The day I gave birth to my first son, I became a mother. I entered motherhood with enthusiasm—I felt like this was who I was meant to be. As we came home from the hospital, people came to our house like never before. Having a baby brings excitement all around.
And yes, everyone wants to hold the baby. I loved seeing everyone hold him, snuggle him and giving him all the love in the world. I felt proud.
After I gave birth to my third child, the first person who met our newest family member was my mother-in-law. I watched her fall in love with my baby and I was once again so proud to see this happen.
All that mattered was the baby.
It wasn't until my mother-in-law was about to leave that it hit me. Did I become invisible after giving birth? Was I just a person behind the baby and not next to it?
She ran up to me and said, "Oh I am so sorry. I don't know if I said it clearly, but great job mama! I am so proud of YOU! You made this baby, how are YOU feeling? Are YOU okay?"
I matter too. I am a person too. I am valuable. I am the baby's whole world and I need to be seen so I don't lose myself.
When do we become invisible? Is it the moment when people say, "I am coming to see the baby…"?
The words from my mother-in-law made all the difference—she saw me too. With all the emotions I had, I needed to be seen. I needed to be held. I don't need loads of attention, I want people to be with my child but I need to be held as well, sometimes a little, sometimes a lot.
Because here's the thing, in 10 years the baby will not remember who first held them, but the mother will forever remember who held her.
It takes a village to raise a child, but I believe it takes a village to raise a mother as well. Becoming a mother is always a new experience—whether it's your first or fourth child.
Motherhood can be scary, overwhelming, lonely, tiring, exhausting and oh so hard.
Motherhood is non-stop decision-making, memory-making and trial and error.
We aim to raise our children so they feel loved and happy. We, as mothers, do the very best we can with what we have. But we shouldn't be alone in this.
It's okay to be overwhelmed. It's okay to ask for help. It is more than okay, it can be the best decision you'll ever make. A mother who is strong isn't the one that never asks for help, it is the one who understands when she needs it and has the courage to express it.
We need a village. People who can give us support, make us laugh, love us, tell us they've been there and give us a smile. We just need someone who holds us, the mothers.
And the beautiful thing is that a support system doesn't need to contain 20 of your closest friends and family.
A stranger in the grocery store who gives an understanding smile when your toddler throws a tantrum is in your village.
The staff at preschool that soothes your crying child when you drop them off is in your village.
Your neighbor that comes and reads a book for your children so you can take a trip to the bathroom alone is in your village.
Before I had kids I never knew how important it was for the mother to be held. But I know now. So, hold her. And she'll hold you back, too.
[Editor's note: The headline to this essay has been updated. The previous headline —"Everyone Wants to Hold the Baby, Who Will Hold the Mother?™"—is the title of the work by Licensed Social Worker, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant and national and regional speaker, Jabina Coleman. We mistakenly used her trademarked language and have corrected our error. You can find more of Coleman's work here.]
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