children were born, although not quite the tragicomedy we were currently living, had also been stressful. I struggled to adjust to motherhood, how to get my premature son to latch, and of course, with sleep deprivation. But more than anything, I was lonely in only the way that a new mother who is never alone can be.
Perhaps that is why, this time around, I was so desperate to accept any offers assistance. I ‘m sure I could have survived without friends cooking meals or family members stopping by to rock the baby. But what I needed most was not the cup of coffee that my friend was dropping off. Rather what I truly needed was the opportunity to connect with someone for a few minutes. Those brief moments of pleasantries reminded me that there was a world outside our own little turbulent bubble, and that we would eventually return to it.
They say it takes a village to raise a child, but it’s rare that we actually trust our village to come through for us when we need them to. There is no honor in doing everything on our own, and no shame in admitting that we can’t.
I now have a gigantic pile of Tupperware sitting in the back of my car. Every time I try to give it back to my friends they all reply the same way: “Oh it’s fine. I don’t need it back.” My own Tupperware drawer is pretty full as well. So when the newborn dust settles, I know exactly what I’m going to do with it – start feeding my own village. You never have to look too far to find a parent who could use an extra hand.